Webb Simpson joined the most important fraternity in golf Sunday at The Olympic Club with a flourish of birdies and a steady diet of pars at the end. The last one came from a delicate chip out of a hole in the rough to 3 feet that wound up being the decisive stroke in the U.S. Open.
On a leaderboard loaded with possibilities, his name did not stand out. Simpson was playing in only his fifth major, and his second U.S. Open. He had missed the cut in his last two tournaments. And he was six shots out of the lead when he walked off the fifth green with his second bogey of the day.
Some four hours later, Simpson sat in the clubhouse with his pregnant wife, Dowd. They tried to take their mind off the finish by watching videos of their young son, James, who stayed behind in North Carolina. She squeezed tight on his hand as they watched Jim Furyk hit into the bunker on the 18th to eliminate his chances, and then Graeme McDowell miss a 25-foot birdie putt that would have forced a playoff.
"If I was honest with you, I believed in myself [that] I could win a major, but maybe not so soon," Simpson said. "And I just gained all the respect for the guys who have won multiple majors because it's so hard to do. The level of pressure is so much greater than a regular event."
"I probably prayed more the last three holes than I ever did in my life," said Simpson, a religion major at Wake Forest.
Simpson won twice last year on the PGA Tour and lost a shot at the money title in the final round of the year. Even so, the 26-year-old had been quiet this year, and didn't have high expectations even as he played the final round.
"I never really wrapped my mind around winning," Simpson said. "This place is so demanding, and so all I was really concerned about was keeping the ball in front of me and making pars. The course is so hard, you don't know if you're going to make three or four bogeys in a row."
Simpson is the 15th player who has won the past 15 majors, the kind of parity golf hasn't seen since a similar streak 14 years ago that ended with Lee Janzen's win at Olympic Club in 1998.
U.S. Open a ratings hit
The U.S. Open's return to prime time boosted its television ratings.
Sunday's final round earned a 6.6 overnight rating and 13 share on NBC. The network said Monday that was up 29 percent from last year, when the coverage started and ended earlier with the tournament on the East Coast.