What a tangled Webb, we weave

June 17, 2012 -

Up until now, the fabled Olympic Golf Club in San Francisco had famously hosted 4 other US Open titles, all of which had surprise winners.

Jack Fleck beat the unbeatable Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff in 1955.  It would be Fleck’s only PGA tour win.  Billy Casper came back from a 7 shot deficit on the final 9 to tie iconic Arnold Palmer in 1966, before beating Arnie the next day in a playoff.  Scott Simpson beat Tom Watson in a thrilling finish to win the event in 1987.  Lee Janzen prevailed over Payne Stewart in a gripping finish to win in 1998.

There is a reason that Olympic Club is called the ‘Graveyard of Champions”.

The first six holes at Olympic are the hardest opening six-pack in all of golf.  Three of these holes are par-4’s that can play over 500 yards. The field was a collective 1,110 over par for these holes alone. In a word, they are; diabolical.

After the second round, Tiger Woods was tied for the lead and fresh off his victory at Muirfield two weeks ago, seemed poised to reclaim the form that had made him a 14-time Major Champion.   It was not to be though for Woods who closed with rounds of 75 and 73 to finish well back in the field.  We had asked the question two weeks ago whether Woods had finally reclaimed the form that saw him dominate golf for so long. He has not.

We were in awe of 17 year-old, Beau Hossler, who is not yet a senior in high school.  The seemingly unflappable California teen actually had sole possession of the lead during Friday’s second round. He continued his brilliant play and started Sunday’s final round at 3-over par and only four shots out of the lead.  He shot a final round 76, but his audacious talent will be something that we remember for many years. Such is the nature of the Open, that Hossler would not even be the Low Amateur. That honor would go to his teammate to be at Texas University, Jordan Spieth, would finished at 7 over par and two shots ahead of Hossler. It was still a remarkable performance by perhaps the best 17 year old golfer in the world.

Three-time Major Champion; Ernie Els treated us to a renaissance by shooting a superb 3rd round 67 which saw the sweet swinging South African begin Sunday’s round just 3 shots from the lead.  The “Big Easy” would finish the day at 4-over par, though and despite his grand eagle at number 7, he was never quite a factor.

Perennial Major Championship contender, Lee Westwood was a contender once again.  Westwood was able to overcome a terrible beginning to the Championship making a double bogey on his first hole to be tied for third entering the final round, after a brilliant 67 in the third round.  It is a staggering fact that this great player has never won a Major Championship.  Time and again he is in the top 5, but has yet to break through. He would finish with a 3-over par 75, and again register a high finish, without claiming the only prize that matters.

2010 US Open Champion, Graeme McDowell who is arguably the straightest driver of the ball in golf, was once again a featured actor on Golf’s most fickle stage.  McDowell would start the final round tied for the lead with 2002 US Open winner Jim Furyk.

Meanwhile, two of America’s best young players, Michael Thompson and Webb Simpson were  making their presence known. Thompson, who played a spectacular first round of 66 had given him a three shot lead, only to see that dissipate over the next two days , roared back with a  closing round 67, giving  him at 2-over par total for the Championship. That would lead in the clubhouse, until……..

The stylish Simpson, who was a surprising two time winner in his rookie season on Tour last year, orchestrated what will now become Open legend.  Playing almost flawlessly in a round which culminated in an amazing save for par on the last hole, Simpson shot a 67.  That would tie for the low round of the day.

And while all this was happening, another 3-time Major Champion and much beloved of the Irish, Padraig Harrington was playing amazing golf of his own.  With 12 holes to play, the brilliant and thoughtful Harrington, managed to do what nobody should be able to do at Olympic.  He played the final 12 holes in 4 under par, but that sadly included a tournament ending bogey at the final hole, to finish at 3-over par.

Furyk was playing what would be best described as a “Furyk” round, which is exactly how McDowell, would describe the best recipe for winning a US Open “playing a Furyk round”. That translates to playing steady and conservative golf.

McDowell could not find his normally reliable putting stoke for the first 10 holes playing them in a collective 4-over par, while Furyk made par after par.  McDowell would make a birdie at 11, while Furyk bogeyed. Incredibly, Furyk would bogey twice more in the last three holes to finish at 3-over par.

McDowell birdied the 17th to get to two over, but his birdie putt on 18 sailed well left of the hole to leave him at 2-over par for the tournament and one shot behind Webb,  the newest Simpson to hoist the US Open trophy.

Chances are, this will end up being a victor at Olympic, whose triumph will be remembered as one for the ages.

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