By Brian Hewitt for GlobalGolfPost
Webb Simpson said he had "a peace all day" Sunday.
Now he owns a large piece of golf history.
By scorching a nails-tough Olympic Club layout with a pair of weekend 68s, the 26-year-old Wake Forest grad from Charlotte, N.C., won the 112th U.S. Open by a shot ahead of little-known American Michael Thompson and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion.
"One of my thoughts on the back nine," Simpson said, "was 'I don't know how Tiger's won 14 of these things.' "
But an important part of the "peace" he mentioned clearly came from swing work he had done after missing the cut at The Memorial in May, his last start. Then, last week, Simpson went on a buddy’s golf trip to Pinehurst to clear his mind in advance of the Open.
It all worked.
In the end, McDowell needed a 25-footer to force an 18-hole Monday playoff on the 72nd hole and missed it left. Third-round leader Jim Furyk, playing in the final pairing with McDowell, also arrived at the final hole needing a birdie to tie Simpson. He bunkered his second and made bogey to drop into a five-way tie for fourth with David Toms, Padraig Harrington, John Peterson and Jason Dufner.
"Nerve-wracking," said Simpson when asked what it was like watching McDowell and Furyk on their final hole.
Playing in his second U.S. Open, Simpson became the 15th different player to win in the past 15 majors.
Furyk held at least a share of the lead throughout the final round until he snap-hooked a drive on the par-5 16th and had to settle for a bogey that dropped him one behind the charging Simpson, whose four birdies in a five-hole stretch in the middle of his Sunday proved to be the difference.
"This course," Simpson said of Olympic, "is so hard."
The tipoff on how difficult Olympic was going to play last week came Thursday afternoon when the grouping of Luke Donald, defending champion Rory McIlroy, and Westwood combined to shoot 19-over par.
Donald, McIlroy and Westwood are the Nos. 1, 2, and 3 players in the world rankings, respectively. Neither Donald nor McIlroy survived the cut that came at 8 over par.
"There's an 80 lurking," said Masters champion Bubba Watson, who opened with a 78 and also missed the weekend.
The usual player carping was mostly muted. But there was enough to elicit a rare non-conciliatory response from USGA executive director Mike Davis.
"We made it very clear," Davis said in a moment of frustration. "Some don't like it, I guess they can tune out by this week or not file an entry if you're a player."
Earlier, Davis had described the purposed inconsistency of the lies in the rough as being a "little bit like an Easter egg contest."
Davis also went the extra mile during a post-round TV interview between Simpson and announcer Bob Costas. When an interloper attempted to run into NBC's shot, Davis grabbed him and yanked out of the camera's reach.
Later, McDowell said he enjoys tough tests. But, he added, "I'm not sure you can have your 'A' game on this course. It’s just impossible. It beats you up."
Tiger Woods looked for all the world like a winner the first two days and was tied with Furyk after 36 holes. Alas for him, his driver, iron game, and putter deserted him Saturday on the way to a 75. When he bogeyed the first two holes and doubled the third Sunday his bid to join Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, and Willie Anderson this year as the only men to have won four U.S. Opens died aborning.
Woods closed with a 73 and a 7-over total of 287. It was good for a tie for 21st.
Phil Mickelson celebrated his 42nd birthday Saturday and little else at the major championship he still hasn't won. His 72-hole total of 296 was a whopping 16-over par and left him tied for 65th.
The feel good story of the week was the performance of 17-year-old amateur American Beau Hossler. Just four shots back of the leaders after 54 holes, Hossler hung on with a Sunday 76 to gain second-low amateur honors. Jordan Spieth was low amateur.
In the end, there was the wait. "I did not want to play in a playoff for a lot of reasons," said Simpson, who watched in the locker room with his wife, Dowd, as the final drama unfolded.
All he really wanted to do this year, he said, was to continue to get better. "I don’t care if I make a million dollars as long as I keep getting better," he said.
Better, for now, for Webb Simpson, is best.