NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. — Justin Rose would like to have changed how he reached No. 1 in the world.
But not when.
Rose felt emotionally conflicted when the BMW Championship ended in a light rain at Aronimink Golf Club. He was going for his third title in the Philadelphia area, including the U.S. Open he won at Merion five years ago. He hit what he thought was one of the better putts he had ever struck under pressure, a 15-footer for par in regulation, only to see it spin hard around the back edge of the cup.
And then in a playoff, his 5-foot par putt missed to the left, making Keegan Bradley a winner for the first time in six years.
The consolation prize was obvious: Rose replaced Dustin Johnson at No. 1 in the world.
“In the moment, we’re all about trying to win a golf tournament,” Rose said. “But give me half an hour maybe, and I might be able to say I really enjoyed it.”
Reflection came much sooner in the form of a tweet :
“We did it Dad.... World Number 1. Thank you so much to my family, friends & everybody that has helped me achieve this incredible goal.”
The words were accompanied by a photo of Rose from that Sunday afternoon at Merion when he hit all the right shots and became a major champion. He is shown pointing to the sky to acknowledge his father, Ken, who died of leukemia in September 2002.
The day Rose became No. 1 in the world was the anniversary of his death, a day the son never forgets.
No, he didn’t get the trophy awarded after four rounds.
Rose got a title earned over the last two years by a mathematical formula, and over the last 20 years by sheer determination.
“It’s boyhood dreams, know what I mean?” Rose said. “Today is all about the process, and there will be next week to win tournaments. But to get to world No. 1 is unbelievable. It’s something I can say now in my career I’ve been the best player in the world. I’ve been to the top of the game.”
And what a trip.
He was a 17-year-old amateur at Royal Birkdale in 1998 who holed out for par on the final hole to tie for fourth, soaking up a celebration that suggested golf could only get sweeter.
And then it went sour over the next year when he turned pro and missed 21 consecutive cuts on the European Tour.
It took him nearly four years before he won for the first time in Europe. He went 12 years before winning on the PGA Tour, rallying from four shots behind to win the Memorial and get that handshake with Jack Nicklaus. He won the U.S. Open in 2013 by denying Phil Mickelson. He added precious gold to the collection of silver trophies when he won in golf’s return to the Olympics in 2016.
All he won Monday at Aronimink was a designation that can’t be taken away.
Rose is the 22nd player to reach No. 1 in a world ranking that began in 1986. He is the fourth player from England, joining Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Nick Faldo. Argue about the math, but not the results. In the last year, Rose has four victories, including a World Golf Championship, and four runner-up finishes.
Sure, it’s awkward to celebrate one title right after losing another. It’s not unusual, though.
Jordan Spieth reached No. 1 in the world for the first time with a runner-up finish in the 2015 PGA Championship. Martin Kaymer was assured No. 1 when he reached the final of the Match Play Championship in Arizona, only to lose the next day to Luke Donald. Greg Norman, Rory McIlroy and Vijay Singh each returned to No. 1 by losing in playoffs. The first time Nick Faldo reached No. 1, he was home recovering from a wrist injury.
Rose is the third player this year to be No. 1, following Johnson and Justin Thomas. He joins eight other players in the last 20 years to win a major and a World Golf Championship and reach No. 1 in the world. The others are Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Singh, Kaymer and Johnson.
How long will it last?
Rose is assured of staying No. 1 when he returns next week to the Tour Championship.
But it really doesn’t matter.
For Rose, the 20 years and seven weeks it took him to reach the top was as rewarding — certainly memorable — as the moment he got there.
From 21 consecutive missed cuts to No. 1 in the world.
Two months ago, he had to make an 18-foot putt on the 18th hole at Carnoustie just to make the cut. Two days later, he was runner-up at the British Open. It was only the latest example in a career filled with them that better days are ahead.
He has the No. 1 ranking to prove it.
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