USGA CHAMPIONS
Champions Update: Rose Blooming Heading Into U.S. Open May 28, 2018 By David Shefter, USGA

Justin Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion, defeated reigning Open champion Brooks Koepka in the Fort Worth Invitational. (USGA/JD Cuban)

The Fort Worth Invitational came down to an old-fashioned Texas shootout between a pair of U.S. Open champions.

Good thing Justin Rose, the 2013 champion, started the final round with a four-stroke cushion over Brooks Koepka, who will defend his crown in less than three weeks at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.

Rose, 37, and Koepka, 28, shot 64 and 63, respectively, Sunday on the par-70 Colonial Country Club layout made famous by four-time U.S. Open champion Ben Hogan.

Rose’s three-stroke victory over Koepka was his ninth on the PGA Tour and second in the 2017-18 wrap-around season. Only a 72nd-hole bogey prevented him from tying the tournament-record score of 259.

In addition to winning the plaid jacket for claiming the longest-running Tour event held at the same location (1946), the Englishman also added to an impressive list of courses at which he has hoisted a trophy. Rose won his U.S. Open at iconic Merion Golf Club and his first PGA Tour event eight years ago at Jack Nicklaus’ masterpiece: Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Other victories have come at classics such as Aronimink in suburban Philadelphia, Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in Scotland and Valderrama in Spain.

“I'm very proud of the places I've been able to win,” said Rose. “I'm not saying they suit my game but happy my game has turned up, and I've been inspired by some of these great venues.”

In less than three weeks, Rose will look to add another special layout to his portfolio. He would certainly like to improve upon his last visit to Shinnecock in the 2004 U.S. Open, when he shot rounds of 77-78 and missed the cut.

At Colonial, not only did Rose stave off the suddenly hot Koepka – he also carded a final-round 63 in The Players Championship two weeks ago at TPC Sawgrass – but Kevin Na fired a 9-under 61 on Sunday. Rose, however, never wavered by coming out and registering six birdies against one bogey on his opening nine. He added two more birdies on the second nine before an errant drive on the par-4 18th led to a bogey.

"It was very impressive the way he played all day. He never backed off," said Koepka. "Never really gave an opportunity for anybody to get in there."

Birthday Girl

For Minjee Lee, it was quite the 22nd birthday present. The Australian, who won the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior, claimed her fourth LPGA Tour title on Sunday in Ann Arbor, Mich., by getting up and down for a birdie on the 72nd hole to earn a one-stroke victory over I.K. Kim, another past U.S. Girls’ Junior champion (2005), to win the Volvik Championship.

Lee now has some momentum going into this week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek.

But she nearly let this victory slip away. She had not made a bogey for 38 consecutive holes before three-putting the 71st green to fall back into a first-place tie with Kim, who playing in the pairing ahead, birdied No. 18.

Knowing the situation, Lee nearly clipped a tree with her drive on the 18th hole before her second shot stopped just in front of the green, leaving her a simple pitch-and-run for her third. Her deft chip stopped 2 feet from the flagstick to set up the winning birdie.

“I’ve been playing pretty solid golf the whole year,” said Lee. “Next week [at Shoal Creek] is going to be a totally different week. I know I’m striking it well and putting it well.”

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.