A good rule for the U.S. Open: Keep your head while those around you are losing theirs. A better rule: Shoot low while others are shooting themselves in the foot.
Webb Simpson did both, erasing a couple early mistakes — and a four-shot deficit — to win what turned out to be a nail-biter of a U.S. Open.
Simpson bogeyed two of his first five holes and stood at 5-over, his hopes apparently vaporized. But then came three straight birdies, and four in five holes, and presto, he was right back in the mix. A fortunate par save on 18, from the exact same spot that Tiger Woods chunked a shot on Saturday, and Simpson, at 1-over, found himself in the lead by a stroke and waiting for Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell to finish their final holes.
"It was pretty nerve-wracking," Simpson told NBC after earning the winner's check for $1.44 million in the year's second major. "I knew it was a tough golf course.
"I had to go out and do as well as I could. I probably prayed more the last three holes than I've ever done in my life. It helped me stay calm and get in with 2-under [for the final round]."
Both Furyk and McDowell made it interesting; McDowell birdied 17 and missed a 24-foot putt on 18. Furyk, who had held the lead since Friday afternoon, gave up a costly bogey on 16 and put his approach on 18 into the sand. But in the end, both men missed their opportunity, and Webb Simpson had the U.S. Open trophy drop into his hands.
"I thought even though Graeme had a 25-footer, it was probably going to hit the hole or have a good chance," Simpson said.
"I couldn't be happier right now. Congrats to Graeme and Michael [Thompson] for playing great golf."
McDowell had to settle on a T-2 finish with Thompson at 2-over after a final round in which he hit only three of 14 fairways off the tee.
"There's a mixture of emotions inside me right now... disappointment, deflation, pride but mostly just frustration," McDowell said.
"That's the U.S. Open. You're supposed to hit it in some fairways. And that was the key today really for me."
There's always irony in golf, and Simpson embodies one such story: He was an Arnold Palmer scholar at Wake Forest, and one of Palmer's most famous defeats came right at Olympic in 1966. He stepped to the 10th tee leading by seven shots, yet fell apart and would lose to Billy Casper in a playoff.
There would be no such playoff for Simpson, who watched calmly in the clubhouse as the two U.S. Open champions tried to match him but fell short. And at just 26 years old, Simpson has many more opportunities to capitalize on his newfound success.
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