Webb Simpson shoots 68 to win U.S. Open
DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press
Published on Thursday, May. 23, 2013 05:13PM EDT Last updated on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 12:33PM EST
SAN FRANCISCO - Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open and put two more names into the graveyard of champions.
Overlooked for so much of the week, Simpson emerged on a fog-filled Sunday at The Olympic Club with four birdies around the turn and a tough chip out of a hole to the right of the 18th green that he converted into par for a 2-under 68.
He finished at 1-over 281, and it was enough to outlast former U.S. Open champions Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell.
Furyk bogeyed two of his last three holes. McDowell had a 25-foot birdie on the 18th to force a playoff, but it never had a chance.
“Oh, wow,” Simpson said, watching from the locker-room.
Olympic is known as the “graveyard of champions” because proven major winners who were poised to win the U.S. Open have always lost to the underdog. One of those was Arnold Palmer in 1966, when he lost a seven-shot lead on the back nine.
Perhaps it was only fitting that the 25-year-old Simpson went to Wake Forest on an Arnold Palmer scholarship.
“Arnold has been so good to me,” Simpson said. “Just the other day, I read that story and thought about it. He’s meant so much to me and Wake Forest. Hopefully, I can get a little back for him and make him smile.”
No one was beaming like Simpson, who followed a breakthrough year on the PGA Tour with his first major.
No one was more disgusted than Furyk, in control for so much of the final round until he snap-hooked his tee shot on the par-5 16th hole to fall out of the lead for the first time all day, and was unable to get it back. Needing a birdie on the final hole, he hit into the bunker. He crouched and clamped his teeth onto the shaft of his wedge. Furyk made bogey on the final hole and closed with a 74, a final round without a single birdie.
McDowell, who made four bogeys on the front nine, at least gave himself a chance with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th and a shot into the 18th that had him sprinting up the hill to see what kind of chance he had. The putt stayed left of the hole the entire way, and he had to settle for a 73.
McDowell shared second place with Michael Thompson, who closed with a 67 and waited two hours to see if it would be good enough.
Tiger Woods, starting five shots behind, played the first six holes in 6-over par and was never a factor. He shot 73 and finished six strokes back.
Calgary’s Stephen Ames finished with a 72 that left him tied for 68th at 18 over.
Furyk was fuming, mostly at himself, for blowing a chance at his second U.S. Open title. He also was surprised that the USGA moved the tee up 100 yards on the 16th hole to play 569 yards. It was reachable in two shots for some players, though the shape of the hole featured a sharp turn to the left.
“There’s no way when we play our practice rounds you’re going to hit a shot from a tee 100 yards up unless someone tells you,” Furyk said. “But the rest of the field had that same shot to hit today, and I’m pretty sure no one hit as (bad) a shot as I did. I have no one to blame but myself.
“I was tied for the lead, sitting on the 16th tee,” he said. “I’ve got wedges in my hand, or reachable par 5s, on the way in and one birdie wins the golf tournament. I’m definitely frustrated.”
But he gave Simpson his due.
Of the last 18 players to tee off in the final round, Simpson was the only one to break par. That didn’t seem likely when Simpson was six shots behind as he headed to the sixth hole, the toughest at Olympic. That’s where he started his big run.
His 7-iron landed in the rough and rolled 5 feet away for birdie. He made birdie on the next two holes, including a 15-footer on the par-3 eighth. And his wedge into the 10th settled 3 feet away, putting him into the mix for the rest of the day.
“It was a cool day,” Simpson said. “I had a peace all day. I knew it was a tough golf course. I probably prayed more the last three holes than I ever did in my life.”
Simpson’s shot from the rough on the 18th hole went just right of the green and disappeared into a hole, a circle of dirt about the size of a sprinkler cap. With a clump of grass behind the ball, he had a bold stroke for such a nervy shot and it came out perfectly, rolling 3 feet by the hole for his much-needed par.
Then, it was time to wait.
It was the third time in the last seven years that no one broke par in the U.S. Open. On all three occasions, the winner was in the locker room when it the tournament ended.
SECOND, AGAIN: Michael Thompson settled for second place five years ago at The Olympic Club in the U.S. Amateur.
Sunday, he tied for second with Graeme McDowell at the U.S. Open — only this time the consolation prize was worth $695,916.
“I knew from the beginning of the week, if I can just shoot right around 1 over every day I would be happy,” said Thompson, who held a three-stroke lead after the first round. “I didn’t expect at all to shoot under par. Then go out and shoot way under par on a U.S. Open is kind of unbelievable.”
Thompson said having played Olympic’s tight, twisting fairways under pressure back in 2007 made a huge difference.
“I think it helped me a ton,” he said. “I learned to love the course. I play a fade, or at least try to. That’s the shot I like. And this little golf course sets up perfect for a fade.”
Thompson finished a dozen groups before the final pairing then had to sweat out the ending. He finished at 2 over, a shot behind winner Webb Simpson.
“I’m so young in my career, I’m just going to take this as a positive experience and build on it and hopefully gain some momentum for the rest of the year,” said Thompson, 27. “I want to make it all the way through the FedEx Cup. That’s one of my goals. So I think this is a great steppingstone for me.”
PLAYING IN PAIN: Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel is taking a month off after the U.S. Open because of a nagging rib injury.
Schwartzel has withdrawn from the Travelers Championships next week in Hartford, Conn., and the South African does not plan to play again until the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
He decided to play the final round of the U.S. Open on Sunday, finishing with a 3-over 73 and a four day total of 10-over par. Schwartzel says he has experienced discomfort all week, and doctors told him he should take three weeks to rest. He says if he doesn't take a break, it could be months before it goes away.
LESS THAN PERFECT: In his 21 previous starts at the U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson has come close to several times.
This week was obviously not one of them.
"It was a challenging test," the five-time U.S. Open runner-up said after finishing off his forgettable four days at The Olympic Club with an 8-over 78.
"If you played anything less than perfect golf it was extremely penalizing, and I played far from perfect."
The 78 is Mickelson's worst score at the U.S. Open since he shot 79 in the final round of the 1994 U.S. Open.
Mickelson failed to produce a single birdie on Sunday, as he three-putt three greens; in fact, he made just five birdies all week compared to 21 bogeys.
FATHER’S DAY PRESENT: Going into the 72nd hole Sunday, Keegan Bradley was at 17 over, and had no shot at winning the U.S. Open. But there was still time to make it a great Father’s Day.
So he gave his caddie a rest and gave his dad, Mark Bradley, the bag.
“It was the highlight of my life,” said Mark Bradley, who helped his son to an 18-over 298 finish. “It was really a wonderful experience, to be walking the fairway with my son. It was certainly one of the highlights of my career as a golfer. I’m a golf professional myself. I love my son, and he loves me. To walk down the 18th at a U.S. Open is a dream come true.
Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA Championship winner, called the experience “pretty cool” and “one I’m sure we’ll never forget.”
Mark Bradley said his earliest memories of U.S. Opens with his son ended with disappointment, when Keegan would be driving back from regional or sectional qualifying and call to say he had missed the cut by a little or a lot.
“So it’s been a long haul, but he finally made it,” Mark Bradley said of his son. “And it was the right time and the right place and he learned a lot.”
Keegan Bradley has played three majors now, and is 3 for 3 in cuts made. Besides winning the PGA, he tied for 27th at the Masters, and tied for 68th Sunday.
Files from Reuters were used in this report