What a fantastic weekend of intense golf we had, close to Frogger headquarters at San Francisco's Olympic Club in the U.S. Open. There are so many interesting story lines from this year's Open.
Who was the winner this year? Webb Simpson, not a household name like Tiger Woods. Simpson was born in Raleigh, NC in 1985. He attended Wake Forest and turned pro in 2008. As of this week Simpson has three career victories, the 2012 U.S. Open, the 2011 Wyndham Championship and 2011 Deutsche Bank Championship.
Simpson wasn't in the final group. He finished at +1 a few groups ahead of the leaders. Sitting at +1 and finished in the clubhouse, Simpson watched as the leaders failed to match him.
Many say the real winner of the tournament was the golf course, Olympic Club. Last year's birdie fest at Congressional where Rory McIlory finished at -16 was not going to happen again. Olympic Club played extremely difficult. The opening 1/3 of the course played so difficult that the entire field was nearly 1200 over par for that stretch. Despite the difficulty, the players didn't complain about the setup being unfair at all, which often happens in U.S. Opens.
Tiger Woods looked to be on his way to winning major #15 through two days. After Friday Woods was tied for the lead and playing in the final group Saturday with Jim Furyk. But a 3rd round 75 moved him down the leaderboard to a T14 position, five shots behind. As tough as the course was playing, a five shot deficit would be nearly impossible to make up.
Tiger's final round started terribly with bogey-bogey-double. By then he had become a non-factor, so much that the TV coverage left him for nearly two hours.
Tiger would finish tied for 21st place at +7.
Sunday morning leaders Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell looked to be in the driver's seat coming into the final round. Both had won U.S. Opens before, and it was a high likelihood that one of the two would finish on top. That didn't happen.
Furyk made some clutch shots on the front nine to take the lead solo, but began to crumble on the final nine. On the 16th the nerves for Furyk showed themselves as he hooked his tee shot into deep trouble left. The resulting bogey would mean he would have to make a birdie in the last two holes to tie Simpson. Instead Furyk would par the 17th and then hit a bad approach wedge to the 18th which would plug in the left greenside bunker. Hopes dashed.
McDowell needed birdie on the 18th to force a playoff with Simpson after making birdie on the 17th. Personally I thought he would drain the 20-25 foot putt for the tie given his stellar clutch putting from the past. But the read was bad and had no chance of going in, missing left.
Some other very surprising stories this year lie in those players who missed the cut. The defending champ Rory McIlory missed the cut by one shot following a three putt on his final hole Friday. The mystery around McIlory's not-so-stellar play right now continues.
#1 ranked player in the world Luke Donald should have fared well at Olympic. On paper his game is perfect for that type of setup, where accuracy and great course management are key. Instead Donald opened with rounds of 79 and 72 to miss the cut.
Reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson also missed the cut with rounds of 78 and 71. Watson is obviously suffering from Masters hangover with two consecutive missed cuts.
This was a very intense and entertaining U.S. Open, though I doubt the casual golf fan kept interest when the big names like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson became non-factors. It is fun to watch tough golf like this, where par really means something and the competition is not a birdie fest. The course setup was fantastic and required the players to hit every shot and every club in the bag with precision. It was truly a great test and Simpson is a worthy champ.