CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) - Talk about cutting it fine. Justin Rose earned a place in the weekend field at the British Open with the last shot of his second round — a birdie on Carnoustie’s 18th green.
The Englishman, who won the 2013 U.S. Open but has never quite clicked at his home major since finishing tied fourth at Birkdale as a 17-year-old amateur in 1998, had toiled grimly all afternoon but finally managed to raise a smile.
Rose had been eclipsed throughout his round by playing partner Jordan Spieth and to a lesser extent the entertaining Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat and he arrived on the 18th tee on four-over-par with the cutline at plus three.
If you were to pick a hole to have to birdie to stay in a tournament it would not be this formidable one — a menacing 499-yard par-four with hazards everywhere.
But Rose, the world number three, fired a perfect tee shot into the late-evening sunshine and struck his second to 15 feet.
The packed grandstand around the 18th fell silent as Rose sized up his putt and sent the ball on its way, straight into the middle of the hole to roars from the crowd.
“It’s coming home!,” shouted one fan.
His two-over-par 73 means Rose is not going home and after making the cut by the skin of his teeth he may still plot his way back into contention.
He is nine shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner but stranger things have happened — after all Paul Lawrie came from 10 shots back in his final round at Carnoustie in 1999 to walk off with the Claret Jug.
“I holed a par putt at 15 and I heard the crowd make a lovely cheering noise, and I’m like, man, that’s what it feels like,” the 37-year-old told reporters.
“Literally, the whole day was oh, ah, oh. And then the crowd are trying to cheer you up, and that kind of almost adds to the frustration because you sense they want it for you as well and nothing’s happening.
“It was a very, very trying day, but I’m kind of pleased I was able to dig deep down on 18.”
Rose has never matched his fourth place in 1998. In his next 15 British Opens he has managed only one top-10 finish, at St Andrews three years ago.
“Right now my thoughts are I’m delighted. Twenty minutes ago, I was not very delighted,” he said.
“Just got to try to turn it around for the weekend, try to get into the red as soon as I can and try to make a run.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond