Spander: Simpson turns back clock at Harding Park 

click to enlarge Webb Simpson
  • Stephen B. Morton/AP File Photo
  • Webb Simpson, here playing in the RBC Heritage Golf Tournament on April 18, beat Ian Poulter 3-2 during the World Golf Championship Cadillac Match Play tournament on Wednesday.
One day, it was San Francisco nostalgia and a $48 hamburger for Webb Simpson. The next, it was a victory in the World Golf Championship Cadillac Match Play tournament over a former champion, Ian Poulter.

Simpson on Tuesday went to Olympic Club, where three years ago he won the U.S. Open, ate one of the classic burgers from a stand on the course and recreated the chip shot on the 72nd hole which saved par and the tournament.

Then Wednesday, across John Muir Drive and the Lake Merced reservoir, he beat the 2010 titlist, Poulter, 3 and 2 at TPC Harding Park, getting a jump on making it to Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Other winners on an afternoon of plenty of sunshine and some confusion — stay with us, an explanation is coming — were Masters champion Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk.

Bubba Watson breezed past the man with the cigar and the pot belly, Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, 5 and 4. Charl Schwartzel won by the same score over last year’s finalist, Victor Dubuisson of France. Rory Mcllroy, the No. 1 seed, never lost a hole and defeated former PGA champ Jason Duffner 5 and 4.

This match play isn’t exactly your Bobby Jones’ match play. To keep recognizable box office personalities from being ousted early on, it was decided to break down the field of 64 into 16 pods of four golfers. Each would play the other three in match play, not stroke play. Then the one from each group with the most wins would move on. See what I mean about confusion?

What’s clear is the pros who were beaten in matches the first day, defending champion Jason Day, Sunday’s Zurich Classic winner, Justin Rose and former PGA champ Keegan Bradley among them, are in a hole deeper than a pot bunker.

They need to win both their remaining matches and hope the guy who beat them — Marc Leishman in the case of Rose; Charley Hoffman, who whipped Day; Louis Oosthuizen, 6 and 5 over Bradley — loses one of his remaining matches.

“Obviously, I need to go out and win the next two,” agreed Day, after he was defeated 4 and 3 by Hoffman. “And whatever happens happens. If I sneak through, I sneak through. If not, it’s my own fault for losing.”

For Simpson it was no fault but plenty of credit and memories. A native and resident of North Carolina, he hadn’t been to the Bay Area in the three years since taking the Open. And, naturally, he wanted to let the good times roll, like any tourist. Well, not exactly like any tourist.

“I went to Olympic and recreated the chip and putt, just to mess around with that,” Simpson said looking quite pleased. “I may get in trouble because I didn’t go to the pro shop. It was just kind of meant to be. There was a spare cart with a wedge and two golf balls, and we just had to do it.”

The rest of us try that at a private course, and there are whistles blowing and bells ringing.

“We went out to the snack shop on the range to see if it was open,” Simpson said. “Nobody was open, but there was a lady unloading groceries.”

He asked for a burger. Sorry, couldn’t he see it was closed?

“I said, ‘I’ll pay you $50 for a burger. I need a burger.’”

For that amount she agreed, and then flippantly asked Simpson, “Did you win the U.S. Open or something?”

His comeback was beautiful. “Yes,” he said, “I did.” He got the burger. She got, no, not $50 but $48. That’s what Simpson had in his pockets. Along with a crisp $100 — yes, golf pros are different from us — but she didn’t want the C-note.

“The burger drew me in more than the golf course,” said Simpson. But when he saw the cart, he went over to the 18th green, dropped a ball and — oh, no! — chunked the shot. “But it was amazing being back.”

Simpson didn’t chunk any against Poulter, winning the first hole and never trailing. The golfer who knows how returns to The City That Knows How. Not a bad twosome.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on Email him at

About The Author

Art Spander

Art Spander

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at
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