By Mark Lamport-Stokes
ARDMORE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Justin Rose ended a 42-year title drought by English players at the U.S. Open with his two-shot victory at Merion on Sunday and has been tipped by his predecessor, Tony Jacklin, to win several more majors.
Jacklin, who clinched the 1970 U.S. Open at Hazeltine, applauded Rose's strength of character and ice-cool finish, and has marked him out as one of the favourites for the July 18-21 British Open at Muirfield in Scotland.
"He's a great champion now and he's got it all together," Jacklin, 68, told Reuters by telephone on Monday. "It was a supreme test at Merion and he came through it with flying colours.
"He's only 32 years old and he's got 10 years ahead of him where he can look forward to more great performances and more major championship wins, I have got no doubt about it.
"He will certainly be one of the favourites at Muirfield in a few weeks' time."
Rose landed his first major title after carding a level-par 70 in challenging conditions at breezy Merion, overhauling the 54-hole leader Phil Mickelson and shrugging off two bogeys during the brutal five-hole closing stretch.
Asked what he regarded as Rose's greatest attributes as a player, Jacklin replied: "First of all he had a tough start to his professional career. He dealt with a lot of adversity and dealing with that has given him a great foundation, it has toughened him up.
"And he has worked hard on his swing technique. He has got a beautiful ball swing now, a swing that's proven this week it will stand to up to whatever they throw at him, pressure-wise. The way that he played that 18th hole was just spectacular."
Rose split the fairway off the tee at the 511-yard, par-four last, Merion's most difficult hole during the week, then hit his four-iron approach right at the flag for his ball to roll through to the back of the green before nestling on the fringe.
HOLDING OFF MICKELSON
Well aware he could still be caught at the top by Mickelson, who playing behind him, Rose used a three-wood to putt and very nearly sank the birdie attempt, his ball curling left-to-right before halting inches short of the cup.
"He was unlucky not to finish stone dead, for his ball to finish where it did," Jacklin, who won the first of his two major crowns at the 1969 British Open, said of Rose's approach to the elevated 18th green.
"But Justin hung in there during that final round and didn't do anything stupid, he was patient and he showed great courage in the end.
"He had a three-putt late on (at the par-four 16th) and he didn't let it phase him. The way he played the last hole was just fantastic."
English golf has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years with Luke Donald and Lee Westwood both reaching the number one spot in the world rankings and players such as Ian Poulter and Paul Casey winning on both sides of the Atlantic.
Yet, just like six-times major champion Nick Faldo before them, none had managed to emulate Jacklin by winning the U.S. Open until Rose's breakthrough.
"I am quite surprised and 43 years is a long time but only a few players in my opinion have been really capable of doing it," Jacklin said of England's lengthy title drought at the major widely considered the most grueling to win.
"Faldo was the main one years ago and he went very close, he was unlucky not to get it done. And then more recently Lee Westwood has had his opportunities and didn't quite get it done.
"But majors and regular tour events are a completely different kettle of fish, especially the U.S. Open. Its set-up is so difficult."
According to Jacklin, U.S. Open organisers desired to "set the examination at the highest level to test your golfing skills and your mental capacities as well".
He added: "They're trying to frustrate you and it's a case of last man standing. Justin's win is great for the game and it will be great for the game in Britain. Hopefully he will open the door for more British players to give us more of the same."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Julian Linden)