Webb Simpson of the US came from four shots back to win the US Open at San Francisco’s Olympic Club on Sunday, overtaking a bunch of big names to win his first major title.
The 26-year-old from North Carolina, in just his second US Open, battled back from two early bogeys to grab four birdies in five holes from the sixth and then parred his way down the rest of the back nine for a gripping win.
Simpson closed with a 68 and a one-over total of 281, one stroke clear of countryman Michael Thompson (67) and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell (73).
A further stroke back in a five-way tie for fourth place were Americans Jim Furyk (74), David Toms (68), Jason Dufner (70) and John Peterson (70), along with Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (68).
Simpson was the ninth straight first-time winner in the majors and he was the 15th different winner in the past 15, underlining once again the current strength-in-depth of world golf.
“If I was honest with you, I believed in myself I could win a major, but maybe not so soon,” Simpson said. “This is my fourth or fifth [major] and I just gained all the respect for the guys who have won multiple majors, because it’s so hard to do. The level of pressure is so much greater than a regular event. For me to play Sunday fourth from the last group was probably a huge help, as opposed to the last group.”
It was day when birdies were rare and survival was the order of the day, as a cold mist and spotty rain drifted in from the adjacent Pacific Ocean to compound the difficulties of the exacting Lake Course layout.
Former winners Furyk and McDowell started the day holding the joint lead — the only men to be under par at one-under 209.
First blood went to Furyk as he took the solo lead after McDowell bogeyed the third and when the Ulsterman had a second bogey at the fifth, the Ryder Cup stalwart had a two-stroke lead.
He missed a 10-footer at the eighth that would have nudged him three strokes ahead and then, in his rear-view mirror, he saw a trio of young American countrymen — Simpson, Thompson and Peterson — making a charge at him.
First-round leader Thompson set the early clubhouse standard with a 67 for a two-over total of 282 and sat back to watch if anyone could match him.
Surprisingly, Furyk then started to unwind.
He bogeyed the 13th and then flung his club away in disgust after hitting a snap hook off the tee on the par-five 16th.
He salvaged a bogey from out of the trees, but up ahead Simpson negotiated a tricky chip from deep greenside rough to save par at the last and that, coupled with the bogey for Furyk, left him one clear.
Furyk needed one birdie on the last two holes to force a playoff, with McDowell needing to make up two.
The Irishman birdied the 17th, sending the final pairing to the final hole with both in search of the birdie they needed.
Furyk’s chances evaporated when he plugged his approach shot in a bunker, but McDowell hit to 24 feet above the hole, only to see his snaking, downhill putt to get into an 18-hole playoff slip agonizingly past.
Waiting nervously in the clubhouse, Simpson hugged his wife, Dowd, when McDowell’s putt slid past and punched his fist in the air as the realization hit him that he had won the US Open.
Furyk said he had felt all calm all day, but had been unable to produce the golf he was capable of.