BETHESDA, Md. -- As David Feherty walked up the fourth fairway Sunday following third-round leader Patrick Reed to a tee shot that landed in the right rough, the CBS golf analyst said to a reporter doing the same: "Congressional (Country Club) finally got the course like they wanted it for the U.S. Open."
Three years after Rory McIlroy's performance caused shock waves throughout both the golf world and the club itself, the venerable Blue course finally took its revenge in the Quicken Loans National. First it eliminated tournament host Tiger Woods and several other former major champions by Friday night.
It took care of Reed and all of the other pretenders Sunday.
Only Justin Rose was left standing -- and holding the silver trophy replicating the U.S. Capitol. It marked the second time he won this tournament, following his 2010 victory when it was played at Aronimink Golf Club outside Philadelphia while Congressional was being prepared for the following year's U.S. Open.
"To be a double winner of this one, obviously means a lot," said Rose, who also earned a check for $1.17 millon. "I was lucky enough to win, obviously, at Aronimink, and I have the Liberty Bell trophy, but this trophy right here is one of the most special ones we play for. It's such a great-looking trophy."
After making a 15-foot putt to avoid double bogey on the final hole of regulation, the 33-year-old Englishman who showed his affinity for U.S. Open courses by winning last year at Merion Golf Club, beat Shawn Stefani on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff Sunday to win the National.
"I kind of made a hash of it a little bit," said Rose, who put his first drive on the par-4 18th under some trees left of the fairway and his recovery shot into a pond near the green. "My caddie said to me that 'Shawn just bogeyed 17, you're tied for the lead, just make this putt.' When you make a putt that means something on the 18th hole, it's special."
Stefani nearly did the same thing to win, but he botched up the playoff hole -- the 527-yard par-4 -- even worse than Rose.
After narrowly missing a 20-foot putt for birdie on the par-4 closing hole in regulation, an errant drive left under the same trees and a subsequent recovery shot into same pond, led to a double bogey by Stefani, a 32-year-old Texan, whose previous PGA Tour highlight was a hole-in-one in last year's U.S. Open.
"It was great to put myself in that position, obviously in a playoff, to win a tournament," said Stefani, who won twice on the Web.com Tour in 2012 but has struggled with inconsistency and injury since moving up to the PGA Tour last year. "It definitely gives me the belief that I can win a golf tournament on the PGA tour."
Said Rose: "Almost an identical (second) shot to the one I hit. That's the whole thing about that hole that makes it such a dangerous hole if you miss the fairway, having to land the ball short of the green, everything tilts toward the water. It's very key to get that ball in the fairway off the tee."
Rose, who had taken about "15 to 20" practice swings prior to the playoff, hit his playoff drive on 18 into the fairway and made a routine par to win for the first time since last year's U.S. Open. In winning in a playoff for the first time on the PGA tour, Rose said later that he learned from his mistake from his first drive.
"In the playoff, it was just up to me not to do what I did the first time around," he said. "I thought my posture might have been a little bit sloppy. I hit a couple of shots to the left at the end of my round. I sort of fixed my feel a little bit, and I hit a good shot down 18."
Rose and Stefani had entered the playoff after shooting 1-under-par 70 and finishing with a four-round total of 4-under-par 280 -- a dozen shots more than McIlroy needed during his eight-shot U.S. Open victory in 2011. They finished one shot ahead of Charley Hoffman (69 Sunday) and Ben Martin (71).
Reed, who led by as many as three shots after opening with a birdie Sunday, made three double bogeys in shooting 6-over-par 77. But he was not alone. The three players who came into the day in second place -- Mark Leishman of Australia (74), Freddie Jacobson of Sweden (75) and Seung Yul-Noh of South Korea (79) -- did, too.
It wasn't until he nearly reached the back nine that Rose realized how much trouble those above him on the leader board were having.
"When I birdied the ninth hole (to get to 4-under), I walked to the 10th tee and I saw I was tied for the lead, which really surprised me," said Rose, who started the tournament with a 3-over-par 74 and the final round three shots behind Reed. "The back nine on Sunday, that's what it's all about."
Rose said that playing a couple groups ahead of the leaders was to his advantage.
"If I could get through some of the tough holes (on the back nine), unscathed, then they were going to have to do the same," Rose said.
Rose did more than that, making a spectacular birdie on the tough par-4 11th and then saving par with an 8-foot putt on the par-4 17th. What was also in Rose's favor was his experience of playing well on difficult courses: three of his first five PGA tour wins came at Muirfield Village, Doral and, of course, Merion.
"I think it's great to win on a golf course like this because you can't sort of luck into it," he said. "You've got to play good golf, and through spells this week, I had to rely on different parts of my game all week. ... It was fair, but you had to play good strategic golf."
Unlike the 2011 U.S. Open, when soaking rains softened the greens and the long, gnarly rough was cut uncharacteristically short, the course played fast and unforgiving the past couple days. By the time Rose reached the practice green early Sunday afternoon, he knew what was in store.
"It played a lot tougher (than 2011)," Rose said. "I felt (Saturday), the course got bouncy, got fiery, it became a championship-style golf course."
And Rose would become a champion again for the first time since his victory at Merion.
"It's a huge boost confidence-wise," he said.
The trophy's not half bad either.
NOTES: Former Navy star Billy Hurley III had his second strong performance at Congressional. After finishing tied for fourth in 2012, Hurley finished tied for eighth at 1-under-par 273 after shooting even-par 71 on Sunday. ... Stefani was one of five Americans to finish in the top 12 and qualify for next month's British Open at Royal Liverpool. ... The tournament moves to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., next year before returning to Congressional in 2016.
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