WEAVER: Course humbles golf’s best but Simpson rises above rest

Josh Weaver

A 17-year-old amateur had the week of his life. Former Major champions and PGA Tour winners did all they could to give the U.S. Open title to someone else, unceremoniously humbled by a piece of property. And Tiger Woods fizzled out – like a helium balloon popped with a pin.
A mind-blowing, dizzying week at The Olympic Club has come to and end. Mercy.
While the likes of teen sensation, Beau Hossler, who last month finished runner-up at the CIF State championships and had the crowd behind him, and cheery Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, whose play beckoned similar love from the gallery, ran out of gas Sunday, Webb Simpson emerged from the pack.
Simpson, 26, playing in only his second U.S. Open, had the resiliency to withstand everything the brutally baffling 7,170-yard beast had in store – every twist, every dip, every hill, curve, dogleg and speedy green – to win the 112th edition of the nation’s championship.
The Sunday-final-round tension, as thick as the fog drifting over the San Francisco Lake Course, didn’t rattle the North Carolina native, even though he said he was nervous all day.
Simpson, a soft-spoken man of faith widely regarded as one of the more amiable players on Tour, shared the victory with wife Dowd – a touching moment captured on national television. He passed a nail-biting hour after his round with her, watching videos of their son James.
“I was so nervous all day, but especially there at the end,” he said afterward with the U.S. Open trophy to his right. “Even when I was done I was nervous.  I wanted to go some place quiet with her.”
On Father’s Day, Simpson, whose best finish at a Major prior to Sunday was a tie for 14th, shared of a second child on the way.
That just makes you smile.
Simpson is the 15th straight different person to win a Major. And his win makes sense. The unpredictability of the U.S. Open isn’t uncommon, and it’s what makes the tournament the toughest test of the year. It’s mentally draining just as much as it is physically challenging. Skills, and patience, are push to the brink. Quizzical shakes of the head and turns to caddies in search of an answer. These players were pushed.
As a wild Sunday unfolded in front of us, players switched into survival mode. Simpson did what he had to do. He posted the score to beat and let everyone around him falter. Jim Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open winner, another likeable Tour veteran, scuffled home. He made the one mistake he couldn’t afford, and that was to make a mistake.
“I played quite well, actually until the last three holes,” Furyk said. “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.”
That’s really all it took to take a player out of contention – one or two poorly executed shots. A margin for error didn’t really exist. For Furyk it was a wayward drive on No. 16. For Lee Westwood, who began the day three back, a lost ball on No. 5 spelled doom.
Woods shared the 36-hole lead as Friday came to an end it became all Tiger talk – he’s back, this is his tournament, and so on.
But the 14-time Major winner, in search of his first such title in four years, was sucked into the Lake Course abyss. His roar turned to a whimper on the weekend.
He fell farther and farther back. As much as golf fans around the world want the once most-dominant player to find that form again, it is clearer and clearer that Woods may never be the same.
He may be mentally fried. That grit he once had is no more.  
His first three holes Sunday – bogey, bogey, double bogey. He finished with a 3-over 73 – 7-over for the tournament. His birdie putt on No. 18 Sunday summed up his week – he came up well short.
Woods wasn’t the only one to be eaten alive by Olympic. The No.1 and No. 2 ranked golfers in the world, Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy, missed the cut and weren’t around for the weekend. McIlroy is just the latest Open champion to unsuccessfully defend his title.
The course mockingly humbled the top of the sport. It gave a glimmer
of hope, only to pull the shades over that shimmer without any qualms about it.

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