Simpson wins 112th U.S. Open for first major

By Associated PressJune 18, 2012, 4:50 am

SAN FRANCISCO – Webb Simpson refused to think of himself as a U.S. Open champion until he sat with his nervous wife in a quiet corner of the locker room Sunday, staring in disbelief at a television as Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell tried to catch him.

He was up against a pair of major champions. He was at The Olympic Club, where the wrong guy always wins a U.S. Open.

Simpson should have known now how this would end.

He did his part with four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn, and a tough par from the collar of the 18th green for a 2-under 68. It was enough to capture his first major when Furyk bogeyed two of his last three holes, and McDowell couldn't recover from a bad start and too many tee shots in the rough.



''Oh, wow,'' Simpson said when McDowell's 25-foot birdie putt to force a playoff stayed left of the cup

Simpson emerged from a fog-filled final round as a U.S. Open champion, and he put two more names into the graveyard of champions.

''I never really wrapped my mind around winning,'' said Simpson, who finished at 1-over 281 to win in only his fifth time at a major. ''This place is so demanding, and so all I was really concerned about was keeping the ball in front of me and making pars.''

Olympic is known as the ''graveyard of champions'' because proven major winners who were poised to win the U.S. Open - Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Payne Stewart - all lost out to the underdog.

Perhaps it was only fitting that the 25-year-old Simpson went to Wake Forest on an Arnold Palmer scholarship.

''Arnold has been so good to me,'' Simpson said. ''Just the other day, I read that story and thought about it. He's meant so much to me and Wake Forest. Hopefully, I can get a little back for him and make him smile.''

No one was beaming like Simpson, who followed a breakthrough year on the PGA Tour with his first major.

No one was more disgusted than Furyk, in control for so much of the final round until he snap-hooked his tee shot on the par-5 16th hole to fall out of the lead for the first time all day, and was unable to get it back. Needing a birdie on the final hole, he hit into the bunker. He crouched and clamped his teeth onto the shaft of his wedge. Furyk made bogey on the final hole and closed with a 74, a final round without a single birdie.

McDowell, who made four bogeys on the front nine, at least gave himself a chance with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th and a shot into the 18th that had him sprinting up the hill to see what kind of chance he had. The putt stayed left of the hole the entire way, and he had to settle for a 73.

McDowell shared second place with Michael Thompson, who closed with a 67 and waited two hours to see if it would be good enough.

Tiger Woods, starting five shots behind, played the first six holes in 6-over par and was never a factor. He shot 73 and finished six strokes back.

Furyk was fuming, mostly at himself, for blowing a chance at his second U.S. Open title. He also was surprised that the USGA moved the tee up 100 yards on the 16th hole to play 569 yards. It was reachable in two shots for some players, though the shape of the hole featured a sharp turn to the left.

''There's no way when we play our practice rounds you're going to hit a shot from a tee 100 yards up unless someone tells you,'' Furyk said. ''But the rest of the field had that same shot to hit today, and I'm pretty sure no one hit as (bad) a shot as I did. I have no one to blame but myself.

''I was tied for the lead, sitting on the 16th tee. I've got wedges in my hand, or reachable par 5s, on the way in and one birdie wins the golf tournament. I'm definitely frustrated.''

But he gave Simpson his due.

Of the last 18 players to tee off in the final round, Simpson was the only one to break par. That didn't seem likely when Simpson was six shots behind as he headed to the sixth hole, the toughest at Olympic. That's where he started his big run.

His 7-iron landed in the rough and rolled 5 feet away for birdie. He made birdie on the next two holes, including a 15-footer on the par-3 eighth. And his wedge into the 10th settled 3 feet away, putting him in the mix for the rest of the day.

''It was a cool day,'' Simpson said. ''I had a peace all day. I knew it was a tough golf course. I probably prayed more the last three holes than I ever did in my life.''

Simpson's shot from the rough on the 18th hole went just right of the green and disappeared into a hole, a circle of dirt about the size of a sprinkler cap. With a clump of grass behind the ball, he had a bold stroke for such a nervy shot and it came out perfectly, rolling 3 feet by the hole for his much-needed par.

Then, it was time to wait.

It was the third time in the last seven years that no one broke par in the U.S. Open. On all three occasions, the winner was in the locker room when the tournament ended.

While Furyk will be haunted by his finish, McDowell can look back at his start - four bogeys on the front nine - and his inability to find fairways. Even on the last hole, his tee shot tumbled into the first cut of rough and kept him from being able to spin the ball closer.

''There's a mixture of emotions inside me right now - disappointment, deflation, pride,'' he said. ''But mostly just frustration, just because I hit three fairways today. That's the U.S. Open. You're not supposed to do that. You're supposed to hit it in some fairways. And that was the key today for me.''

Beau Hossler, the 17-year-old who started only four shots behind, disappeared quickly and closed with a 76. He showed up at Olympic hopeful only of making the cut, then being low amateur, then perhaps winning. He had to settle for the first one. A double bogey on the last hole meant Jordan Spieth (70) was low amateur.

Woods has never won a major when trailing going into the last round, and he kept that streak going.

Starting with a tee shot buried in the rough just off the first fairway, he bogeyed the opening two holes and chopped up the par-3 third hole for a double bogey. His name was removed from the board before the leaders even stepped onto the first tee. He played that infamous six-hole start in 6 over. And that 69-70 start that gave him a share of the lead going into the weekend felt like a distant memory.

''I was just a touch off,'' Woods said of his 75-73 weekend. ''But I was still in the ball game. Today I just got off to a horrific start, and just never got it going early. And unfortunately, I put myself out of it.''

For Westwood, the sting was sharper - and quicker. His tee shot on the fifth hole struck a towering cypress tree and never came down. Westwood gazed at the top of the 40-foot tree, even using binoculars to try to find it. But it was back to the tee for his third shot, a double bogey that made him part of Olympic lore on the fifth hole, only with a far different outcome.

It was the same hole - but not the same tree - where Lee Janzen's ball dropped from the branches as his back was turned while walking back to the tree. Janzen converted that break into another U.S. Open title in 1998. Westwood never threatened again in trying to win his first major.

Furyk and McDowell were slugging it out over the opening six holes, and no one seriously challenged them for the first few hours of the final round.

It changed quickly, and it was tight the rest of the way with as many as eight players believing they could win this championship.

Thompson, whose 66 in the opening round was the best score of the week, played bogey-free on the back nine and picked up a birdie on the par-5 16th with a wedge that settled near the flag. Despite missing an easy birdie chance on the 17th, he was in the clubhouse at 2-over 282.

Els drove the par-4 seventh green and holed an 8-foot eagle putt that brought him within two shots of the lead. He lost hope, however, when he slightly pulled his wedge into the 16th. It went into a collection area, and his putt up the slope came back at his feet. He had to scramble for a bogey.

''I'll go to bed tonight thinking of the 16th, the third shot,'' he said. ''That basically cost me the tournament.''

Padraig Harrington came out of nowhere with five birdies in 11 holes to reach 2 over, but from the 18th fairway, he buried his approach in a bunker and made bogey.

Even so, this was a major that looked as if it would belong to McDowell or Furyk. One of them lost it early, the other one lost it late.

Simpson joined them as a U.S. Open champion, a win that moved him to No. 5 in the world.

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Rose tries to ignore scenarios, focus on winning

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:59 am

ATLANTA – No one has more to play for than Justin Rose on Sunday at the Tour Championship.

The Englishman will begin the day three strokes behind front-runner Tiger Woods after a third-round 68 that could have been much worse after he began his day with back-to-back bogeys.

Winning the tournament will be Rose’s top priority, but there’s also the lingering question of the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus, which he is currently projected to claim.


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“The way I look at tomorrow is that I have many scenarios in play. I have the FedExCup in play. I have all of that to distract me,” Rose said. “But yet, I'm three back. I think that's my objective tomorrow is to come out and play good, positive golf and try and chase down the leader and win this golf tournament. I think in some ways that'll help my other task of trying to win the FedExCup. It'll keep me on the front foot and playing positive golf.”

Although there are many scenarios for Rose to win the season-long title, if Woods wins the Tour Championship, Rose would need to finish fifth or better to claim the cup.

There’s also the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking to consider. Rose overtook Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world with his runner-up finish at the BMW Championship two weeks ago. He will retain the top spot unless Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka or Johnson win the finale and he falls down the leaderboard on Sunday.

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McIlroy needs putter to heat up to catch Woods

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:29 am

ATLANTA – Although Rory McIlroy is three strokes behind Tiger Woods at the Tour Championship and tied for second place he had the look of a man with a secret when he left East Lake on Saturday.

Trying to play catch up against Woods is never ideal, but McIlroy’s confidence stemmed from a tee-to-green game that has been unrivaled for three days.

“I definitely think today and the first day were similar,” said McIlroy, whose 66 included birdies at two of his final three holes. “I gave myself plenty of chances, and I think the biggest thing today was only just that one bogey. Got to put your ball in the fairway, put yourself in position, and for the most part, I did that today.”


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For the week McIlroy ranks first in strokes gained: off the tee, third in strokes gained: approach to the green and second in greens in regulation. But to catch Woods, who he will be paired with, he’ll need a much better day on the greens.

The Northern Irishman needed 30 putts on Day 2 and ranks 23rd, out of 30 players, in strokes gained: putting.

McIlroy skipped the first playoff event, opting instead for an extra week at home to work on his swing and the move has paid off.

“I hit the ball well. My wedge play has been really good,” he said. “I've done a lot of work on it the last few weeks, and it seems to have paid off.”

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Glover trails Straka at Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2018, 12:19 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Sepp Straka moved into position Saturday to earn a PGA Tour card in the Web.com Tour Championship, shooting a 7-under 64 to take the third-round lead.

With the top 25 earners in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals getting PGA Tour cards Sunday, Straka birdied the final three holes to reach 18-under 195 - a stroke ahead of Curtis Luck, Lucas Glover and Denny McCarthy at Atlantic Beach Country Club.

''It's always good to get an extra birdie in late. I got three of them to finish, which was nice,'' Straka said. ''It's very bunched up there, so you can't really take off, you've got to keep the pedal down and see where you end up at the end.''

Straka entered the week tied for 80th in the card race with $2,744. The 25-year-old former Georgia player from Austria won the KC Golf Classic in August for his first Web.com Tour title. He finished 31st on the money list to advance to the four-tournament series.

''My ball-striking is really good,'' Straka said. ''It's been good all week. It's been really solid. I really haven't gotten in a whole lot of trouble and have been able to capitalize on a good number of chances with the putter. Hit a couple of bad putts today, but some really good ones to make up for it.''


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Luck also shot 64. The 22-year-old Australian went into the week 16th with $41,587.

''Obviously, it just comes down to keeping that momentum going and trying not to change anything,'' Luck said. ''That's the really important thing and I felt like I did that really well. I played really aggressive on the back nine, still went after a lot of shots and I hit it close a lot out there.''

Glover had a 68. The 2009 U.S. Open champion entered the week 40th with $17,212.

McCarthy shot 67. He already has wrapped up a card, earning $75,793 in the first three events to get to 11th in the standings.

The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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Woods' dominance evokes an old, familiar feeling

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:14 am

ATLANTA – It felt so familiar – the roars, the fist pumps, the frenzied scramble to keep up with a leaderboard that was quickly tilting in Tiger Woods’ direction.

For the handful of players who were around when Woods made a mysterious and maddening game seem simple, it was like old times, times that weren’t necessarily good for anyone not named Tiger.

“I’m kind of nostalgic,” admitted Paul Casey, who turned pro in 2000, when Woods won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes, one of his nine PGA Tour victories that year.

Casey’s 66 on Day 3 at the Tour Championship vaulted him into a tie for sixth place, but as the Englishman quickly vetted the math he knew those numbers were nothing more than window dressing.

“Sixty-four is my best on a Sunday which puts me at 11 [under], so if he’s 12 I need to shoot my career best in the final round and he needs to do something very un-Tiger-like,” Casey laughed. “I think I’m just posturing for position.”

Casey wasn’t giving up. In fact, given that he outdueled Woods earlier this year to win the Valspar Championship he could have hedged his comments and left the door cracked however slightly. But he’s seen, and heard, this too many times to allow competitive necessity to cloud reality.

On Saturday at East Lake, Tiger Woods was his best version. Throughout this most recent comeback he’s offered glimpses of the old guy, the guy whose name atop a leaderboard echoed through locker rooms for the better part of two decades. After starting the day tied for the lead with Justin Rose, Tiger quickly separated himself from the pack with a birdie at the first.

He added another at the third and by the time he birdied the seventh hole, his sixth birdie of the day, he’d extended that lead to five shots and was sending an unmistakable message that reached well beyond the steamy confines of East Lake.


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This was what so many had waited for. This was the Tiger that Casey and others grew up dreading, a machine that never misses iron shots and makes clutch putts look like tap-ins.

“The crowds were electric,” said Rose, who was paired with Woods. “He was running the tables there. He was hitting good shots and making the conversion putts.”

Woods did come back to earth after his blistering start, playing his final 10 holes in 1 over par, but that did little to change the mood as the season moved to within 18 holes of the finish line.

He would finish with a round-of-the-day 65 for a three-stroke lead over Rose and Rory McIlroy. The next closest players were a dozen strokes back, including Casey at 5 under par who didn’t need to be reminded of Woods’ 54-hole conversion rate.

There are no guarantees in sports but Tiger with a 54-hole lead has been about as close to a lock as one will find this side of Las Vegas. He’s 42-for-44 when going into the final round with the outright lead and the last time he blew a 54-hole lead was at the 2009 PGA Championship.

Of course, he hasn’t had a 54-hole lead since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Truth is, he hasn’t had much of anything since ’13 when his dominance was sidetracked by an ailing back. As intimidating as Woods’ play has been this week there was an unmistakable sense of, let’s call it curiosity.

Asked if Woods’ lead felt different than it may have a decade ago, Rose’s response was telling. “Maybe,” he allowed after a pause. “It's a little more unknown now. Obviously his history, his statistics from this point are impeccable. They're incredible. But he's human, and there's a lot on it for him tomorrow, as well as the rest of us.”

Rose wasn’t trying to trick himself into thinking the impossible was possible, although many have when they’ve found themselves in similar positions, it was simply the truth. Woods has had multiple chances this season to complete the comeback and he’s come up short each time.

It was a poor iron shot off the 72nd tee at the Valspar Championship and an even worse drive a week later at Bay Hill’s 16th hole. It was a misplayed chip late on the back nine at The Open and a collection of missed putts at the PGA Championship, although in his defense it’s unlikely anyone could have caught Brooks Koepka at Bellerive.

Nor was Rose being disrespectful. It’s simple math, really, and Woods’ body of work to this point, although wildly impressive considering how far he’s come in 12 months both physically and competitively, paints a clear picture. Given multiple chances to break through the victory ceiling he’s failed to deliver the way he did before injury and multiple back procedures.

“I've felt very comfortable when I got into the mix there at Tampa even though it was very early in my start to this year. And because of that, I felt comfortable when I got to Bay Hill, (and) when I grabbed the lead at The Open Championship,” Woods said. “Things that didn't really feel abnormal, even though it's been years, literally years, since I've been in those spots, but I think I've been in those spots enough times that muscle memory, I guess I remembered it, and I felt comfortable in those spots.”

In many ways the script couldn’t have been written any better for Woods. It’s the bottom of the ninth, two outs and the bases are loaded for the 14-time major champion. Hero time, his time.

He’s been here so many times in his career and succeeded more times than not, and this new, reimagined version has the ultimate chance to complete what would arguably be the greatest comeback in sports history.

The ultimate test still remains, but for 18 holes on Saturday it felt so familiar.