Simpson grinds out first major championship at 112th U.S. Open

By Rex HoggardJune 18, 2012, 5:35 am

SAN FRANCISCO – Turns out The Olympic Club did deliver another Simpson, although it seems likely history will remember this version, both the champion and the championship, more favorably.

A week that began with plenty of style by way of the uber-grouping of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson on Thursday and Friday, came to a dramatic conclusion with Webb Simpson, Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell delivering the substance.

For the record, Olympic remains a perfect 5-for-5 for 54-hole leaders. That’s to say, none have gone on to win any of the five Opens played on the NorCal gem, a run that includes the 1987 championship won by Scott Simpson.

But in a dramatic break from tradition this time it was not an obscure contender who emerged to upset the favorite. This time the last man standing was not the last one everyone thought would win.

Video: Final-round highlights from the 112th U.S. Open

Video: Simpson post-victory interview

After beginning the final round 30 minutes ahead and four strokes adrift of co-leaders Furyk and Graeme McDowell, Webb Simpson made his move early with three consecutive birdies beginning at the sixth, failed to birdie either of Olympic’s par 5s and scrambled for an all-world par at the last to cap a 68-68 weekend and take the clubhouse lead at 1 over.

It was a quintessential Open finish. The kind of performance one would expect from the likes of Furyk, whose victory in 2003 is the highlight of a career at the national championship that features just two missed cuts in 18 starts.

Earlier in the week, McDowell caused a minor stir when he referred to Furyk as a plodder, and for 15 holes Sunday Furyk was at his blue-collar best.

Furyk rattled off five consecutive pars to start his day before his first miscue at the sixth hole, and rebounded with six more pars, including a stretch of three consecutive tap-ins starting at the eighth to maintain a 1-up lead on Simpson. Open Golf 101.

But the Open specialist succumbed to Olympic, which had been seasoned to bouncy perfection by consecutive warm days and the U.S. Golf Association’s aversion to watering.

At the 12th, Furyk needed a 35-footer to save par. His tee shot then nestled into the deep rough short of the green at the 13th hole and he made bogey to drop into a tie with Simpson. It will be the par-5 16th hole, however, that ultimately cost Furyk his second Open title.

Needing a birdie on one of the last three holes to avoid a playoff, Furyk pulled his tee shot badly into the trees left of the fairway, needed five shots to reach the putting surface and never recovered.

“I was tied for the lead, sitting on the 16th tee … I got wedges in my hand or reachable par 5s in my hand on the way in and one birdie wins the golf tournament,” said Furyk, who closed with a 74 after an unsightly bogey at the last to tie for fourth. “I'm definitely frustrated.”

The same could have been said of Simpson had he not ended up with the silver chalice. Tied with Furyk through 15 holes, he failed to birdie either par 5 and ended up in the worst possible position when his approach at the last sailed wide of the green.

From the kind of lie major championships go to die, Simpson delicately chipped 4 feet below the hole and calmly, or so it seemed, rolled in the winner.

“Probably, one out of five at best (to get the ball up and down at the 18th),” said Simpson’s caddie Paul Tesori. “It was the worst lie I’ve ever seen. You would have called someone cheating if they would have given you that lie in competition. He could have chipped it down the fairway 30 yards. He wouldn’t have gotten another one close in 10 more shots.”

It was a shot Simpson and Tesori began working on this week to combat the high rough and hard greens. It was also the kind of championship that suited Simpson perfectly – an honest test for an honest man.

In his two previous Tour victories Simpson had not been shy crediting his faith, so much so one half expected the North Carolina native to break into a Tim Tebow pose on the 18th green before the award ceremony. But that’s not Webb.

Tesori said he reminded his boss as they played the 17th hole of a Bible verse the two had been using for inspiration all week, an attempt to find calm in the middle of a marine layer storm.

“The back nine was . . . I don't know how Tiger has won 14 of these things, because the pressure. I couldn't feel my legs most of the back nine. It grew my respect for Tiger all the more,” said Simpson, who finished at 1-over 281, a stroke ahead of first-round leader Michael Thompson and McDowell, whose 24-footer for birdie at the last to force another 18 holes slipped past the cup on the left.

“Just thankful to God. I couldn't have done it without Him.”

Simpson also thanked wife Dowd, who walked all 72 holes with him despite being 34 weeks pregnant with the couple's second child, for providing emotional support.

For Woods, who was tied for the lead after two rounds but struggled to a Saturday 75, his week on the Lake Course was also a question of faith.

Although he played his first six holes on Sunday in 6 over, Woods recovered to play his last 12 in 3 under for a 73 that left him tied for 21st at 7 over. The wait for major No. 15 continues.

“Hit the ball really well. Unfortunately I just didn't have the speed of the greens until today,” Woods said. “The way I struck the golf ball, the way I controlled it all week is something that's very positive going forward and if I would have just hung in there a little bit better yesterday and missed it on the correct side a couple times then I would have been in a better position going into today.”

Mickelson didn’t seem as upbeat following his week that ended with an 8-over 78 and a tie for 65th, his worst finish at the national championship since 1996. At least he was around for the weekend; the same could not be said for world No. 1 Luke Donald and defending champion Rory McIlroy, who has now missed four cuts in his last five starts.

Things may have been even harder on Lee Westwood, who lost his golf ball in a tree right of the fifth fairway and never recovered for another major miss.

But that was a common theme at The Olympic Club. After last year’s record scoring at Congressional, this Open was about heartbreak and holding on. Call it a return to the norm.

“Not sure if guys can have their ‘A games’ to be honest, the course just won’t allow it,” McDowell said. “Today was a grind. It was a slog.”

A slog won by a grinder, just the way the USGA likes it.

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Podany named CEO of Arnold Palmer Enterprises

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 2:45 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Arnold Palmer organization announced Wednesday that Jon Podany has been appointed president of Arnold Palmer’s charitable foundation, Arnie’s Army, and CEO of Arnold Palmer Enterprises. Podany spent the last eight years at the LPGA, most recently as the tour’s chief commercial officer.

He’ll begin his new role on Oct. 15.

“This is an exciting time for the Arnold Palmer organization,” said Arnold Palmer organization chair Amy Palmer Saunders. “My father would be so pleased that the diverse companies he built alongside a dedicated team will be led by a person of great capability and character. Jon’s passion for the game of golf and the depth of his industry experience made him the clear choice to advance the Palmer family of businesses.”

Said Podany: “I am incredibly honored and excited to be joining the Arnold Palmer organization, which represents the very best the game has to offer in so many ways. Like so many others who have had the good fortune to work in the golf industry, I owe so much to Arnold Palmer and his family, both on and off the course.”

Podany, 53, joined the LPGA in 2010 shortly after Mike Whan began as the tour’s commissioner. As president and CEO in his new role, Podany will oversee Arnie’s Army and all businesses that comprise Arnold Palmer Enterprises, including the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Arnold Palmer Cup, Arnold Palmer Design Company as well as the Bay Hill Club and Lodge and the Latrobe Country Club.

Before joining the LPGA, Podany spent 15 years at the PGA Tour as a senior vice president. He started his business career in 1987 at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. He’s a graduate of Miami (Ohio) University. He and his wife Julie have three daughters.

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Simpson revisits 'the pop-up' to open '14 matches

By Will GraySeptember 26, 2018, 2:31 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – It remains, much to Webb Simpson’s dismay, one of the more memorable shots in recent Ryder Cup history.

Simpson had the burden of the first tee shot for the U.S. the last time the Ryder Cup was played in Europe, paired with Bubba Watson in the first morning fourball session at Gleneagles in 2014. With thousands watching, his 3-wood went sky high and, to Simpson’s generous estimate, 205 yards.

“Are you referring to the pop-up?” Simpson joked when a journalist asked him to revisit the moment.

It was the start of a regrettable match for Simpson and Watson, who never won a hole and were trounced by Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, 5 and 4. But time heals all wounds, and given four years to reflect he’s now able to crack a smile about a swing where the setting clearly got the best of him.

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“That was a shot I had in my bag all year. It was like the fifth time I had done it,” Simpson said. “I was losing my concentration a little bit and I teed it up a little too high. I had done it a few other times that year. Usually it goes straight down, and that one went straight up. At least it hit the fairway.”

Simpson was relegated to a spectator for the 2016 matches, although he admitted he didn’t miss a shot and that the Patrick Reed-Rory McIlroy singles match drew both he and wife Dowd off the couch in excitement. But thanks in large part to his breakthrough victory at The Players Championship in May, he’s set to play on his third squad, in search of his first team win.

While it seems likely he’ll reunite with Watson as a partner this week, American captain Jim Furyk could be well-served to slot them somewhere down in his morning lineup to avoid a Gleneagles duplicate.

“We’re more nervous here than any other tournament, and it’s not the fans. It’s a good thing,” Simpson said. “Everybody that made both teams can deal with pressure. But yeah, the first tee, that environment is fun and a little more – probably a little more nervous there than the second or third hole. That’s why you might see me teeing off on the evens.”

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Bubba feeling under the weather in France

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2018, 2:14 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bubba Watson’s week has gotten off to a much better start than it did the last time he was in France.

At the 2011 French Open, Watson was scrutinized when he struggled to describe his tour of Paris. “I don’t know the names of all the things, the big tower, Eiffel Tower, an arch (Arc de Triomphe), whatever I rode around in a circle,” he said at the time. “And then what’s that – it starts with an ‘L’ – Louvre, something like that. One of those.”

Watson also criticized tournament officials for failing to control fans and their use of cell phones.

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Things have gone much smoother this week, even though Watson is feeling under the weather. He also said the criticism he received during the ’11 French Open was unfounded.

“It was sad that people wrote or took my comments or whatever I did, because I don't really remember. It's so long ago. But it was sad that they did that because I loved it. I've always loved it,” he said. “It was sad, but I learned from it.”

Watson, who seems likely to play with Webb Simpson in the team sessions, said the crowds have embraced him, with fans chanting “Boo-ba” during his practice round on Wednesday.

The bigger concern for Watson this week may be his health. Sounding hoarse and tired when he spoke to the media, he explained that he started to feel sick during last week’s Tour Championship, and he was still trying to recover. 

“It's a long year. We're all tired,” Watson said. “You can tell, my voice, I'm exhausted. A lot of us were kind of getting sick, gosh, I don't want to say not quite half the field had something, and then you know, traveling all the way over here, we're all battling something.”

The bigger concern for Watson this week may be his health. Sounding hoarse and tired when he spoke to the media, he explained that he started to feel sick during last week’s Tour Championship and he was still trying to recover.

“It's a long year, we're all tired,” Watson said. “You can tell, my voice, I'm exhausted. A lot of us were kind of getting sick, gosh, I don't want to say not quite half the field had something, and then you know, traveling all the way over here, we're all battling something.”


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Furyk: Not worried about ' overconfidence, complacency'

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2018, 12:44 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – After seeing the course for the first time this week on Tuesday, the U.S. Ryder Cup team convened for a dinner.

Although the team wasn’t giving away any secrets, according to captain Jim Furyk the goal was to allow players to share ideas on the course, potential pairings and to further solidify this week’s game plan.

“We sat down and had a great conversation with the players last night. The players spoke a lot,” Furyk said following his team’s morning practice. “There's not a worry on my end of any overconfidence, complacency. No one is putting the cart before the horse here.”

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Specifically, vice captain Davis Love III said he reminded the team of a speech Michael Jordan gave at the 2012 matches.

“We started a little bit last night talking about the ultimate goal. Michael Jordan said if you think about the goal of winning the championship you’re not going to be able to play. You’re going to be too nervous,” Love said. “You break it down goal by goal.

The U.S. team only played nine holes on Wednesday at Le Golf National, the back nine, and will likely play the front nine during Thursday’s practice before the matches begin. Although Furyk has said the key to this week is getting the U.S. team to understand the course, he’s also aware of the need for rest following a grueling stretch of playoff golf for most of his squad.