Rose likes to use the word "moment." The Englishman talks about rising to it. He talks about standing up to it. And well he should. For there is no continuum with a national championship on the line and the world watching. Time does not flow easily when your ball is only a few yards on the 18th fairway from where Ben Hogan's sat 63 years ago and you have three strokes to complete your date with golfing immortality. Time doesn't flow at all. It just stops.
"As I was walking over the bridge across the quarry at the 18th, I heard someone shout out, 'A good iron shot, two putts and it's yours!'" Rose said on the eve of the Travelers Championship. "I pretty much knew what I had to do from that point on, although you should never listen to someone in the crowd. That could have been dangerous."
Before he had left his Florida home for Merion last week, his sports psychiatrist Gio Valiante had directed him to a scene from "The Empire Strikes Back." It was the scene in which Yoda counseled Luke Skywalker that he was mature enough to come into his own. And there was more. Rose's wife, Kim, had bought him a picture of a tunnel a few years ago and he snapped a picture of it on his mobile phone as a reminder to have tunnel vision.
"I just had to stand up there and be counted," Rose said. "It was my moment."
Yet as he walked to his ball sitting perfectly on the 18th fairway, thinking about how he had seen that photograph of Hogan and his immortal 1-iron a thousand times, knowing he was 230 yards and one nice 4-iron from the hole and his moment … his mind started playing tricks.
"Luke [Donald] had hit it right off the 18th tee and was taking a drop," Rose said. "I had way too much time to think."
He started looking at the flags in the distance. He started mentally debating the wind. He started debating 3-iron or 4-iron when all the time he knew the answer. Finally, he shut his mind off. "OK," he decided, "perfect 4-iron." And it was perfect.
Justin Rose, the kid out of a Hampshire County town called Hook, pointed to the sky when he sank the putt that would stand up to Phil Mickelson, stand up to the world for his first major victory. Ken Rose had taught Justin the game. Ken had coached his boy. And 11 years after Ken had succumbed to leukemia at 57, Justin said on Wednesday that the moment had been the perfect time to honor him.
"I didn't let myself think about my dad during the round, I knew that's not what he would have wanted me to do," Rose said. "When I did, I got emotional. So I waited until the very end. But it was important for me to honor him."
"I haven't had a moment in the last 11 years where there was a perfect situation to thank him for all the hard work he put into my game. That was the moment. Win, lose or draw, I felt like I had acquitted myself well and he'd be proud."
Rose became the first Englishman to win a major since Nick Faldo in 1996. He became the first Englishman to win the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970. Damn straight Ken Rose would have been proud of his son. Yet in victory, Rose, who Hunter Mahan called technically the best player in the game, might have learned as much about himself as the world did about him.
"I've been a pro 15 years," Rose said, "but only in the last two years have I felt ready for that moment. You think you're good enough, you can tell yourself you're good enough. You can tell yourself you're ready and believe you're ready, but until it happens you really don't know."
"It really hit me at the U.S. Open that if you're not willing to experience the heartbreak of losing a major then you can't really play your best and be free enough in the moment to get it done."
Yet here's the thing about a moment, even "the moment " — at a certain point time does begin to flow again, there is a continuum to life. And after winning the Open, after filling the front pages of newspapers in the United Kingdom, after his appearance on Letterman, the Travelers Championship is the first week of the rest of Justin Rose's life.
And that's why you can't help but think about what happened at the 2010 Travelers. Rose had a six-stroke lead in the third round. He still had a healthy three-stroke lead heading into the final round, and after his first PGA Tour win at the Memorial, he looked unstoppable. On Wednesday, he would call 2010 the turning point of his career. He had won tournaments internationally, but Memorial, he said, "got the monkey off my back." He didn't have to answer how it was his 120th start, or whatever it was, without a victory.
"But I let that Travelers lead slip," Rose said. Slip all the way to a ninth-place finish. He would go to the AT&T that following week, build a big lead and barely hold on for a second tour victory. Rose talks easily about the learning curve now, about his progression. Yet as he stood there in 2010 after a meltdown on the back nine on a day when Bubba Watson won his first tournament, it couldn't have been easy.
"You've got to put things in perspective," Rose said that Sunday, cradling his 16-month-old son, Leo, in his arms. "You've got to accept the rough with the smooth. I just played seven great rounds in a row. You got to accept there is one coming."
I was struck not only by the composure he had shown, but the sort of instant perspective that serves a young man well in the cruelest of games. He seemed to grasp that life would go on and time would flow.
There is no better way to maintain a place in the hearts of Connecticut sports fans than to keep a commitment the week after winning a major. It hasn't always been that way here, but Lucas Glover, Webb Simpson and Rose have done it in recent years. You can stand up to the moment, but nobody stands bigger than the national champion who doesn't big-time the next link in the chain of his sport.
"To be in New York [Tuesday for all the media commitments], the world's biggest, brightest city, to be in the hustle and bustle for a day is fun," Rose said. "But I had a decent night's sleep last night and it was great to see my kids. Obviously, winning on Father's Day, I made it about my father, but I'm a dad as well and I was really looking forward to seeing them and share the good feelings as well."
Rose likes Cromwell. This is his eighth time and he calls it an old-school PGA Tour event, one rich in history with loyal fans. The tournament has treated him well through the years and now he is returning the favor. He seems to have a profound sense of grabbing the moment and passing along the baton. He talked about how Adam Scott texted him after winning the Masters, saying, "This is our time." He talked about some others being ready to hold a major trophy, too, but said he didn't want to curse them by sharing exactly who he might have contacted. What he did share was that for Father's Day, Leo, now 4, had a special present for him.
"The kids [Kate and Justin also have a little daughter, Lottie] don't care about the big shiny trophy. [Leo] made me a clay trophy that he colored in. I told him that was my favorite trophy. He's happy about that. After the U.S. Open, this week is a great balance. I'm trying to recharge."
He'll need to, because there are moments ahead.