Nerve endings: With an amphitheater of spectators and a national TV audience looking on, Simpson coolly executed a demanding 72nd-hole pitch to set up a par and, ultimately, the title.
On the leeward bank of a seaside dune, the burial mound of National Opens for Payne Stewart, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan, 26-year- old Webb Simpson got a group discount on fall guys and won the 112th
U.S. Open because no one else seemed to know how. Lee Westwood, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell, to name
a few, all took a run at it, but if they left their hearts in San
Francisco it was only because the Olympic Club cut them out.
Simpson played the weekend 68-68, four under par and
almost entirely under the radar. That was probably a good
thing. “For me to play fourth-from-the-last group was
probably a huge help,” said Simpson, who was able to post
a one-over-par 281, sit back and watch the carnage through
the foggy, misty gloom. “I felt a lot of pressure all week
playing this golf course, how demanding it is, but I can
imagine playing the final group of a major is really tough.
One of my thoughts on the back nine was I don’t know how
Tiger has won 14 of these things. I couldn’t feel my legs
most of the back nine.”
Two former U.S. Open champions, Furyk and McDowell,
had the lead heading into Sunday. Furyk is the 42-year-old
tough guy no one can quite believe has won only one U.S.
Open. McDowell is the 32-year-old hail fellow well met from
Northern Ireland some people couldn’t quite believe won
even one, until he stuck a Welsh dagger in the U.S. Ryder
Cup team, that is. Furyk and McDowell don’t swing alike or
talk alike, but when it comes to being tough as steel cable,
they might as well be twins. They were the only players still
in red figures and two shots clear of Fredrik Jacobson. West-
wood, Els and Simpson were among the 15 guys within five
shots, hovering like the fog. The group also included Woods,
who dropped as though he’d been swallowed up by the San
Andreas Fault when he played his opening six holes Sunday
six over par. Now, there’s a rally killer.
Westwood came undone when his tee shot on the fifth
decided to open a branch of Occupy Olympic in the top of