By Andrew Both

DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) - Britain's Justin Rose rocketed into contention for the European Ryder Cup team when he won the Memorial Tournament on Sunday, his first win on the PGA Tour in his 162nd appearance in the United States.

Rose started the final round four strokes from the lead, but gave his rivals no chance with a flawless six-under-par 66, the day's best score in a fluctuating breeze at Muirfield Village.

"I couldn't think of a better place to win my first tournament," Rose told reporters after finishing at 18-under 270, earning $1,080,000 from a total purse of $6 million.

Overnight leader Rickie Fowler (73) finished second on 15-under, while there was a further three-shot gap to Ricky Barnes (73) and Bo Van Pelt (69) in a tie for third.

Tiger Woods tied for 19th on six-under.

Rose, 29, shot to prominence when, as a 17-year-old amateur, he finished fourth at the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale and while since then he had won six times around the world, it took him nearly 12 years to break through in the United States.

"I think I'm very much a forgotten man right now in English golf," he said. "I think the Open Championship, finishing fourth there skewed things for me in terms of my expectations, and certainly everyone else's expectations.

"I really tried hard not to distinguish a huge difference between winning in Europe and winning in America but now the monkey is off my back, there is a huge difference of course."

Rose's victory should lift him to about sixth on the European Ryder Cup world points list, with the top four at the end of August automatically making the team to meet the United States in October.

"I said at the beginning of the week, I felt like I needed to win twice (to make the team)," continued Rose. "You've got to put form players on your team.

"There's still a long way to go. I guess I'm in the hunt there now, which is great, but the key is to keep plugging away and don't get too involved in all those things."

Rose will not be able to immediately celebrate his victory, because he has a 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier on Monday.

"I do like a good time," he said. "But the U.S. Open is obviously such an important tournament that I think it deserves the full respect I'm going to give it.

Nicklaus paid tribute to Rose, describing his swing as "fantastic."

"Your golf swing right now, you can't get it better," said the 18-time major champion as Rose, sitting adjacent, beamed.

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)