Simpson remembers the thrill of winning, wild scene of bird man, at US Open

  • Article by: DAN GELSTON , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: June 11, 2013 - 5:45 PM

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.

They're officially the biggest headache for caddies.

Sure, fans and Merion Golf Club traditionalists love the baskets. The flag sticks don't have flags, and the origin of the color-topped pins remains a mystery.

So also is the maker of the baskets. The club guards the secret so tightly that few know who crafts them.

"We'll never play anything like this," defending U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson said. "It's a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. It's just part of the tradition of Merion, part of the tradition of the club. When I was here in September they told me they were going to keep the wicker baskets and I was pretty excited about it."

While the baskets color up the course, they also stay as stationary as the sticks. Which way is the wind blowing? Might to have to try the ol' tested way of licking a finger to measure wind strength and direction. Wicker doesn't budge.

"It makes their job harder," Simpson said. "They might be a little on edge to keep their job this week. We like it because it's different. I honestly think it will make us make decisions quicker. We're sitting there a lot of times and we see one flag over here blowing that way and a flag over here blowing that way, we get confused and second guess."

It could still be tricky for Open contenders.

"You just have to commit and trust yourself, trust your caddie and trust you've got the wind right," former U.S. Open champ Rory McIlroy said.

___

HAD HIS PHIL: Phil Mickelson always knew he would be home in San Diego the day before the U.S. Open at Merion. Wet weather put him home a little early.

His daughter, Amanda, is graduating from the eighth grade on Wednesday and is a featured speaker. Mickelson left early due to rain at Merion, giving him a few days of practice in pristine weather.

He will fly back after the ceremony, in time for him to tee off at 7:11 a.m. at Merion.

Amanda is his oldest daughter. She was born the day after the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, where Mickelson carried a beeper and pledged to withdraw if his wife had gone into labor. That was the first of his record five runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open.

___

SAY UNCLE: Tiger Woods broke into a wide smile at first sight of the reporter who had a question for him.

This was no ordinary writer with a press pass.

She was Woods' niece.

Cheyenne Woods, a ringer for the day, made Woods laugh when she took a turn with the microphone.

"The U.S. Open is usually one of the most grueling weeks of golf," she said. "So what would you do off the course in order to be at ease and relax?"

Woods smiled and laughed and loosened up a Q&A that mostly focused on the U.S. Open and his beef with Sergio Garcia.

"Didn't expect that," he said. "Well, off the course, we have a great crew at the house and we're going to have fun. Tomorrow, make sure you're — is it 6:30 dinner? Is that all right? OK. Perfect."

___

LOVE, PHILLY: Tiger Woods obviously hasn't been booed in Philly.

Woods played in the AT&T National in suburban Philadelphia in 2010 and returned the next year to promote the tournament even though he couldn't play because of an injury.

Area golf fans who hadn't seen important golf in Philly for decades flocked to Woods and made him feel as loved as Julius Erving or Bob Clarke.

Woods returned the love Tuesday at Merion Golf Club.

"This is one of the great sporting towns in the country," he said. "They're passionate about all sports. We had our event at Aronimink and it was unbelievable. It was electric. I think this week will be the same thing."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 12/18/14 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Atlanta 22 1st Qtr 2:22
Cleveland 27
Phoenix 24 1st Qtr 1:10
Charlotte 31
Dallas 6:30 PM
Detroit
Utah 6:30 PM
Miami
Orlando 6:30 PM
Boston
Brooklyn 7:00 PM
Toronto
Memphis 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Milwaukee 9:00 PM
Portland
Houston 9:30 PM
Denver
Indiana 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Ottawa 1 1st Prd 7:10
New Jersey 0
Boston 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Dallas 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 15 1st Half 10:54
Ball State 6
SIU Edwardsville 10 1st Half 9:33
Campbell 13
St Francis-PA 27 1st Half 7:04
Duquesne 18
North Florida 15 1st Half 10:23
Florida State 18
Catawba 20 1st Half 7:16
George Mason 30
Ferrum 11 1st Half 10:25
High Point 17
Hampton 11 1st Half 7:09
Illinois 22
Gardner-Webb 29 1st Half 8:13
Jacksonville 19
Longwood 10 1st Half 10:44
Miami-Ohio 24
Arkansas State 24 1st Half 6:55
Miss State 21
Tennessee 22 1st Half 7:19
NC State 24
NC A&T 14 1st Half 7:54
Ohio State 27
Manhattan 9 1st Half 8:33
Pittsburgh 16
Robert Morris 12 1st Half 10:46
Toledo 19
Char Southern 19 1st Half 7:49
Wofford 11
Kennesaw St 28 1st Half 7:51
Youngstown St 23
Barber-Scotia 13 1st Half 10:16
NC Central 32
Detroit 6:30 PM
UCF
Liberty 6:30 PM
UNC-Wilmington
TX A&M-CC 7:00 PM
Denver
Ark-Pine Bluff 7:00 PM
Houston
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Illinois State
Milligan 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Abilene Christian 7:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
USC Upstate 7:00 PM
Memphis
Alcorn State 7:00 PM
Murray State
Central Mich 7:00 PM
Northwestern
Georgia State 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
TX-Pan American 7:00 PM
Saint Louis
Ill-Chicago 7:00 PM
SMU
Texas State 7:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
SC State 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Missouri State 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Chicago State 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Green Bay
Northern Colorado 7:00 PM
Nebraska Omaha
Winthrop 8:00 PM
Auburn
New Mexico St 8:00 PM
Baylor
San Diego St 8:00 PM
Cincinnati
Eastern Mich 8:00 PM
Michigan State
Loyola Marymount 8:00 PM
Stanford
Incarnate Word 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Northeastern 9:00 PM
Cal Poly
Central Arkansas 9:00 PM
New Mexico
Howard 9:00 PM
Pepperdine
Portland 9:30 PM
UNLV
CS-Northridge 10:00 PM
Oregon
Grambling St 10:00 PM
Washington
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 39 2nd Half 3:35
Chattanooga 46
Florida A&M 23 2nd Half
Southern U 37
Oklahoma 34 2nd Half
(13) Duke 42
Savannah State 19 2nd Half
Auburn 31
Northern Colorado 3 1st Half 9:39
South Florida 20
Youngstown St 11 1st Half 10:00
Robert Morris 17
Siena 25 1st Half 5:31
Sacred Heart 23
Vermont 22 1st Half 5:13
St Francis-NY 24
(1) South Carolina 25 1st Half 7:13
Hampton 16
Fla Gulf Coast 23 1st Half 8:03
Bethune-Cookman 12
Texas Southern 30 1st Half 7:42
Houston Baptist 18
Northwestern 22 1st Half 8:15
UNLV 21
NC A&T 13 1st Half 11:35
Appalachian St 19
NC Central 14 1st Half 6:00
Coastal Carolina 26
Drexel 23 1st Half 4:25
Quinnipiac 30
Cincinnati 20 1st Half 8:14
Northern Ky 18
Alabama State 18 1st Half 9:30
Georgia Tech 17
Morehead St 14 1st Half 10:31
USC Upstate 11
Arkansas State 4 1st Half 16:00
Kent State 9
American Univ 17 1st Half 6:00
Manhattan 17
UNC Greensboro 27 1st Half 5:08
St Bonaventure 27
Arkansas-Monticello 6:30 PM
Northwestern St
Prairie View 6:30 PM
Sam Houston St
McNeese State 7:00 PM
(3) Texas
Yale 7:00 PM
Wagner
Oakland 7:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Eastern Kentucky 7:00 PM
Alabama A&M
SIU-Edwardsville 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
McMurry 7:00 PM
TX-Arlington
Portland 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
North Texas 9:00 PM
San Francisco
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close