Behind the grandstand on 18, a massive, 25-foot-tall image of Justin Rose loomed over the comparatively toy-sized hut where players signed their scorecards after each round at TPC Louisiana.
A sign of the times, to be sure.
Rose wasn’t the only golfer to have a stellar scoring week in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans dart-throwing contest. Justin was just the best. And now, after a decade dominated by first-time winners — some of them no-names and never-have-been-agains — the Zurich has a proven, battle-tested champion once more. A player in the tradition of Vijay Singh (the last player to have won a major before winning here in 2004), Ben Crenshaw and Seve Ballesteros.
Seventeen years after fellow Englishman Lee Westwood won at English Turn, it was again the English’s turn. Rose willed himself to victory with two clutch putts, a 10-footer on No. 17 and a 13-footer on No. 18 that had him pumping a fist and yelling “Come on!” toward the cheering skyboxes lining the fairway.
Rose didn’t mean it that way, but it sounded like a dare to the contenders following him home in the final four threesomes.
None could match the man. Cameron Tringale came within a foot of a chip-in for a tying eagle on 18, then tapped out to finish one back. Boo Weekley had makeable birdies looks on the final two holes but they didn’t fall. Jason Day, the co-leader with Rose at the start of Sunday’s rain-spattered fourth round, couldn’t tame an unruly driver and finished three back, shooting a 69 to Rose’s closing 66.
Unlike a couple of recent Zurich winners who have gone on to bigger things and haven’t been back lately — two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and 2013 PGA champion Jason Dufner — the bloom won’t be off for Rose at the Zurich any time soon.
He’s one of the title sponsor’s “ambassadors” — wearing his allegiance to the international insurance giant literally on his sleeve — and as such makes New Orleans one of his annual stops.
“I’ve always enjoyed my time here — win, lose or draw,” Rose said. “But to get on the right side of things and win the golf tournament has made it such a fun week.”
Fun probably isn’t the word a lot of competitors would use to describe a soggy week on the bayou. Nearly 10 total hours of rain delays made the players wish they had mud flaps on their wedges. The course was so inundated by Sunday that they played lift, clean and place (“lift, clean and cheat,” some call it) to allow the players to wipe the mud off their golf balls before hitting onto the greens — where they again stuck in the soft ground.
The final day was a muddy, bewildering mess. Players had to finish their third rounds early Sunday before starting the fourth. To save time, they weren’t re-paired based on scores as usual. As a result, Rose finished well before his pursuers.
Rose wasn’t ruffled. He was clearly overjoyed to win again, especially after shooting a 14-under total at the Masters that left him four shots back of the green-jacketed Justin Spieth, a number that would have tied for or won 70 of the previous 78 Augusta gatherings.
That showing coupled with this one — a tournament in which he went bogey-free in his past 66 holes — means not even the celebrated Mr. Spieth may be playing better than Rose right now.
“I took my Masters performance with a huge amount of confidence,” Rose said. “I felt I was beaten by just a phenomenal performance. Sometimes you just need to tip your cap.
“The most important thing for me at Augusta was how comfortable I felt on Sunday. That really helped me to have the confidence to put this one away.”
A win for Rose and a win for the Zurich, which has a champion’s champion you can count on casting a large image over this tournament for years to come.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.