Simpson Came Up Big in 98 Buick Invitational


The career of Scott Simpson has been filled with intriguing twists. He was a college teammate of Craig Stadler, with whom he also shared an apartment while they finished their studies at the University of Southern California. He won for the first time in 1980, which was 18 years before he won for the last time.
He won a U.S. Open, lost a playoff for another. Not a comedian by any means, he was the partner for several years in the AT&T National Pro Am of funnyman Bill Murray. He lived in Hawaii for several years before moving back to San Diego in 1996, realizing the travel was too much of a handicap. He finished out of the top 125 for the first time in 2000 after he suffered a broken ankle.
When he finished out of the top 125 in 2002, he was left without a card this year, but not without his U.S. Open trophy. His Open exploits will live forever, with Simpson edging Tom Watson in 87, falling the Payne Stewart in the playoff in 91, finishing out of the top six only once in the five-year period between 87 and 91.
In 1998, though, Simpson reclaimed the old glory one more time when he won the
Buick Invitational in his hometown of San Diego. Unfortunately, El Nino got in the way, reducing it to a 54-hole tournament. But Simpson fired a 64 his final 18, overcoming a giant eight-stroke deficit at the start of the last round and putting this one on the Simpson trophy mantle at home.
His caddie, San Diego Chargers quarterback Stan Humphries, caused almost as big a stir as he did. But in the end, what he did in the final 18 holes had everybody talking about Scott Simpson.
Simpson began what was to be the round Saturday and finished the final three holes between the raindrops Sunday. When he began the last three, he was tied with Steve Pate, Bob Tway and Kevin Sutherland for the lead at 11-under. He birdied two of the final three holes Sunday, bogeyed the third, and sat back for the next two hours to watch the golf with a score of 12-under-par.
Davis Love III made a charge, reaching 12-under, but he bogeyed two of the last four holes and needed an eagle of the par-5 last to tie. His chip attempt came up one roll short of the target. Sutherland failed to birdied the 18th and also came up one stroke short. So did Tiger Woods, making birdie on two of the final three holes but falling one short.
Simpson couldnt believe what he was seeing. I was watching and thinking, This is unbelievable. These guys cant make any birdies, he mused.
Then along came Skip Kendall, one last gasp from the field, and he did it. Kendall faced a 10-foot putt on 18 to get to 12-under ' and he drained it.
So back to 18 the two went for the playoff. The second-shot approaches made it appear that Kendall had a definite advantage. His shot stopped on the green, 25 feet below the hole. Simpsons was in a horrible lie in thick rough.
Simpson, however, played a heroic chip, then holed a five-foot putt. Kendall putted up to three feet, but his birdie try caught the lip and spun out, giving Simpson a most unexpected victory.
Simpsons career since the victory has not been a bright one. In 1999 he slipped to 164th on the money list. In 2000 he suffered the broken ankle over the New Years holiday. He was told the ankle would heal without surgery, but that was not the case. In August he finally had to get seven screws surgically attached. In 2001 he made half a million dollars, good for 96th on the money list, but in 2002 he dipped again, this time to 195th.
Simpson won fans everywhere with his great outlook following his futile visit to the PGA Tour qualifying tournament. He didnt feel slighted in the least, even when he failed in the effort and his only status for 2003 is as a past champion. Simpson understood the rules and was willing to abide by them. But he still has his 1998 Buick Invitational memories to fall back on.