Webb Simpson Captures Your Attention, US Open at Olympic Club
Tiger Woods. Lee Westwood. Luke Donald. Rory McIlroy. And…? Who is missing from this group? Maybe Phil Mickelson? Bubba Watson? Adam Scott? Incorrect. This group is the best 5 golfers on the planet, and the missing link is yesterday’s US Open winner, Webb Simpson.
It’s always difficult for casual golf fans to know what to think when a Ben Curtis, a Todd Hamilton, or a Charl Schwartzel wins any golf tournament, let alone a major championship. Many would assume that Webb Simpson is joining the list of overachieving major champions—after all, there are so many uber-talented players out there yet to win their first major. The Dustin Johnsons of the world if you will. I can assure you that while Webb Simpson is not a household name, he’s made a name for himself among his fellow players. He’s one of relatively few players that absolutely was ready to win a big one.
Let’s take a look at what Webb Simpson has done in just the last two seasons (he’s a young buck at 26 years old). The three wins (now including a major) and 17 top ten finishes speak for themselves. Few fans realize that for most tour players, a single win represents a great season. Three wins in a two-year span is a veritable hot streak, no doubt about it. But perhaps more telling are some of Simpson’s stats.
He’s currently leading the PGA tour in putting, which is a pretty phenomenal way to win yourself a US Open if you hit the ball decently. He’s ninth on the PGA tour’s money list this year, following up a second place finish last year when he won over $6 million. He also finished 2011 second in the Fedex Cup standings, third in cuts made and eighth in putting. Although he’s far from the first to coin it, “drive for show, putt for dough” might as well be the mantra of Simpson’s game.
Simpson is not a big personality on tour, which is fine by me (I’d prefer to stuff Rickie Fowler and his stupid orange outfits into a locker in the clubhouse). Yet it was nice to see that he’s not a golf-drone, when he quipped, “Enjoy your time in jail” with a small smirk when a British nutjob interrupted his post-victory interview with Bob Costas (who navigated it all with ease, as always) by squawking like a bird. It was also awesome to see Webb sit with his wife who is seven months pregnant as he watched Graeme McDowell miss a birdie attempt and the US Open fall in his lap (college tuition in the bank).
NBC then created a pretty hysterical situation, as they didn’t realize that the monitor Simpson was watching the action on was delayed by at least 10 seconds. It appeared as though Simpson and his wife exchanged nervous glances for quite some time rather than celebrating when McDowell missed, which would have been a very peculiar reaction to say the least. It was a pretty uncomfortable thing to watch until Simpson actually reacted to the missed putt on the delayed monitor and NBC realized what had happened.
All in all, this was very much a feel good win for a young and rising star on tour. The best feel good wins, in my opinion, are when older veteran players win for the first time, a la Darren Clarke at last year’s Open Championship. But for a young player to capture his first major, this was a fun one to watch.
The victor aside, this chapter in US Open history can’t be closed without some other recognition. For Tiger Woods, it clearly was a disappointing week. Fresh off of a “W,” Woods played like a man with a plan on Thursday and Friday. Starting his first 6 holes on Sunday +6 would be his demise. As I wrote last week, gone are the days of Tiger winning without his A-game.
Jim Furyk—I feel bad even writing it because he’s gritty and I love him—but the man choked his brains out on 17 and 18. Of all players, he’s on the short list of players I would not have expected that sort of collapse out of. I also really enjoyed watching Ernie Els in contention.
Olympic Club itself also deserves some recognition. When I turned on my TV yesterday, I saw little but HD fog with something resembling a golfer teeing off in the mist. As they say, San Fran sure ain’t San Diego when it comes to weather. But I didn’t hear too much grumbling about the weather or the course being unfair, and with all the best players in the world playing over a four day period, not one ended up at even par or better. Bubba Watson, fresh off a Masters victory, even called the course “too hard for him.” The USGA must be jumping for joy this time around.
Well done to Webb Simpson, who should now be on any golf fan’s radar. Anyone who can roll the rock like he can is a threat to win week in and week out.
Geoff Roberts is the Founder & Managing Editor of howiGit,com, a Boston sports blog.
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