D'oh! McDowell and Westwood blow it as homer Simpson claims US Open glory
03:03 GMT, 18 June 2012
Twenty five years ago it was Scott Simpson who won the United States Open at Olympic. This time it’s Webb Simpson.
After a crazy weekend on the funkiest venue in major championship golf, filled with ‘D'oh!’ moments, it seemed only appropriate that we ended up congratulating another member of the Simpsons.
Credit the young American, who just lost out to Luke Donald in the race for the US Tour money list last year, he showed his class at the weekend with two wonderful closing rounds of 68.
Champion: Webb Simpson holds up the trophy after his triumph in the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club
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But it was hard not to feel for Jim Furyk, the pacemaker for almost the entire last 36 holes before he was worn down in the end. Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Payne Stewart and now Furyk and his fellow co-third round leader McDowell. This is the glittering cast list of players who were out in front with a round to play of a US Open at Olympic, only to fall short in the final analysis and see an unheralded player lift the trophy.
McDowell lost his swing in the middle of the round, missing eight consecutive fairways at one point but he fell back on that admirable mental fortitude that has served him so well in recent years. When a long birdie putt at the 17th found the bottom of the hole he found himself alongside Furyk, with both men needing a birdie at the last to tie Simpson.
Not his day: Graeme McDowell battled hard but came up short in his bid for a second major championship
Furyk was the first to fall. He missed the green with a gap wedge and left himself an impossible bunker shot. So to G-Mac, whose wedge approach left him with a 25ft birdie putt to force an 18 hole play-off on Monday.
This green, with a steep bank filled with fans, was not unlike the 16th hole at Celtic Manor a couple of years back. Alas, unlike that unforgettable final day at the Ryder Cup, McDowell could not find a putt to match, the ball slipping past the left edge.
Simpson, watching in the locker room alongside his wife, couldn’t hide his joy, his face breaking into the broadest of smiles before sealing his triumph with a kiss. He becomes the first winner of the Jack Nicklaus Gold Medal.
‘It feels incredible to win my national Open,’ said the devout Simpson. ‘I just had an inner peace all day and prayed hard on those final three holes.’
Where's it gone Lee Westwood (centre) looks up for his ball believed to be in a tree on the fifth hole
Sight for sore eyes: Westwood attempts to locate his golf ball in a tree using binoculars
Long drive back: Westwood is carted back to the fifth tee as his challenge falters after the bad break
So many other players had their chance on a course that proved the great leveller. There was another unsung American Michael Thompson, the first day leader who shot 67 to fall a shot short. There was Ernie Els, who came to the last four holes featuring two par fives needing a birdie to tie Simpson but finished instead with a couple of bogeys.
There was Padraig Harrington, making a welcome return to the white heat of major championship Sunday. How well he played to reach the 18th three under for his round and needing a birdie, he felt to have a chance. How right he was to prove. The bad news, alas, is he bogeyed it to fall two short.
Then there was Lee Westwood, seemingly destined to always be the nearly man at the majors. Perhaps it is just as well he has vowed to keep a relaxed attitude when it comes to the slings and arrows of major championship golf. Otherwise, after what happened at the Olympic club, he might have been tempted to fling himself off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Consider the circumstances. Three behind at the start of play, the Englishman, still seeking his first major championship, had made a good start at level par for his round after four holes.
Bitter taste: Jim Furyk bites his club after seeing his challenge falter on the final day
At the 5th, his drive was perhaps a fraction off to the right. What happened next Well, there was one lone cypress tree that could affect the flight of his ball. Westwood’s tee shot duly caught the branches. Did it throw it back on to the fairway Just the grotesque opposite. The ball was never seen again. Eventually a ball was spotted high up the tree but even with a pair of binoculars Westwood could not identify it.
This desperate break meant he had to declare the ball lost and be driven back to the tee. The resultant double bogey took him five off the lead.
Ironically, this was the same hole where in 1998 Lee Janzen’s tee shot finished up a cypress tree, before falling to earth just before the five minute deadline. He went on to win. It couldn’t happen to Westwood, could it
Janzen’s tree was taken out after the championship. Perhaps they will do the same to Westwood’s, before he does it for them.
There was one wonderfully defiant iron shot at the par five 17th, which almost went into the hole for an albatross before settling three inches away for a tap-in eagle. Wouldn’t you know it, now he needed to make a birdie at the 18th to miss out on the winning score by the sum of that lost ball. In going for it, he ran up a bogey five.
Nearly there: Simpson fist bumps with his caddie Paul Tesori after chipping onto the 18th green
That's the way to do it: Simpson had six consecutive one putts in the middle of his round
The action was played out against the dramatic backdrop of mist rolling in from nearby San Francisco Bay. If truth be told, some of the play was so scrappy it deserved to be hidden from view. It looked as if many players had had their fill of this brutal test. Like Tiger Woods, the halfway leader, but a peripheral figure long before the close following a bitterly disappointing weekend.
Woods’s long game remained in reasonable shape over the final two days but his touch around the greens deserted him completely. There were two stubbed chips and what felt like a million putts.
On nine previous occasions when he was leading at the halfway stage in a major he went on to win eight of them. Here, he did not even finish in the top 20. Afterwards he sounded like a man in denial.
‘There were plenty of positives for me to take out of this event,’ he said, repeating the words, presumably in case he thought people had misheard.
Still, even without Tiger and Phil, that’s three majors in a row for players from the US. The great American golf revival continues.