Tiger Woods didn’t have a chance. Either did Jim Furyk or Graeme McDowell. Or Ernie Els. Not at Olympic Club.
Not on the Lake Course. Not in a U.S. Open.
You think a place nicknamed the Graveyard of Legends is going to give us a champion everyone expects and
You think the sun is going to shine in June on the Northern California coast?
You think Tim Lincecum is going to win a game?
There’s nothing wrong with Webb Simpson. He’s young, handsome, skilled, won other tournaments and was on the Presidents Cup team. But champion of the 112th U.S. Open?
Absolutely. Olympic is an anti-establishment course.
It’s a place where fog swirls — and the mist was heavy and chilling on Sunday.
A place favorites end up searching for their game among the Cypress trees and deep rough while underdogs hoist the silver trophy.
If Jack Fleck could overtake Ben Hogan in 1955, Billy Casper could come from seven down to whip Arnold Palmer in 1966 and Scott Simpson and Lee Janzen could win the subsequent Opens, 1987 and 1998, in 2012 it had to be a winner who was a surprise. Even to the winner.
“To be honest, I never thought about winning,” said Simpson whose 72-hole total was a 1-over par 281. “Amazed.”
As opposed to the people who previously had won Opens and thought very much about winning this one. They were simply bewildered.
Tiger tumbling from a share of first on Friday to a tie for 21st after Sunday; Furyk, who had the lead all alone through 13 holes Sunday; McDowell, who started the final round tied with Furyk.
They got the Olympic Club treatment. Or mistreatment. They were interred in the graveyard. At least their chances were.
“I got off to a bad start,” said Woods, who began bogey, bogey, double bogey, “and unfortunately put myself out of it.”
Said Furyk, who at 12 and 16 hit two of the worst tee shots in recent memory (although he saved par at 12), “It was my tournament to win. We’ll have to look at the last three holes, which cost me the tournament.” He tied for fourth two shots back.
Explained McDowell: “Frustration, because I hit only three fairways today. That’s the U.S. Open. You’re not supposed to do that. You’re supposed to hit it in the fairways.” He tied for second with Michael Thompson, a shot behind Simpson.
History was against them and with Webb Simpson. History and cold, damp weather, a classic June afternoon, which appeared after three rounds of sunshine.
It was a day for fleece pullovers and sweaters. A day to recall the remark about the coldest winter being a summer in San Francisco – and whether Mark Twain said it or not, who cares?
And it was a day to remember the favorites who failed and the underdogs who succeeded, Webb Simpson, joining Fleck, Casper, Scott Simpson – no relative to Webb – and Janzen.
Webb Simpson made it five-for-five for Opens at the place known as Baghdad by the Bay.
“This place is so demanding,” said Simpson, “all I was really concerned about was keeping the ball in front of me and making pars.”
What he did was make another Open at Olympic a puzzlement.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.