Simpson wins war of attrition

6/18/2012 3:24:15 AM
Webb Simpson   (Getty Images)
Webb Simpson (Getty Images)

A valiant late charge from Graeme McDowell was not quite enough to prevent Webb Simpson from winning the US Open Championship in San Francisco.

The American burst out of the pack to claim his first Major Championship at a misty Olympic Club.

The 26 year old was joint eighth with a round to go, but after shooting a two under par round of 68 for a one over total he had to wait to see if it was good enough.

Jim Furyk looked the biggest danger at that point, but it turned out to be McDowell.

Simpson, playing only his fifth Major and trying to become the ninth successive first-time winner in them, had become joint leader when compatriot Furyk bogeyed the short 13th hole.

He then led on his own when Furyk snap-hooked his drive down the long 16th hole, and ran up a bogey six.

McDowell, joint leader at the start of the day, was two shots behind at that point, but when the 2010 US Open Champion sank a ten foot putt at the long 17th hole, he and Furyk both needed to birdie the 335 yard last to tie Simpson on one over par.

Both found the semi-rough off the tee, but while McDowell hit his second shot to 25 feet, Furyk buried his in the sand to the left.

When the 2003 winner sent his play-off attempt off the green and into another bunker, it was all down to McDowell – but the Ulsterman sent his effort wide of the target.

“It was nerve-wracking – I know what kind of players they are, both have won Majors,” said Simpson, the ninth consecutive first-time Major winner and the player Luke Donald pipped to the US PGA Tour Money List last season with his win at Disneyland.

“I expected both of them to do well coming in. I thought even though Graeme had a 25 footer, it was probably going to hit the hole or have a good chance. So I couldn’t be happier right now.”

Following his round of 73, McDowell shared second place with American qualifier Michael Thompson, while Furyk’s bogey for a 74 dropped him to joint fourth place alongside Ireland’s three-Major winner Padraig Harrington and 2001 US PGA Champion David Toms. Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Lee Westwood also finished in the top ten of the season's second Major.

 “There’s a mixture of emotions inside me right now,” said McDowell. “Obviously disappointment, deflation, pride – but mostly just frustration, because I hit three fairways today. 

“It’s the US Open, and you can’t afford to do that. That was really the key today for me.  I just seemed to hit it in the semi-rough all day long. But I’m proud of the way I hung in there. The way I birdied 11 and 12 and the putt I made on 17 gave myself half a chance on 18, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.

“It was a nice opportunity, one that I would obviously desperately love to have holed. But Webb’s a great champion and what a great weekend’s work for him. He shot 68-68 at the weekend of the US Open, so take nothing away from him. He should be very proud of himself.”

Harrington matched Simpson’s round of 68, but bogeyed the last hole after his approach was pulled into a bunker and found a plugged lie.

Like Furyk, he could not keep his third shot on the green and, after his next chip came up just short, he also bogeyed. But as it turned out, he would have needed a birdie to force a play-off in any event.

Two-time winner Ernie Els would also have forced a play-off if he had played the last three holes in one under par.

Instead, a putt up the bank on the 16th hole came back to his feet, and he had another bogey on the last to drop to ninth place.

One further back on five over par was England’s Lee Westwood, who will also reflect on a ball getting stuck up a tree at the fifth hole.

He was in third place, three shots behind at the time, but double-bogeyed it and never got back in the hunt.

Westwood, in his 57th attempt to win a Major, almost made an albatross on the 17th hole, but it was too little too late, as the man himself admitted.

The World Number Three said: “It was hard to get any momentum going after losing my ball up the tree, because it took the wind out of my sails. I wasn’t really making any putts, and wasn’t getting any breaks. I eagled the 17th after a great approach, but it was probably too little too late by then. It was just one of those frustrating days really, but we live to fight another day.”
 
As for Tiger Woods, he finished in joint 21st place after being joint halfway leader with Furyk and Toms.

A round of 75 on Saturday, when conditions were at their easiest, was followed by a closing round of 73, his hopes over once he had four bogeys and a double bogey in the first six holes.