Webb Simpson: Our National Champion
The 2012 United States Open proved once again that it is indeed the toughest test in championship golf.
The winning score of one-over par is exactly what the United States Golf Association was hoping it would be after last year’s demolition of Congressional by Rory McIlroy and Jason Day.
While the rough was not super long, it certainly was lush and thick. The greens were rock hard and not real receptive to anything but the best of shots.
One change from past years was the fact the greens seemed to actually slow down a touch between rounds. Not being as fiery—combined with the first six holes being so difficult they played at plus-1,109 for the week—caused the best players in the world to be off their putting game early, as they tried to find the right combination of speed and line to save par.
All of the official World Golf Rankings Top 25 played at Olympic Club. Some had great weeks while others just were surprisingly bad.
If the USGA were to actually grade players based on the player’s expectations and actual performance for the week, then these might be the grades the sports toughest taskmaster might have handed out.
The rankings are based on what they were coming into the tournament and not the new rankings that came out this morning.
Like the cruel teacher who always handed back tests by the better test grade, that is how tests will be handed back here.
Webb Simpson did not win the US Open, he simply survived it.
While that may sound a bit harsh, the Open is the ultimate survival championship in golf. He certainly is the clear and deserved winner despite never making a highlight reel shot down the stretch.
In fact, his last non-par came with a birdie on 10 Sunday. He won the Open by making eight straight pars. Somewhere in the viewing tents at Olympic Club, the USGA is very happy.
Simpson needed just 114 putts for the week in his win. With greens that varied from fast to ridiculous, that is an astounding number. The only big number on his card for the entire week was on No. 1 on Friday, a double-bogey.
His front-nine birdie run on 6, 7 and 8 Sunday set him up to win. The long string of pars on the back side won it.
Any time you have a chance to play yourself into a playoff on the 72nd hole, you have had a good week.
A dark horse when the tournament started, the 2010 champion fired 69-72-68 over the course of the first three days.
Tied for the lead starting Sunday, the Open pressure got to him, and he was three over through six holes. He closed with three bogeys, three birdies and six, one too many, pars over his last 12 holes for a very good second-place tie.
He never made a double-bogey and hit more than his share of fairways and greens. The best part of Graeme is that he proved his win two years ago was not a fluke. He plays Open-style golf very well.
Giving out great grades short of actually winning the tournament does not happen very often, but considering Dufner’s track record in Opens, his tie for fourth is quite good.
He hit a lot of greens, 50 of 72 to be exact, and that makes his 31 putts per round look quite good. Two-putting greens for par is what is expected, and Dufner played the weekend at even par.
Just two shots out of the lead, there really is nothing on the scorecard that says he should have done this or that.
He played Open golf very well, but Webb Simpson just did him a couple shots better. His “A” for effort carried him through.
Westwood survived his week in San Francisco with an actual chance to win on Sunday before riding the bogey train late.
Still, a top 10 in a major is never something to be all that disappointed with. While Westwood played himself into contention with a 67 Saturday, asking any golfer to repeat that on the last day is almost an impossible task.
Hopefully his year will not be defined by putting a ball up in a tree on the fifth hole.
He wanted to win, and, while his personal grade may have been lower, in the end his just grinding things out was a good week.
Kuchar did everything that was expected of him the first three days. Just five shots out of the lead come Sunday, he never put any pressure on the faltering Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell and slid down the leaderboard.
Kuchar was made a favorite by some to win this week. His demeanor really is perfect for an Open, but he was openly frustrated at times this week.
Statistically, he played a decent week. He hit close to 60 percent of fairways and greens along with taking just 30 putts a round.
A two bogey start on Sunday knocked away whatever momentum he might have had, however, and turned a very good week into an okay one.
In the end, putting and bunker play kept Rose from having a stellar week.
While he hit two-thirds of the greens, he averaged 30-50 putts per round. Also, he got up and down from only 4 out of 13 bunkers for the week.
A tie for 21st is a good week, and his seven-over was not bad at all. But he expected more from himself.
Like any advanced placement course, a “C” is a very good grade. Nothing wrong with just being average in a very difficult class.
Expect him to improve for the Open Championship.
The defending PGA champion had a very good week. Remember, a “C” grade is very good at such a difficult course.
His putting actually was excellent, averaging a whopping 27-25 putts per round. Kaymer also had five double-bogeys for the week, which is too many to seriously contend.
Kaymer was not that accurate, hitting less than half of his fairways and just over half the greens—which makes his putting numbers just outstanding.
He never had a round worse than a 74 and should take some very good experiences ahead in future Opens.
Give Scott credit for grinding through his last three rounds at even par after firing up a 76 on Thursday.
Scott never had a double-bogey the entire tournament, an amazing feat if you think about it.
While not that accurate off the tee, he found more than half the greens and made 5-of-7 sand saves for the week.
Whether he has the complete game to win a major remains to be seen, but he gets a lot of points for just keeping his focus and playing very good golf the last three rounds. His perseverance paid off in a tie for 15th.
A double-bogey on the par-three third Saturday ended Mahan’s bid for his first major.
He putted well and found greens, but he only hit half the fairways and ended up in a tie for 38th.
He loses a few points because his expectations, and ours, were a bit higher for this week. Having said that, he did not play himself out of the championship the first two days and has given himself some good things to think about next time.
His game should be a good match next year at really short Merion.
Charl was steady and solid, just not steady and solid enough.
There is nothing on either his score card or his stat line that says he was good or bad. He could have hit a few more fairways and greens, but he made the cut and never threw up a big number except for a double-bogey on the sixth Saturday.
Another case of the grade seeming a bit harsher than the reality, Schwartzel picked up invaluable experience on how to handle a good Open test for the future.
He could be a factor at the British Open Championship if he applies what he learned this week.
Garcia played very well this week. At five-over starting Sunday, he even had a very outside chance of winning if he came home under par.
He limped home with a 75, but he still had a solid finish tied for 38th.
He actually hit a higher percentage of fairways than greens, 58 to 55, and he only needed 114 putts to get around.
The never ending question with Garcia is how strong is his desire to win a major?
For a championship that uses all of one’s patience, you would think the Open would be Sergio’s Achille's Heel. Give the man credit, however, as he did well on a tough course.
You can count on your fingers the number of times ESPN and NBC showed Stricker this week.
He is the ultimate anonymous golfer that draws very little attention yet somehow gets a top 20 finish. For the record, Stricker finished in a tie for 15th.
The poor grade comes from the fact he just sprayed the ball all over the course. He barely hit more than half the greens, 37 of 72, and you cannot win Opens that way. Stricker also could not find fairways, just hitting 24 of 56.
He had a great Friday and Sunday, shooting a 68 and 69 respectively. He also never made a double-bogey, which is why he finished so well while not playing all that well.
Fowler let the tournament get to him on Friday afternoon, showing his frustrations on the course.
It happens. But this is the complete exam of physical and mental abilities on the course, and he lost a couple points based on that.
He could have been a lot better on hitting fairways and a few more greens, but his putting was very good. He also was just three-over on the weekend, showing he was learning from his mistakes.
Another grade that reads as harsh, Fowler will leave Olympic Club a better golfer.
Now that he has won on tour and has a better understanding of how to make things happen his way, he saw what did and did not work for him and can apply it to his game here and across the pond at the Open Championship.
Yet another grade that reads harsher than it really is.
Bradley made the cut at his first ever Open. That accomplishment alone is worthy of a passing grade and probably exceeded even his own expectations after he played a practice round.
While his game struggled in all areas, leading to a tie for 68th, he has shown that his game really is as good as the one that surprised most last year at the PGA.
On an Open course that is not so penal in the next few years, he could contend. He now knows just why this tournament is so completely different. There should be much improvement next year.
It really seemed like this was his ideal course.
The long holes played downhill. The par-five holes were not really reachable in two, and the greens were not impossible. Yet, Zach fired a 77 out of the gate and struggled with his putting all week in finishing in a tie for 41st.
Johnson only carded nine pars on Sunday, never a good indication for someone trying to win an Open.
Because he is not a power hitter, he will only have limited chances to win Opens. Next year at Merion may just be his best chance.
After finishing second last year and having a good track record overall, it just was not his week.
He could not buy either a fairway or a green but did well with sand saves and putted very well, needing only 112 putts on 72 holes.
Day just had nothing really going for him this week and found himself too much of the time just trying to scramble to make par.
At 24, he will be back.
Nothing was really expected from Hanson this week, and he played like it.
He only hit nine of 28 fairways, a number that will get you an early flight home always.
He did hit more greens than he missed, but he putted 65 times in two days.
A tough learning experience, but he gets a few points based on expectations and his second round being three shots better.
For two days, Woods owned the Open.
He played within his abilities. He kept the driver in the bag. He hit spots on the course that would not hurt him, and he putted well.
Then, Woods looked like a kid that knew he was acing an exam and tried to float by the second half.
With a share of the 36-hole lead, Tiger’s focus was just not there on the weekend. He reverted back to the same mistakes that had cost him this year and got away from the formula he had used not only the first two days, but that had helped him win The Memorial in Ohio a couple weeks before.
He certainly has to play better out of the sand as he only went two-for-11 in sand saves. He also has to use his immense focus all four days.
While there was nothing horribly wrong with Johnson’s game this week, he did not make the cut and therefore does not pass.
He hit half the fairways and greens but only had one hole where he had a double-bogey. He only got it up and down out of one of the five bunkers he put it in, something that needs to be improved.
We know he certainly is capable of playing better in Opens. The hard part, however, is trying to play well on courses that are this hard.
Missing the cut by one, he probably could have sneaked out a D+ or C- just based on his play.
He almost passed because his game had not been in good form this spring. The USGA does not reward players, however, for missing the cut.
While missing the cut was a bit of a surprise, it was something that was also not completely unexpected either.
He had a shot to actually make the cut on the number but missed an eagle putt and a par putt on his closing holes.
With 32.5 putts per round, that's not going to get it done, although his second round was better overall than his first.
Bill could not hit a fairway or a green this week.
He putted well, but, while never scoring a double-bogey, he only had one birdie in two days—the short par-four seventh on Friday.
A good experience builder for Haas, though his best chances for success in the future will probably be at Augusta or at a PGA.
You cannot win Opens without putting the ball in play.
You will not make cuts only hitting 8-of-28 fairways in two days.
Oosthuizen made only one birdie, eight bogeys and one double-bogey.
A very disappointing Open from a former major winner.
He did not like the setup, and it showed.
Bubba simply cannot overpower courses and expect to win. He only hit 12 out of 28 fairways this week, and you are not going to scramble for par when you are in the rough that much.
Watson has other priorities right now besides golf with a new baby, but his fans still must have been disappointed with his lack of effort on Thursday with his 79.
That round earned him the failing grade.
For someone that holds majors in such high esteem, Mickelson’s game plan for this year’s Open was his all-time worst.
What on earth ever possessed Phil to hit driver on nearly every hole? Also, why keep hitting that driver when you could not find a fairway?
He sandwiched two good 71s around a poor 76 and 78.
Stat wise he was not awful, hitting more than half of his fairways and greens. Mickelson’s biggest roadblock has been the way he thinks around a course, and this was yet another example of poor thinking by someone who has so much talent.
His window is rapidly closing.
It was a complete and absolute shock that the game’s No. 1 golfer missed the cut this week.
He missed more fairways than he hit. He only hit half of the greens while averaging 32 putts per round.
For someone that seemed poised a couple of weeks ago to be on the verge of showing us why he is the best golfer in the world, Donald’s Open was shockingly poor.
He gets the F purely based on his own expectations.
Hopefully this week is not a major shake-up of his confidence.