ARDMORE, Pa. — Webb Simpson felt the true weight this week of winning a U.S. Open championship.
He's been stopped by strangers, been interviewed with his trophy by his side, and quizzed about the bird man who interrupted his celebration.
But it was registering for this year's Open at Merion Golf Club when the feat really hit him.
"It brought back so many good memories of winning the tournament last year," he said Tuesday.
Simpson emerged from a fog-filled final round at Olympic Club in San Francisco with a 1-over 281 to win in only his fifth time at a major.
He hasn't won a tournament since, but it hasn't softened the impact the championship had on his career.
"There hasn't been a day that went by that I haven't thought about winning the U.S. Open, being the U.S. Open champion, being announced on the first tee as U.S. Open champion," he said. "That hasn't gotten old. I don't want that to change. So it's been a great year. It's been a fast year."
He recalled being crushed at the start of the week because he missed his son's first steps. By the time Simpson won the trophy, it turned out to be one of the best weeks of his life. His championship speech on the course was interrupted by a man who stepped in front of TV cameras and made bird noises.
"Usually that's the first question, tell me about bird man," Simpson said. "People thought that it took away from the ceremony. I thought it added to it. Everybody wants to talk about it. I got an official 'Bird Man' hat now. I don't think we'll be seeing him this week."
MUD BALLS: Merion is wet. The course is soft. And the balls are caked in mud.
That's a problem.
Players don't think it's fair that a round can potentially become affected by the ball landing in the slop. The PGA Tour will use a lift-clean-and-place rule in certain tournaments. The USGA, however, is unlikely to bend for the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.
"I hope they make the right call," Graeme McDowell said. "If it's picking up mud, then I think we need to lift, clean and place just for a level playing field. I'm not a guy that controls the mud ball very well. I'm a low spinner. Every time I get mud on the ball, my deviation gets quite heavy. I'm hoping they make the right call."
The U.S. Open could come down to fewest mud balls as much as birdies and bogies.
"I think mud balls are a problem. I think they're unfair," McDowell said. "I think golf is designed to be played from a closely mown fairway. If you hit it in that fairway you deserve a great line and a great opportunity to attack the green surface. That's the reward you get for hitting the fairway."
WICKER SHOCK: Resting atop the flag sticks, wicker baskets are the official symbol of Merion.