It is not often that it does not feel great to be reigning U.S. Open Champion Brooks Koepka, and factoring in the average runner-up PGA Tour paycheck, today was pretty darn nice too.
Still, intense competitors had to feel at least a little bad for the 28-year-old Koepka, as he came into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational four strokes out of the lead, played the usually difficult Colonial Country Club in 7-under 63… and only made up ONE of those four strokes.
That is how good Justin Rose was this week.
Rose shot a 6-under 64 on an atypically windless Sunday in Fort Worth, allowing him to reach 20-under for the week, and clip Koepka by three shots for his ninth career PGA Tour victory.
Also a former U.S. Open Winner (at Merion in 2013), Rose put on a shotmaker’s clinic at a shotmaker’s course, and nobody seriously threatened his Sunday lead. That was not for a lack of trying by the field, though, as Koepka and others struggled little in posting final-round scores deep in the red.
A final-hole bogey cost Rose the tournament scoring record by a single stroke, but it was one of the event’s more dominating performances in recent memory.
FINAL TOP 10
1 Justin Rose -20
2 Brooks Koepka -17
3 Emiliano Grillo -16
4 Kevin Na -14
5 Kevin Tway -10
5 Jon Rahm -10
5 Louis Oosthuizen -10
8 Joaquin Niemann -9
8 Ben Crane -9
8 Corey Conners -9
11 Chris Kirk -8
14 Brian Harman -7
14 Rickie Fowler -7
20 Jimmy Walker -6
20 Rory Sabbatini -6
32 Jordan Spieth -5
32 Steve Stricker -5
42 Bryson DeChambeau -4
52 Adam Scott -3
52 Kevin Kisner -3
52 Charley Hoffman -3
64 Beau Hossler -1
66 Jim Furyk E
66 Si Woo Kim E
1 Tom Lovelady – 328.2 (T58)
2 Jon Rahm – 325.1 (T5)
3 Trey Mullinax – 323.8 (T58)
17 Justin Rose – 305.9 (1)
1 Benjamin Silverman – 71.4% (T11)
2 Shubhankar Sharma – 69.6% (T20)
3 Adam Scott – 69.6% (T52)
6 Justin Rose – 66.1% (1)
1 Justin Rose – 79.2% (1)
2 Jon Rahm – 77.8% (T5)
2 Michael Thompson – 77.8% (T32)
2 Bryson DeChambeau – 77.8% (T42)
HOW JUSTIN ROSE WON
Despite his lofty world ranking (No. 5 to start), it was a bit of a surprise who easy Rose made it look at Colonial this week.
He had not played the iconic course since 2010, and only entered this year because of a PGA membership rule requiring players to add an event they have not played in the past four seasons.
It was considered strange that the Englishman picked the Fort Worth Invitational, because it was played opposite the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.
Aided by just three bogeys over his first three days, Rose quickly reacquainted himself with Colonial, posting stellar rounds of 66-64-66, and building a four-shot lead. One of the more steady players on Tour, the lead was largely considered safe, but with so much talent chasing him, Rose knew he could not get complacent.
A birdie-birdie start catalyzed a torrid front-nine 5-under 30 on Sunday, and with just nine holes to go, the lead looked just as safe as it did to begin the day.
Koepka attempted to add pressure, but even a brilliant 63 was not anywhere near enough. If not for a 72nd hole bogey by Rose, Koepka’s tremendous round would not have chipped away a single stroke of his pre-Sunday deficit.
As the 37-year-old Rose often does, he did most of his damage this week at Colonial with his immaculate iron play. He led the field for the week in strokes gained: approach-the-green, strokes gained: tee-to-green, and greens in regulation. It also helped that he co-led the field in birdies, and carded just five bogeys for the entire week.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR ROSE
There are only two more events until the second major of the year, the U.S. Open, and with his performance today, Rose will be considered among the favorites at Shinnecock Hills.
From last August, when he posted top-10 finishes in all four FedExCup Playoff events, until mid-March, when he finished third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rose was on a complete tear worldwide.
In that stretch of 15 events, Rose posted an incredible 13 top-10s, with three of those resulting in victories (one PGA event, two international). Over the past two months, however, Rose had looked more mortal, and had pedestrian finishes of T52, T12, and T23 respectively.
Now, Rose looks back in championship form, and that should worry the rest of the golf world greatly with three majors still on the schedule.
In terms of the horse races, Rose moves from No. 5 to 3 in the world rankings (behind only Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas), and 11th to No. 2 in the FedExCup race (with Thomas No. 1).
In easier conditions than usual at Colonial, many players were able to go low, but the one who went lowest was Kevin Na.
A bogey-free 9-under 61 from Na tied the course record and vaulted him up 17 spots on the Sunday leaderboard, where he finished in solo-fourth. Na actually had the two lowest scores in the field this week, the 61 on Sunday, and a 62 in round 1, but 73-70 stretch in the middle rounds prevented him from capturing the second win of his career, and the first since the 2011 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Also going low was Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo, who was bogey-free over his final 18 holes to shoot a 6-under 64, tying him with Rose for the third lowest round of the day.
Grillo was immaculate on the greens at Colonial, and he was his best on Sunday, gaining 4.3 strokes on the field with his putting. In fact, Grillo lost 1.2 strokes to the field in that statistic on Saturday, and STILL finished No. 1 in strokes gained: putting for the week. A solo third-place finish was his best result of a strong season, where he has made 15 of 16 cuts and placed inside the top 10 five times.
Joaquin Niemann, the 19-year-old Chilean phenom, just turned professional four starts ago, but after a 4-under 66 on Sunday, which moved him into a tie for 8th, two of those four starts resulted in top-10 finishes.
The former world No. 1 amateur played fantastically tee-to-green in his first Colonial start.
While most of the Sunday field went low, with many going very low, not everyone was able to take advantage of the fortuitous weather conditions.
Ryan Armour won during the fall series, but had been in a terrible slump since February. Through 54 holes in Fort Worth, the 42-year-old had himself in fourth place and looking great in his quest for his first top-10 since that October victory.
Unfortunately for Armour, his iron game was off, and he was able to card just two birdies on the day. His 1-over 71 dropped him into a tie for 14th place.
Tied for fourth with Armour to start the day and falling even further was J.T. Poston. After parring the entire front nine, Poston had two bogeys and a double on the back, leading to a 2-over 72 that knocked him down into a tie for 20th.
Also shooting 72 on Sunday was Charley Hoffman, who dropped 31 spots down the final leaderboard into into a T52, an extremely disappointing result given that he shot a 7-under 63 on Thursday. Hoffman’s nine greens in regulation were seven fewer than he had in that spectacular first round.
A 68 by Jordan Spieth, the highest-ranked player in the field at world No. 3, does not look awful on its own, but the 2016 Fort Worth Invitational Champion was only able to card three final round birdies. A T32 finish was, by far, Spieth’s worst performance at Colonial, and it was yet another dismal week with the putter, which has plagued him all season.
A SPECIAL VICTORY
“Really, really proud of this one. This is a special victory for me. I think obviously just winning here at this venue I think is really what means so much. A tournament that I pick up the trophy and the first thing I saw was Ben Hogan’s name twice. It sort of says a lot.”
– Justin Rose