This year’s U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco featured a series of feel-good stories. A quiet seventeen year old threatened to be the youngest golfer to win America’s major, Tiger Woods made a promising run which convinced a global audience to believe that his greatness would soon be restored, and Graeme McDowell nearly gave Northern Ireland three U.S. Open victories in row.
One could argue that because none of this happened over the weekend, the 2012 U.S. Open lacked a climactic ending. This argument can be made, and will be made, for a very long time. However, Webb Simpson’s come from behind victory at Olympic served as the perfect ending to a perfect tournament.
From the very beginning of the week, the Olympic Club was proving to be a daunting challenge for the pros.
I had the opportunity to be a “standard bearer” over the course of the week. For those who do not know, a standard bearer holds the official USGA sign with each player’s name in his respected group.
As I walked the course during the practice rounds, ankle-deep in the rough, I immediately knew that getting around the course would be no genial task during the upcoming weekend, even for the best golfers in the world.
On the second day of the practice rounds, Tuesday, I was the standard bearer for James Hahn and Kyle Thompson, two relatively unknown golfers.
Hahn, an Alameda native and UC Berkeley graduate, said to me as we approached the first tee box, our eleventh hole of the day, “Man, I’m all tired out, and I’m not even carrying that big sign like you are!” At which point his caddy turned to him and said, “Well how do you think I feel?”
I could write a book about how the course played for the pros on championship week. Long story short, the Lake Course was mentally and physically exhausting for the players.
So out of all of the world’s best golfers, Tiger, Phil, Bubba, Rory, Luke, the list goes on and on, why Webb?
Webb Simpson, the 26-year-old Wake Forest graduate out of Charlotte, North Carolina, came through with a surprise victory on Sunday that left many people puzzled.
The critics are correct. The win certainly wasn’t climactic. In fact, when Graeme McDowell missed his 25-foot birdie putt that would’ve sent the championship to a playoff, I witnessed hundreds of people leave their seats around the 18th green because the win for Webb was officially sealed.
A Webb Simpson U.S. Open victory may not have been what the crowd was anticipating, but it was certainly historic.
Simpson played phenomenal golf all week long. When you look at his scorecard, the first round 72 and the second round 73 do not seem all that impressive. At this point in the tournament, Tiger Woods was on the prowl, holding a share of the lead at one under par.
I spoke with 16-year-old Hillsborough resident Daniel Longworth, who was the standard bearer for Simpson’s group on Friday, about Webb’s round.
“He actually played very well, he just couldn’t make a putt. He would’ve had a dominant lead if he would have putted better in the early rounds,” said Longworth.
The fact that he came from behind and the fact that he finished the tournament over par both contributed to a lack of crowd excitement involving Webb’s victory.
Fact of the matter is, Olympic made mincemeat out of the world’s best golfers, and Webb conquered it. He was most certainly deserving of victory after his weekend performance.
The most obvious aspect of Webb Simpson’s victory is that he played well. However, that is not what made his victory absolutely perfect.
It seems now to be tradition that when the U.S. Open is held at the Olympic Club, a surprise player rises to victory. In the four U.S. Open championships held at Olympic prior to 2012, the winner has won in come from behind fashion. Webb Simpson joins Jack Fleck, Billy Casper, Scott Simpson, and Lee Janzen as U.S. Open winners at the Olympic Club.
Webb Simpson’s comeback win was truly fitting. It was a storybook ending, really. His was just the latest chapter joining those written in 1955, 1966, 1987, and 1998. The Olympic Club could not have asked for a better U.S. Open. While it may not have been the result that most people had hoped for, Webb Simpson provided the only ending possible for a perfect tournament at the Olympic Club.