Webb Simpson is our national champion, and contrary to the naysayers who'll claim he backed into it, a 68-68 weekend on one of the toughest golf courses in U.S. Open history is the definition of earning it.
Simpson, who was six shots off the lead when Saturday dawned, was the only player to break par in both of the final two rounds on his way to posting a 1-over 281, although he had to sweat out a birdie putt on 18 by Graeme McDowell before claiming his third career PGA Tour win and first major championship. The 26-year-old Simpson was playing in only his second U.S. Open, and at a tournament where par is gold, it took a delicate par save on 18 to seal the win. Simpson chipped to four feet from a gnarly greenside lie, then coaxed in a ticklish slider to close his 68.
McDowell and playing partner Jim Furyk both had plenty of golf left to play when Simpson posted his number, and while McDowell was able to get close with a birdie at 17 and a makeable birdie look at 18, Furyk squandered what might prove to be his last best chance to win a second major, failing to make a birdie during his final-round 74 and bogeying three of his final six holes.
And thus ends Northern Ireland's two-year stranglehold on America's championship; McDowell won at Pebble Beach two years ago, and Rory McIlroy dominated at Congressional in 2011.
Some proclaimed that the tournament was over after Tiger Woods' 69-70 start gave him a share of the 36-hole lead. Thankfully, I wasn't one of them — but I thought it. Unfortunately, Tiger's comeback remains a work in progress. His 75-73 weekend is one of the bitterest disappointments of his career, but Olympic Club's fearsome sextet of opening holes deserve much of the credit. Tiger bogeyed three of the first six on Saturday on his way to a crushing 75, and he played the opening six holes at 6-over on Sunday. For the tournament, the field was more than 1,000 strokes over par on holes 1-6. Brutal.