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Simpson Wins U.S. Open
Webb Simpson carded his second straight 2-under 68 at the Olympic Club to win the 112th U.S. Open. The victory - the first major title in Simpson's career - came on Father's Day, appropriate for the father of one who has another child on the way.
The 26-year-old finished at 1-over 281 to edge Michael Thompson and 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell by a stroke. Over the weekend Simpson posted nine birdies and five bogeys. On Sunday, only seven players broke par on the Lake Course at the storied San Francisco venue.
The win provided some vindication to Wake Forest grads. Simpson, a recipient of the Arnold Palmer Scholarship at the North Carolina school, noted the significance after the round. Palmer had the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic virtually sewed up, leading by seven shots with nine holes to play. But in an effort to beat the all-time Open scoring record held by Ben Hogan, Palmer made too many mistakes and lost the title to Billy Casper.
Before McDowell and Furyk finished their rounds, Simpson - the only player in the last nine groups to break par - said from the locker room while watching the telecast, "Hopefully, if I can win it I can get a little back for (Palmer)."
Simpson now hopes to hear from "The King" following the biggest win of his career. "I'd love to," he said about a phone call from Palmer. "He's meant so much to me. He allowed me to play at Wake for years. I've got to know him a little better through the Bay Hill tournament. But to win here with what happened to him, I hope he can smile and I hope he was watching."
A deeply religious person, Simpson called the waiting as the final groups finished up "nerve-wracking," adding, "I probably prayed more (on the back nine) than I have in a long time and it helped me stay calm . . . Just thankful to God. I couldn't have done it without him."
Once Simpson replaced clubhouse leader Thompson, who closed with a 67, he nervously sat with his wife Dowd, who's seven months pregnant, to see how the final twosome of McDowell and Furyk did.
But Furyk made a mess of things down the stretch. After a bogey and all pars on the front nine, the 2003 U.S. Open champion bogeyed three of the final six holes for a 74.
With two par-5s at Nos. 16 and 17, the 42-year-old certainly was still in it. But Furyk duck-hooked his drive on the 16th - whose tee the USGA had moved up 100 yards, leading to a debilitating bogey. A par on the next hole meant he needed to birdie the last. After finding the first cut of rough on the right side of the short par-4, Furyk pulled his approach, where it plugged in the bunker. He then put his third into the front bunker and ended with a bogey.
So it came down to McDowell, who got off to a rotten start with a four-bogey 38. But the 32-year-old, seeking to become the third straight Northern Irishman (Rory McIlroy won last year at Congressional), got his game in order on the inward half. He birdied Nos. 11 and 12, but backtracked with two straight bogeys.
After two pars, McDowell birdied the 17th to set up a chance for an 18-hole playoff on Monday with Simpson. He placed his approach 24 feet past the cup on 18, but missed the tying birdie putt and settled for T-2. Over 72 holes, McDowell played the front nine in 9-over par and the back in 7-under.
"There's a mixture of emotions inside me right now," McDowell told reporters. "Obviously disappointment, deflation, pride. But mostly just frustration, just because I hit three fairways today. That's the U.S. Open. You're not supposed to do that. You're supposed to hit it in some fairways. And that was the key today for me. Not like I drove the ball awful. I just seemed to hit it in the semi-rough all day long.
"This is sort of a new experience for me, I suppose, finishing second at a major championship," added the Ulsterman. "I would rather have tried and failed than have never tried at all. I think someone fairly familiar must said that. But no, yeah, I'm disappointed right now. But the way Jim did it, to play as well as he did and then just to kind of not get the job done coming in that's more disappointing for him. I guess that the way I did it, I got off to a slow start and kind of battled back, so I guess I feel a little better."
Furyk concurred, telling reporters in the media center that he was "very, very" disappointed. "I don't know how to put that one into words, but I had my opportunities and my chances and it was right there," he said. "It was, on that back nine, it was my tournament to win and I felt like if win the out there and shot even par, 1 under, I would have distanced myself from the field and I wasn't able to do so. And I played quite well, actually until the last three holes. So we'll have to look at holes 70 to 72 of what cost me the tournament. I needed to play those last three better."
Furyk especially lamented how he handled his drive on the 16th. "The tee was 100 yards up. So I'll be quite honest, it was 99 yards up from the back of the very back tee. I know the USGA gives us a memo saying that they play from multiple tees, but there's no way to prepare for 100 yards. So there's no way that you're, I thought that they put the tee up like they did, maybe 65 yards up on Friday, but to get to a tee where the tee box is a hundred yards up and the fairway makes a complete 'L-turn,' I was unprepared and didn't know exactly where to hit the ball off the tee. And I took a little bit more of an aggressive route with that 3 wood.
"In hindsight, I like the way Graeme played the hole. He played it 2 iron, 2 iron and sand wedge. And I don't know what to say, other than there's no way anyone else in the field was prepared for the tee to be that far up. I just didn't handle it very well," Furyk added. "And I'm not sure I hit the wrong club off the tee, but probably hit the wrong shot off the tee. And that probably as much as anything forced me to make a poor swing."
At the time Simpson was quite aware of the capabilities of the two guys who might catch him. "I know what kind of players they are, both have won majors," he said of McDowell and Furyk. "I expected both of them to do well coming in. I thought even though Graeme had a 25 footer (on the final hole), it was probably going to hit the hole or have a good chance. I couldn't be happier right now. Congrats to Graeme and Michael for playing great golf."
Thompson, a 27-year-old pro who lives in Birmingham, Ala., had more birdies - 16 - than any player in the championship. On Sunday, the first-round leader with a 66 posted four birdies and a bogey; he was hurt by scores of 74 and 75 in the middle two rounds. "I missed a lot of fairways (Saturday) and that really upset me. So the goal today was just get it in play, if I keep it anywhere near the fairway, I'm usually going to have a good lie," he told reporters. "I got off to a great start. I bombed a drive on the first hole and that kind of got my round going."
Second-round co-leader David Toms had a nice Sunday, carding a 68 to rise into a share of third at 3-over 283 with Furyk, Padraig Harrington (68), John Peterson (70) and Jason Dufner (70).
"It was a real solid round of golf," said Toms. "Started off a little shaky but had a couple of nice recoveries and started hitting the ball a lot better and just real solid. A lot of fairway, a lot of greens, especially the back nine. I putting great. I guess we made the golf course look a little easier than how we played yesterday."
Harrington, a three-time major winner from Ireland, had a legitimate chance to be the clubhouse co-leader with Simpson. But his approach on the 344-yard 18th plugged in the left greenside bunker and he carded a damaging bogey. "So I'm not too disappointed about making a bogey, but at least I'm not at the momentum," he noted.
"If 2 over makes the playoff, I'll be dying. So it was a good day all around. I missed a few chances, got a few chances. When I look back through the week I'm probably going to be three shots, four shots short, by the looks of it. I could have certainly found those four shots throughout the week and that's a nice place to be, to know that when I played here in '98, I finished 27th and I maxed out every bit of ounce of talent I had in me to finish 27th."
Ernie Els was also in contention on Sunday. The two-time U.S. Open champion could have written quite a story if he'd have gotten a third title. After making the turn in 1-over thanks to an eagle on the short par-4 seventh, he birdied the par-4 12th. But two bogeys in the final three holes spelled his doom.
After carding a 3-over eight on the par-5 16th on Thursday, Els' bogey on the same hole three days later really stuck in his craw. "I played that hole 4 over and I played the fourth hole 4 over. So those are, those two holes cost me the tournament.
"I'm disappointed right now," added Els, who ended up in solo ninth at 284. "I felt I had a chance all day, I eagled seven and I had a mystery on this eighth hole. I came up well short and bogeyed that and three putted nine to give my two shots back. So then I played a really good back nine. I felt I had a lot of chances, did what I needed to do, it's just I miscued there on 16 and that cost me. And I wanted to get, try and get in the playoff, but again I didn't hit the shots coming in, basically."
Sharing 10th at 285 were Casey Wittenberg (70), two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen (71), Kevin Chappell (72), John Senden (72) and Lee Westwood (73).
After going even-par through four holes, Westwood got a nasty - but not uncommon break at Olympic thanks to the towering eucalyptus trees lining its fairways - when his drive on the par-4 fifth hit a tree but never came down. After returning to the tee, he ended up with a double-bogey that pretty much ended any chances of the Englishman winning his long-awaited first major.
Thanks to an even-par 70, Jordan Spieth vaulted past 17-year-old Beau Hossler to take low-amateur honors at 287. Spieth, who had three birdies and a like number of bogeys Sunday, will be joined next year on the University of Texas golf team by Hossler, who closed with a 76 to end up tied for 29th at 289. Patrick Cantlay was the third low amateur at 291 after a 72.
Spieth told reporters he was running on momentum from the Longhorns' recent victory in the NCAA golf championship. "I was confident coming in. I was kind of just - I didn't expect to get in. I was running on some adrenaline from the national championship and then got a call late Monday night and kind of rushed out here.
"So really I just wanted to play consistent golf," added Spieth, the 2009 and '11 U.S. Junior Amateur champion. "I kind of thought that I could give myself a chance at making a run at it. After two rounds, I wasn't able to do that, but I wanted to be low amateur."
Despite his final round Hossler was one of the feel-good stories of the U.S. Open; he definitely enjoyed the experience. "There's so much, so many positives for the week," said the Orange County (Calif.) teenager. "I played well out of 70 holes, 72 holes I probably played well 60 of them. Made some crucial mistakes, missed some on the wrong side of the holes. But just like from last year, it's only a learning experience and I still have some time before I come out and start doing this for a living."
Among the players tying Spieth for 21st place was Tiger Woods, who looked good early with rounds of 69 and 70 but shot 75 and 73 over the weekend. After saying he was a half-club off in Saturday's round, Woods still had problems Sunday. He had four bogeys, a double and a lone birdie on the front nine for a 5-over 39, but rallied a bit on the back with two birdies.
"(Saturday) I was just a touch off," he noted. "As I explained to you yesterday, I just happened to get those half-clubs all day. Never got the speed of the greens yesterday as well. But today was different. I felt great on the greens, had the perfect speed all day and unfortunately just got off to such an awful start. And tried coming in, but I was too far out."
Phil Mickelson will have to wait another year for his first U.S. Open victory. The recent World Golf Hall of Fame inductee had a miserable Sunday at Olympic, closing with an 8-over 78 to end up way down the leaderboard in a tie for 65th at 16-over 296. Despite his travails, "Lefty" lauded the USGA's set-up of the Lake Course and didn't blame it for his poor performance.
"It was a challenging test," the four-time major champion said. "I thought the great thing was how great the greens were. They were in fabulous shape. They putted very true. And I know that there were some question marks when they were being redone, but they really turned out fabulous and putted extremely well for all the players throughout the week.
Then he added, "I didn't play well. But I thought it was - if you played anything less than perfect golf it was extremely penalizing, and I played far from perfect."
For all the scores, visit http://www.majorschampionships.com/usopen/2012/scoring/.