Ben Hogan's legend is safe. His old friend Merion East saw to that.

The U.S. Open came back, bringing the world's best golfers to town, and the only greatness on display was the course itself.

There's a reason Hogan's 1-iron on the 18th hole here is marked by a plaque, a reason golfers way too young to have seen him play took practice-round shots from that hallowed spot before the Open began.

Because it was damn hard, making a perfect shot under pressure to force a playoff in the 1950 Open. So damn hard, no one could do anything remotely like it here on Sunday.

No one, including Phil Mickelson. Especially Mickelson.

He came closer than the others, with an eagle from 75 yards out that would have demanded clubhouse wall space next to Hogan's famous shot. But Mickelson's shot came on the 10th hole. It got the man for whom this tournament seemed made-to-order back into contention. But Mickelson posted three bogeys in the final six holes to squander the magic.

Justin Rose didn't so much win this tournament as survive it. He shot 1-over par over four rounds on these rough-and-tumble grounds. His winning round was even-par 70, and it ended with two bogeys in the final five holes.

That's called collapsing under pressure in most tournaments. Here, with everyone else falling to smaller pieces all around the course, it was good enough for Rose's first major championship.

Jason Day bogeyed three of the last eight holes, including the 18th, to finish tied with Mickelson for second place. Jason Dufner birdied three of four holes to get into contention, then combusted with a 7 on the par-4 15th hole.

The 15th also claimed Hunter Mahan, who went from in the hunt to the dumper by shooting 4 over for the last four holes. Steve Stricker? His 8 on the second hole destroyed him. Charl Schwartzel birdied the first hole of the day to give himself a chance, then bogeyed five holes in a row to blow it.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were human divots before the day began.

But no one's inability to master Merion in the final round was as closely scrutinized or as keenly felt as Mickelson's. He is now as famous for never winning the Open as he is for the four majors he has won.

He was the leader after three rounds. The final round was played on his birthday, as well as Father's Day. Considering that his tournament began after cross-country flights to attend his daughter's eighth-grade graduation, the stars were in perfect alignment. Mickelson knew it.

"For me, it's very heartbreaking," Mickelson said. "I think this was my best chance. The way I was playing, heading in, the position I was in, I thought this was my best opportunity. And the way I loved the golf course. It gave me a chance to make birdies. I didn't really make any, but there was opportunity after opportunity."

There was drama at the end. Rose was in the clubhouse with a 1-stroke lead. Mickelson just missed a birdie putt on 16 that would have tied him, then had two holes left to deliver a Hoganesque moment.

He just couldn't do it. He shot 4 over for the day, hardly a championship round.

Mickelson talked about Merion the way a losing boxer talks about the man who just knocked him out. There was deep respect, even affection. And why not? The course didn't just take him down. It took everybody down, including the winner.

"This course has held up amazingly well," Rose said. "It's been such an intriguing course to play. I fell in love with it last week, almost two weeks ago now. That was a big part of my week, falling in love with a girl called Merion. I just didn't know her last name."

Rose, who won the AT&T National at Aronimink three years ago, is 32. He said he believes he is entering the prime of his career. Maybe he will win a few more majors, and this tournament will be remembered as merely the first.

Or maybe he will be just another guy left atop the leader board when Mickelson fell short.

For certain, Rose will be remembered as the golfer who was least humbled by Merion. He got a trophy for that, but posterity still belongs to Ben Hogan.

Contact Phil Sheridan at Follow @Sheridanscribe on Twitter.