New champ Webb Simpson shocks himself to bunker big pressure
Webb Simpson admitted he was only able to win his first Major by changing the habit of a lifetime.
The American ace triumphed by a single stroke at the Olympic Club having shot a superb final round 68. That left him on one-over-par for the tournament - a score good enough to see of the challenges of Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson, one shot back, and a host of big names, such as third-round joint leader Jim Furyk, two behind.
However, such was the pressure he felt on the back nine that he had to do things differently to get the job done.
The 26-year-old was indebted to his caddie, Paul Tesori, for making sure he stopped watching the leaderboard early in the final round.
“I was glad Paul told me that because I’ve been a leaderboard watcher my whole life,” Simpson said after sealing victory at the year’s second Major.
“With what pressure a Major brings, I just didn’t think it would do any good to see where I was at. So much can happen during the middle part of the golf course, so I didn’t look again. The crowd was telling me where I stood. They were getting louder and really pulling for me, which I appreciated. I putted out on 18 and that was the first time I looked [at the leaderboard] since early on the front nine.”
Simpson began the final round at fog-bound Olympic four strokes off the pace and he teed off in the fourth-last group of the day. Four birdies in five holes around the turn lifted him into contention but he then had to watch on television to see if overnight leaders Furyk and McDowell could match his one-over total of 281 as they played the final two holes.
“I was just as nervous watching on the telecast as I was playing,” Simpson admitted. “They’re such great players. Each of them has won a Major. It was nerve wracking to say the least.
“I just gained so much 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. I don’t know how Tiger [Woods] has won 14 of these things (majors) with that pressure. I couldn’t feel my legs for most of the back nine.”
Simpson became the 15th different Major winner in a row and ninth straight first-time winner. However, after a second place on the US Money List last year, the young star is no shock victor.
OLYMPIC OVERVIEW - WHAT THEY SAID
GRAEME MCDOWELL - On second-place finish: “This is sort of a new experience for me, finishing second at a Major championship, but I would rather have tried and failed than have never tried at all. Today has reinforced to me that I can compete and win more Major championships.”
JIM FURYK - On failing to convert his third round lead into his second Major and US Open title: “I felt like I had a lot of confidence in myself. I don’t know how to put that one into words. I had my chances and it was right there. It was my tournament to win and I wasn’t able to do so.”
PHIL MICKELSON - On his torrid time in San Francisco where he finished tied 65th: “It was a challenging test. The greens were in fabulous shape. They putted very true. But I didn’t play well, if you played anything less than perfect golf, it was extremely penalising. And I played far from perfect.”
PADRAIG HARRINGTON - On his fine final round 68 to finish in a five-way tie for fourth place: “I’ve holed my fair share of putts in my time and I will hole plenty more. I am quite confident that if I keep playing as well as I have been, wins will come around. There will be more Major wins.”