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.