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U.S. OPEN RECAP Webb Simpson H

Wins 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club make three or four bogeys in a row. Today I was two-over through 5, but I didn’t think anything of it because I knew I had a few other birdie holes in the back. I defi nitely thought about winning and wanted to win, but I was just trying to keep my mind focused on the hole that I was playing and just somehow make pars.”

ere’s to the “Other Guy.” Jack Fleck, Billy Casper, Scott Simpson. . .you have a new member in your

exclusive club of other guys in the form of 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson. By defi nition, the “other guy” is that player at U.S. Opens held at The Olympic Club who lurks in the background until the fi nal nine holes, when he steals the spotlight from the frontrunner. Coming into the Open, Simpson had won twice on the PGA Tour in 2011 and had risen to 14th in the world rankings, yet had only played in fi ve previous majors. But after opening rounds of 72-73 left the fourth-year pro six back of a seemingly resurgent Tiger Woods, prior Open champ Jim Furyk and David Toms, no one gave him much thought. But a four-under fi nish over the

last 13 holes, coupled with fi nal- round leaders Furyk (the 2003 Open champion) and Graeme McDowell (the 2010 champion) faltering, left the champion one shot clear after remarkable weekend rounds of 68. “I never really wrapped my

mind around winning,” the 26-year- old said. “This place is so demand- ing, and so all I was really con- cerned about was keeping the ball in front of me and making pars. You hear all the guys say it, but it’s so true, the course is so hard you don’t know if you’re going to

While the “other guy” label

is appropriate, this Open lacked the “mano a mano” duels of past Olympic Opens (think Fleck- Hogan, Casper-Palmer, Simpson- Watson or even Janzen-Stewart). The champion holed out on 18 at 1-over-par 281 and found himself in the lead for the fi rst time, com- ing from 29th place after 36 holes (a new Open record), and from six shots down with 13 holes to go. He was the only player among the fi nal 18 to post a red number. Simpson then waited for 45 minutes, as no one in the fi nal three groups was able to match his one-over winning tally. “One of my thoughts on the back nine was I don’t know how Tiger has won 14 of these things because the pressure. I couldn’t feel my legs most of the back nine,” the North Carolina native said.

Coming into the Open after a win at the Memorial two weeks prior, Tiger Woods appeared to be on his way to major title no. 15 after Friday’s second round, pow- ered by brilliant

ball-striking and occasional bursts of circa-2000 putting. But the three- time champion made a mess of two crucial stats over the weekend: fairways hit and greens in regula- tion. This is a recipe for disaster in a U.S. Open and it dropped Woods to a tie for 21st place.

But what is it about the famed Olympic Club that fosters surprise champions? Certainly other Open venues are equally tough, but the nature of major championships these days seems almost look- ing for prototypical “other guys” to win. Simpson’s championship marks the ninth fi rst-time winner in a row and the 15th consecutive different winner of a major. The Olympic setup itself came under scrutiny after last year’s red-number bloodbath (a record 16-under to win the Open), but it came as no surprise that the course more than held its own. The one-over fi nal score—only the fi fth over-par winning score since 1975—is vindication for “golf’s toughest test” and for what Northern Californians already knew: The Olympic Lake Course is a monster challenge.

Webb Simpson

28 / NCGA.ORG / SUMMER 2012

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