The Genuine Article
SAN;FRANCISCO;|;It’s confounding and
downright mysterious what the U.S. Open
can do to a man when he thinks he has it
in his grasp. The Open often can be like
humility – once you think you have it, you
just lost it.
Webb Simpson never knew the Open
was his for the taking, not even at the very
end. In fact, the two shots of Simpson’s life
came back-to-back late Sunday evening
and the pair of them didn’t cover 20 yards
total. And because he had uncanny touch
by the 18th green in the toughest of situations and a hot putter when almost every
other contender was lost in the mist by
Lake Merced, Simpson emerged from the
fog to become the U.S. Open champion.
Simpson has no such baggage because
hasn’t been around long enough. This is
only his second try at the U.S. Open, having
finished T14 at Congressional last year, a
season when he was perhaps the breakout
player of the year on the PGA Tour, winning
twice, including The Barclays and taking
home more than $6 million.
Webb;Simpson;and Nicolas;Colsaerts on;the;18th;green
reached the sixth.
14 of these things.’ I couldn’t feel my legs
on the back nine.”
The criticism of the past four Opens at
The Olympic Club is that many think the
wrong guy won each time. Some might say
that was the case on Sunday. But if Jim
Furyk was the right guy, he certainly hit a
couple of horrible shots at the wrong time.
To this point this year, Simpson was a
disappointment, having only threatened
to win once, but a final-round 73 placed
him out of a playoff at the Wells Fargo. He
surely was not among anyone’s favorites
coming into the Open or even on Sunday
afternoon when the leaders teed off. The
world was looking at the 54-hole co-leaders, Furyk and Graeme McDowell, who
shared the lead at 1 under. Many believed
the winner would come from that final pair.
Then, there was Lee Westwood and
Ernie Els – Westwood seeking his first
major and Els looking for his third Open
after emerging from the wasteland of poor
play the last three years.
Then, the magic happened. Three
straight birdies and another at the 10th
put Simpson at 1 over and squarely in the
chase. Eight straight pars at the end while
Furyk, McDowell and others faltered,
gifted him his first major championship.
Before the 16th hole Sunday, Furyk
must have thought the tournament should
have been his. He was in control of his
game and his emotions, looking for a second U.S. Open title that, to go along with
what would have been 17 wins on the PGA
Tour, would have given him a great chance
of one day soon going into the World Golf
Hall of Fame.
Instead, he will join Phil Mickelson as
the two modern players who have squandered the most chances to win the Open.
Mickelson is a five-time runner-up and
now Furyk has four.
As for Simpson, he was 3 over for the
championship after three rounds, four
back of the leaders. Having shot 72-73
to make the cut, he put himself on the
leaderboard on Saturday with a 68. He
finished the weekend with a second 68 to
win the title by one ahead of McDowell and
Michael Thompson, who seemingly came
out of nowhere on the final day.
“I never really wrapped my mind
around winning,” said the 26-year-old
Simpson, who lives in Charlotte, N.C. “This
course is so demanding, I was just trying
to make pars.”
Simpson doesn’t own the PGA Tour’s
best swing, an awkward-looking action
that looks as if he has to save the swing at
the end each time. But it manages to get
the job done well enough that he can lean
on the best part of his game. At his best,
he putts like an angel, and his birdie at the
10th was his sixth straight one-putt of the
Simpson and his wife, Dowd, watched
the end of the Open telecast in the locker
room, and when McDowell missed a birdie
effort at the 18th that would have created
a playoff, they each looked at the other
in wide-eyed disbelief, wondering if for
certain the U.S. Open was his.
He is, however, the straightest of arrows personally, armed by his faith and
the love of his family that buoys him in
the best of times and sustains him in the
worst. Everyone in his life knows that no
one is more genuine.
And Simpson’s Sunday did not get off to
the best of starts. He made bogeys at the
second and fifth, both demanding par 4s,
and was seven back of the lead when he
“If I was honest with you, I thought I
could win a major, but maybe not this
soon,” he said. “One of my thoughts on the
back nine, was, ‘How has Tiger Woods won
The true measure of humility is not to
take credit for the successes nor place
blame for the failures. Webb Simpson,
holding the U.S. Open trophy for the first
time, is a man who, for all appearances,
knows the difference. l