GRACIOUS in defeat, Marc Warren hit the nail on the head. “I didn’t want to be on the end of it, but it was a pleasure to watch,” said the Scot.
As his playing partner in the final round, he had just seen Justin Rose win the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open without having to break sweat.
Joint-leader with Warren heading out, the Englishman looked every inch the winner from the moment he edged his nose in front with a birdie at the second.
Out in 31 after picking up four more shots, he signed off with a flawless 65 for a 16-under-par total of 268.
It gave him a two-shot victory over stuffy Swede Kristoffer Broberg (66), with Warren (70) three shots further back in third.
“This is my first professional win in Scotland [he triumphed in the St Andrews Links Trophy as an amateur] and it means a lot,” beamed Rose.
It completed back-to-back wins for the 33-year-old Englishman, having also claimed the Quicken Loans National at Congressional a fortnight ago. The £500,000 winner’s cheque takes his earnings to almost $2 million (£1.17m) in two events.
In truth, the main reason Rose added this event to his schedule for the first time since 2011 was to sharpen up his links skills after missing the cut three times in four years in the Open Championship.
“I got to love this course,” he added. “I arrived here to use this event as a run in to The Open, but the more I got into the week I was enjoying what a wonderful championship this is.”
On a benign day – a total contrast from Friday, in particular, when the wind wreaked havoc – the tone for the final circuit was set on the first green. Warren missed a birdie chance whereas Rose holed a five-footer to save par.
“It was a shaky start but my putter saved me,” he admitted. “After a couple of good swings, I felt up and running and took care of the par-5s on the front nine, something I hadn’t done earlier in the week.”
While Warren, whose putter turned cold when he needed it to be red-hot, and Broberg refused to throw in the towel, the pair were fighting a losing battle.
Rose got up and down from a greenside bunker at the 14th to “keep my momentum going” before holing a “slippery” par putt at the next.
The day’s defining moment for him, though, came at the 16th.
“I missed the green way right there and you don’t want to do that when you’ve got a downwind shot over bunkers,” he said. “But I produced my best up-and-down all week.
“I’m glad I did because I thought I was three shots in front at that point but was only two ahead and I wanted to give myself some wriggle-room coming up the last.”
It’s the first time in his career that Rose has claimed back-to-back victories.
The big question now is can he complete Phil Mickelson’s Scottish Open/Open Championship double to make it a memorable hat-trick.
“Right now I’m feeling great,” insisted the world No 6. “I don’t feel these two wins have taken a lot out of me. I feel I have taken them in my stride.”
He’ll be even more in the spotlight now at Hoylake, where the majority of a huge crowd will be willing him to become the first Englishman to lift the Claret Jug on home soil since Tony Jacklin at Royal Lytham in 1969.
“I feel comfortable with my own expectations,” insisted Rose of his next challenge. “In the past, I think I’ve always been looking for something extra the week of the majors to try and get myself in contention, always looking for the next level. I think right now I’m not chasing the next level; I’m beginning to trust my game.”
It was the second time in three years that Warren had missed out on a chance to win his home Open. But, unlike Castle Stuart in 2012, when he squandered a three-shot lead with four holes to play, this was a much more positive experience overall for the 33-year-old.
“It was a fantastic week for me – another great Scottish Open experience,” he said. “On the front nine today, my ball-striking was up there with what it’s been all week. Unfortunately, my putter went cold on me and I just wasn’t quite seeing the lines, to be honest.
“I was hitting good putts but couldn’t quite read them.
“I had a 12-footer for birdie on the first and misread there and that was the story of the front nine.
“Justin was the opposite. He was from outside me most of the time and holing them. Once he was out in front, he was tough to catch.
“I said to my caddie going down 17, ‘he’s been absolutely clinical today’. He’s obviously a cool customer, a great frontrunner. Yeah, it was a great performance.”
It was indeed and Rose, having won on courses like Congressional, Merion and Valderrama in the past, proved once again that he is a man who relishes tough tests.
“It’s nice to now have that little monkey off my back as I think winning up here is pretty special,” he said of his first paid Scottish success.
Revealing that his late grandfather, Donald White, was Scottish, the new champion added: “I know that crowd wanted a home winner out there today, so it might soften the blow a little bit that there’s a little bit of Scottish ancestry there.”