It was the second straight year the Memorial winner came from four shots behind. Tiger Woods did it a year ago, and the 29-year-old Rose was equally impressive. He played bogey-free at Muirfield Village for a 6-under 66 and a three-shot victory over Rickie Fowler.
Rose tapped in for par, thrust his fist in the air and slammed it down, a moment long overdue. Even his one-year-old son Leo approved. As Rose held him aloft in his arms, the infant clapped his hands.
“I’ve had a few close calls over time, and you start to sometimes wonder why you can’t get it done,” Rose said.
It was his 162nd start in PGA Tour events, dating to that memorable performance he turned in as a 17-year-old amateur when he tied for fourth at Royal Birkdale in the 1998 British Open.
Fowler, the 21-year-old rookie trying to become the youngest winner on the course Jack Nicklaus built, fell apart briefly on the back nine to fall three shots behind, and he never caught up. He closed with a 73 to finish runner-up for the second time this year.
Rose ran off three straight birdies to make the turn, saved par with a 20-footer on the 10th to keep his momentum, then seized control over the next hour despite making only one birdie.
Fowler, dressed all in orange, drove into the bunker on No. 10 for bogey. He took birdie out of the equation on the par-5 11th when he laid up into a messy lie behind trees in the left rough. Then came the par-3 12th, where his tee shot bounded off the slope and into the water for a double bogey.
Fowler fought to stay in the mix, but he never got closer than two shots the rest of the way.
Ricky Barnes offset two double bogeys by holing out from the fairway for eagle for the second time this week. He closed with a 73 and tied for third with Bo Van Pelt, who missed a short par putt on the final hole and had to settle for a 69.
Woods, the defending champion and a four-time winner, closed with a 72 and tied for 19th to finish 12 shots behind. It was his worst finish at the Memorial since 2002, although he found one highlight.
“I’m capable of playing four rounds in a row,” said Woods, who has done that only once this year, at the Masters. He missed the cut at Quail Hollow and withdrew from The Players Championship in the final round with a sore neck.
It was not an inspiring performance, especially with the U.S. Open two weeks away at Pebble Beach.
For the third tournament in a month, Phil Mickelson had a chance to get to No. 1 in the world with a victory. He got on the leader board with a strong start, but lost it on the par-5 15th when his drive was so far left that he wound up taking a penalty drop on the cart path from the 17th hole. He hit driver off the path up near the 16th tee, but he wound up three-putting for double bogey.
Mickelson shot a 69 in his final tune-up for the U.S. Open.
Rose had won five times around the world on four recognized tours, but never on the PGA Tour. It didn’t appear the Memorial would be the tournament he won, not with Fowler four shots ahead of him and going 52 holes without a bogey entering the final round.
But he missed only one fairway, and had a stretch of eight consecutive one-putt holes, and before long he was walking across the 18th green to meet with Nicklaus, the tournament host.
Rose finished at 18-under 270 and earned $1.08 million with a victory that will move him just outside the top 30 in the world.
It has been a big year for England, from Lee Westwood rising to No. 3 in the world to Ian Poulter winning his first World Golf Championship and Luke Donald winning last week in Spain.
Rose, who played in his first Ryder Cup two years ago, was in danger of being forgotten until Sunday at Muirfield Village.