A year ago, he led the PGA Tour in greens hit in regulation. Going into the U.S. Open, he was tops in total driving, which combines the ranking of driving distance and driving accuracy. At some point, it began to dawn on the 32-year-old Rose that this major might be the one he was most likely to win.
"I felt like this tournament really began to be on my radar as possibly the one major championship that would suit me the most," Rose said. "I had always felt good at Augusta, always dreamed about winning The Open Championship. But I thought this one actually might have been my best chance. I really targeted Merion. ... So I just love it when a plan comes together."
The rest of his career took time for everything to fall into place.
Rose famously holed a long pitch shot on the final hole at Royal Birkdale in the 1998 British Open when he was 17, and he turned pro the next week. Instead of blazing a trail, he never flamed out by missing 21 consecutive cuts. He never lost hope, however, and eventually matured into the complete golfer everyone thought he might be. Rose won on two strong courses, Muirfield Village and Aronimink. He captured a FedEx Cup playoff event on the PGA Tour. He won his first World Golf Championship last year at Doral.
And now this.
"He's got loads of talent, a great game, a great work ethic," Hunter Mahan said. "He's just one of those guys that had to keep plugging along, and keep trusting himself more than anything else — just trust his abilities, because his abilities are really second to none."
Rose should have had a notion he could handle the big stage. It was just under nine months ago when he was headed to a crucial loss — against Mickelson, of all people — in the Ryder Cup at Medinah last year. Rose holed a 12-foot par putt on the 16th, a 35-foot birdie putt on the 17th and a 12-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 1-up victory, the key to Europe's remarkable rally.
That was a team win for Europe. This was for England.
"It's been too long, really," Donald said. "I think we've had a lot of talent come out of England, and hopefully we've broken our bad period. This will be a great win for Justin, and for England."
Rose ended his night by tweeting a photo of the shiny U.S. Open trophy as the centerpiece of a dining table, champagne glasses ready to be filled.