Editor's Note: A seven-time winner on the PGA TOUR, Scott Simpson's signature victory came at the 1987 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco where he finished one better than Tom Watson. A two-time NCAA champion while at USC, Simpson nearly added a second U.S. Open title to his resume when he lost an 18-hole playoff to Payne Stewart at Hazeltine National in 1991. He has been a full-time member of the Champions Tour since 2005.
What do you remember most about the win? Any shot or shots that you remember or was there a critical save on that final day?
SCOTT SIMPSON: Well, I remember a lot of them. Plus it's on TV so I can go back and look at it. It's cool. What I probably remember were the three birdies on 14, 15 and 16 and a good sand shot at No. 17. So those probably are the ones I remember most about going from one behind to one ahead and holding off Watson.
What was the shot on 17?
SCOTT SIMPSON: Well, it was a really hard par 4 because it's a converted par 4 from a par 5, so I hit it in the left bunker and then had a really good bunker shot. Most people actually tell me, wow, what an unbelievable bunker shot on 17. That's the one most people seem to remember.
For someone who grew up attending college in California, was it anything special to win there. I know the Open's always very special to win, but was it extra special to win in the state you grew up in?
SCOTT SIMPSON: I don't know. I think it would have been special to win anywhere. I had lost in Minneapolis in a playoff with Payne Stewart in 1991 and if I had won that would have been pretty special, too. But I mean being born and raised in California, it did mean a lot to win there. It was pretty neat; a really great feeling.
When you won at Olympic, you overtook Tom Watson, who at the time was one of the great players on the PGA TOUR. You had to go by him to win it?
SCOTT SIMPSON: He is a Hall of Famer. Yes, it was very special in a way to beat Tom, but you also just knew as great a player he was, he would get back up. So even after I made the birdies, I was pretty sure I had to par the last two holes and hope he didn't make a birdie because I think I was 3-under, Tom was 2-under, and Seve, I think, was third at 1-over. But it meant a lot to beat him; but he was really gracious in losing and really, I mean, he just showed unbelievable sportsmanship. He ccongratulated me and meant it and that was just great. That meant a lot, too.
Do you remember back then if he had a pretty big following being a Stanford guy?
SCOTT SIMPSON: In hindsight I think he did and in hindsight, I was probably lucky I didn't play with him.
Who did you play with the last day?
SCOTT SIMPSON: I played with Lennie Clements. We were the group ahead of Tom. He played with Keith Clearwater. But yeah, I think it was lucky in a way I didn't play with him because I think more people were rooting for him obviously than some upstart kid.
Have you had a chance to play at Olympic in recent years?
SCOTT SIMPSON: Yes, I usually play once or twice a year. I'll donate charity days, so I'll go and take people up there that bid on a charity. Usually that is the only time I play.
Who does that course favor with the Open being there this year? Have there been many changes since you won there?
SCOTT SIMPSON: Yes, it's definitely longer since they lengthened a bunch of tees. It's longer, but still, the way the course plays the way a lot of the fairways bend and stuff, you have to hit it down in the right area. The fairways are tight, so I think it favors someone who has good control of their ball as far as controlling distance‑wise and hitting it pretty straight. I don't think it overly favors a long hitter like some courses do.
If I'm correct, the win played a big role in your making a Ryder Cup team that year?
SCOTT SIMPSON: Yes it did and what a great experience it was I lloved being on the Ryder Cup team. It was the one at Muirfield. That was a big thrill to be there with all the other guys. I had a great time. We lost, but it was still special to be part of that team.
From a player's perspective, wwhat makes the Open so difficult?
SCOTT SIMPSON: Just the setup of the courses. Like Olympic Club, I mean, it's a tough course, but if you go play there with your friends, it's different, it's real prime, the rough's about an inch long and the greens hold. It's a fun course to play. I mean, it's still tough, but then when they have a U.S. Open there they make the greens fast and hard. They grow up the rough. There's a real premium on hitting it straight. You need a great short game, and miss it in the right places. They just make it really tough, which is good. I mean, that's the way it should be. It should be a really tough test.
Do you have the trophy at your home now that you won and is it prominently displayed?
SCOTT SIMPSON: Well, they have a perpetual trophy. They give you a medal and you can buy a trophy two‑thirds the size of the original one. I just have it in my home but it's not in any special place. We have a trophy case in the dining room that we hardly ever go to.
Do you remember if you did anything special at night to celebrate your win?
SCOTT SIMPSON: My wife, Cheryl, was there when I won and I don't think we did anything special. It was pretty late when everything was finished. We were already scheduled to go to Hawaii for two weeks after the U.S. Open for vacation, so that was a sweet vacation.
What impact did the win have on your career or your life for that matter?
SCOTT SIMPSON: Looking back, it gives you more opportunities, you know, being a U.S. Open champion. You're always remembered for that, and a lot of people remember that you won which is really cool. That's a great thing. But other than that, I really don't think it changed my life at all. I got an exemption, but then I never needed it.
- Tom Watson
- Scott Simpson