Justin Rose isn't accustomed to losing in Philadelphia. The Englishman won the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club. Before that, he won the 2010 AT&T National at Aronimink Golf Club.
So maybe Rose was still in shock on Monday. Maybe he had a hard time swallowing his bone-in-the-throat loss to Keegan Bradley in the delayed final round of the BMW Championship, the penultimate FedEx Cup playoff event. But Rose is so charmed when he visits the Delaware Valley that, even in defeat, he won. Rose moved ahead of Dustin Johnson to become the world's No. 1 golfer.
That must be a fine consolation, right?
"I … I will get there. Right now, it's a very difficult moment to be excited," Rose said. "We want to win. We want to have that winning feeling. 'World No. 1' is not a winning feeling. It's a feeling that all the hard work, all the years, the people that have been involved, my whole team — we've all gotten there together."
Well, how about next week, when you play the Tour Championship in Atlanta? Or two weeks from now, at the Ryder Cup, considering you have the chance to show in Paris that you're still on top of the world?
"No," he insisted. "It's just something to chalk up. It doesn't mean anything next week. It doesn't make me a better player next week. It doesn't mean anything to the other players."
He said, at 3:06 p.m., "It's something I'll need a little bit of time to reflect on."
Apparently, he needed a very little bit. Because, 15 minutes later, he tweeted this:
Call him conflicted.
It was a long, long week. It's been a long, long climb.
It was 21 years ago that Rose, then a 17-year-old amateur phenom, tied for fourth at the 1998 British Open. He promptly turned professional — and, notoriously, missed his first 21 cuts.
He has since won that U.S. Open at Merion, which he dedicated to his father and coach, Ken, whom cancer claimed in 2002. Rose has logged 21 other professional wins as well, plus the Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. Those wins made him a fixture in the top 10 since 2012, but his run to No. 1 began with a win May 27 at the Fort Worth Invitational. His consistent excellence finally overcame the millennial invasion — Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler — as well as the blossoming of his peers, Johnson and Bubba Watson.
The number 2 has been good to him. It took second-place finishes at the British Open in August; last week in the second round of the playoffs, the Dell Technologies Championship; and the bitter runner-up finish Monday, to unseat Johnson, who held the top spot for 72 of the past 74 weeks.
On Monday, when Rose finally reached the summit, he wasn't quite sure what to say or do. But then, bad golf can leave you speechless.
Rose took a one-stroke lead on a two-shot swing when he birdied 17 and Bradley bogeyed 18. Rose then left both his approach and his chip shot short on 18, and saw his 15-foot par putt spit in the hole and pop back out.
"I don't know how it missed. It was a great putt," Rose insisted. "Halfway to the hole, not many of those putts miss."
That tied him with Bradley at 20-under and forced a playoff on the same hole. Rose missed the green, left his putt from the fringe short, missed the remainder, bogeyed again and lost to par, which won Bradley the $1.62 million first prize and 2,000 FedEx Cup points.
And it made deuces ever wilder for Rose.
He finished second at the BMW and, significantly, stands second in the FedEx Cup points race, which finishes Sunday with a shootout at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. The top five players among the 30 at East Lake would win the Cup if they win the tournament. However, if things fall right, the No. 2 player — Rose — can win the Cup without winning the tournament, too. Justin Thomas went to East Lake second in FedEx Cup points last year, finished second in the tournament and won the $10 million bonus.
"No. 2's an incredible spot to be in," Rose said. "When you go in 15th, 16th, 17th, you know you have to win and you have to hope for a ton of other things to happen. When you're No. 2, when you win, you win. I hate to round out the year with three seconds, but that could be good enough, too."
Rose was almost good enough here again. He said he adores the configuration of courses like Aronimink, completed by Donald Ross in 1928, and Merion, finished by Hugh Wilson in 1912.
"Classic golf courses. Venues I enjoy playing," Rose said. "Good architecture."
That fits. Rose comports himself with a gentlemanly grace more often seen 100 years ago. As such, we'll forgive him his momentary lapse of perspective. After all, he'd just cost himself $648,000 and 800 FedEx Cup points. As he said:
"It's just hard to finish the week on a poor bogey."
Or, in his case, two.