GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) — His ball was halfway to the cup when Justin Rose raised his putter to the Scottish skies in celebration.
After his barrage of birdies in a record-breaking victory in the morning fourballs, Rose was never going to miss the 5-foot putt on No. 18 that secured a crucial half point for Europe from the final foursomes match on Saturday afternoon.
It took his personal haul at Gleneagles this week to a team-high 3 1/2 points. Europe is taking a 10-6 lead into Sunday’s singles matches and Rose is the man largely responsible.
“It was definitely him that was the backbone in our team today,” said Henrik Stenson, Rose’s playing partner for his three wins.
To think that 18 months ago, some were questioning Rose’s ability to handle the big stage. Then came that game-changing first major title at the U.S Open in Merion last year that took him to the next level.
Now he’s the finished article.
After two wins with Stenson on Friday, Rose teamed with the Swede on Saturday morning and put on a putting clinic.
They rolled in 10 straight birdies to close a 3-and-2 victory over Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar, with the European pair’s 12-under score a Ryder Cup record. Rose was the senior partner, making seven birdies. He never looked like missing.
“I was obviously in a great zone this morning,” Rose said, “and made everything I looked at.”
The afternoon was more of a grind for Rose, one of two Europeans to play all four matches over Friday and Saturday.
Stenson was rested to protect his sore back so Rose was selected with Martin Kaymer for a foursomes against in-form American rookies Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth.
With the wind picking up slightly and some mental fatigue setting in, there was no flow to the Europeans’ game and they were behind from Nos. 6-14 and again after the par-3 No. 17 when Rose found a bunker with an under-hit tee shot.
He made amends with his clutch putt on No. 18, stopping the Americans taking a potentially momentum-swinging point from the last match on the course.
“That putt by Justin was so huge,” Europe player Graeme McDowell said, “because it gave them nothing to take away.”
Doesn’t Rose know it.
He was part of the team that won the final match of the Saturday afternoon fourballs in Medinah in 2012, which cut the deficit to 10-6 going into the singles.
Rose then played a key role in the remarkable last-day rally, holing a 35-foot birdie putt on the 17th and a 12-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 1-up victory over Phil Mickelson in one of the later singles.
That win, together with his U.S. Open victory nine months later, moved him to a higher plane. He’s moving even higher with his achievements in Gleneagles.
Rose has replaced Poulter as the mainstay of Europe. He has a 9W-1D-3L record in the Ryder Cup and can become only the sixth player to win 4 1/2 points from 5 matches with a victory over Hunter Mahan in the singles.
The skinny 17-year-old amateur who chipped in at the last to finish fourth at the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale has blossomed well.
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