Webb Simpson captures U.S. Open

Webb Simpson of the U.S. receives the U.S. Open Championship Trophy from the USGA President Glen D....

Webb Simpson of the U.S. receives the U.S. Open Championship Trophy from the USGA President Glen D. Nager during the final round of the 2012 U.S. Open golf tournament on the Lake Course at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, California June 17, 2012. (REUTERS)

KIRK PENTON, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 11:57 PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO - No one saw it coming earlier in the week.

No one saw it coming on Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

In fact, no one saw it coming until around 5 o’clock on Sunday, and even then they probably weren’t so sure.

Take a bow, Webb Simpson, for pulling off the magic trick of winning the U.S. Open when no one thought you would. That’s often the case when the U.S. Open is held at The Olympic Club.

“I couldn’t believe it actually happened,” said Simpson, who had 135 text messages when his post-round press conference began.

Another thing no one saw coming? The yahoo who ran onto the 18th green and stood in front of the camera during Bob Costas’ nationally televised interview with Simpson.

“He appeared in front of me, and I didn’t know if it was part of the deal,” Simpson joked afterwards. “I’ve never won a major before.”

He can say that no longer. The 26-year-old from Raleigh, N.C., was 3-over going into the final round of the 112th edition of the tournament, a stroke better than Tiger Woods, who most had written off before Sunday. The man whose name is actually James Frederick Simpson made his situation even worse by bogeying two of his first five holes. He was 5-over. Likely only friends and family were paying attention.

Then it happened. Playing in the fourth-to-last group of the day, Simpson birdied No. 6, which was just the 15th chirp of the entire week on that hole. He then birdied No. 7 and 8. So he was 2-over, but third-round co-leader Jim Furyk was still three shots up, plodding along like he always does, making pars and holding on to that lead like a kid squeezing a teddy bear.

It took a birdie on the 11th — Simpson’s fourth in five holes — to make everyone sit up and take notice. The two-time PGA Tour winner was suddenly on the map.

And that’s when he went into complete U.S. Open mode. Simpson parred in from there, getting into the clubhouse at 1-over thanks to a fine up-and-down from just off the 18th green to the right. He shot 68 on Saturday and 68 on Sunday.

“Every day my game got a little better,” he said.

A few minutes later Simpson, whose wife Dowd is expecting their second child in late July, took the lead when Furyk snap-hooked his drive off the 16th tee and made bogey, falling out of top spot for the first time all day. Not that Simpson would have known. He stopped watching the leaderboard early in his round. Smart move.

“I was happy I wasn’t in the final group,” he said.

Furyk, who was seeking his second U.S. Open crown, couldn’t birdie the easy par-5 17th, and he didn’t come close to doing so on 18, which no one among the top 15 finishers was able to accomplish all day. Furyk hit his approach shot in the bunker, and Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell actually had the best chance for the tie when his approach shot stopped 24 feet above the hole.

McDowell, who won the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, at least got it there, but he missed to the left. Simpson’s 1-over total was the highest since Angel Cabrera won with a 5-over score at Oakmont in 2007.

“I had my opportunities and my chances, and it was right there,” Furyk said. “On that back nine, it was my tournament to win.”

McDowell and Furyk, who shared the lead going into the final round, took their shots from Olympic and shot 74 and 73, respectively. First-round leader Michael Thompson tied for second with McDowell, one shot back, after carding a final-round 67. Furyk didn’t make a birdie all day.

“To compete as well as I did with my B-plus game, I’m happy,” McDowell said.

Simpson, who said he felt he could win a major after Keegan Bradley did it last year, became the 15th different player to win in the last 15 majors, but he is one to watch. He won twice last year and finished 14th in the U.S. Open at Congressional. He also represented the U.S. at the Presidents Cup.

If he wins another major, no one will be able to say they didn’t see it coming.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/PentonKirk


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