SAN FRANCISCO: American Webb Simpson clinched his first major title with a nerve-jangling one-shot victory at the 112th US Open on Sunday after overhauling overnight leaders Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell.
The 26-year-old Simpson, who triumphed twice on the PGA Tour last year, charged into contention with four birdies in five holes around the turn on the way to a two-under-par 68. On a foggy afternoon at the brutally difficult Olympic Club, Simpson coolly parred his last eight holes to finish at one-over 281 as the other main contenders faded over the closing stretch.
“It was pretty nerve wracking,” Simpson told NBC television after earning the winner’s cheque for $1.44 million in the year’s second major. “I knew it was a tough golf course. I had to go out and do as well as I could. I probably prayed more the last three holes than I’ve ever done in my life. It helped me stay calm and get in with two under.”
Simpson, who got up and down from greenside rough to save par at the last, became the ninth consecutive first-time winner of a major, and the 15th different player in succession to claim one of golf’s blue riband events.
Northern Irishman McDowell, US Open champion at Pebble Beach two years ago, closed with a six-bogey 73 to finish joint second with little known American Michael Thompson (67). As Simpson and his wife Dowd watched on television, McDowell had a chance to force a playoff with a downhill birdie putt from 25 feet at the par-four last but his attempt slid past the left edge of the cup.
Furyk, US Open champion in 2003, briefly moved two strokes clear and was tied for the lead with three holes to play but bogeyed 16 and 18 for a 74 and a five-way share of fourth place at three over.
The 42-year-old failed to record a single birdie in the final round as he finished level with compatriots David Toms (68), Jason Dufner (70) and John Peterson (70), and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (68).
Three-times champion Tiger Woods, aiming to end a four-year major title drought, never recovered from a bogey, bogey, double-bogey start and tied for 21st at seven over after returning a 73. One of the biggest roars of the day came when twice former champion Ernie Els rolled in a curling 20-foot eagle putt at the driveable par-four seventh to move into a tie for second. But the smooth-swinging South African bogeyed the next two holes to derail his title bid.