Simpson springs US Open surprise
American Webb Simpson, playing only the fifth major of his life, is the new United States Open champion as golf's ability to surprise added yet another chapter in misty San Francisco.
The 26-year-old came from four strokes back at the Olympic Club and then watched with his wife almost in disbelief when Graeme McDowell missed a 20-foot putt to tie on the final green.
Northern Ireland's 2010 champion was left as the only man who could deny Simpson after long-time leader Jim Furyk bogeyed three of the last six holes. Simpson, second to Luke Donald on last season's PGA Tour money list, becomes the ninth first-time winner in a row in the majors - and the 15th different winner in a row.
"I've never felt nerves like I felt today," he said after a closing 68 gave him a one-over total of 281. "I had to hit my legs because I couldn't feel them."
Simpson, who becomes the first recipient of the Jack Nicklaus Medal and moves up from 14th to fifth in the world, is also the third successive American champion in the majors. Keegan Bradley won the USPGA Championship last August - that was the first major he had ever played in - and two months ago, of course, Bubba Watson won The Masters.
McDowell's disappointment was there for all to see as he spoke after a three-over 73 dropped him from joint leader with Furyk at the start of the day into joint second with American qualifier Michael Thompson.
"It was grind and a slog, but I'll be back," said the 32-year-old from Portrush, who had so hoped to make it three Northern Irish wins in a row following Rory McIlroy's success last June.
"The pin on the 18th was brutal - it was tough to get it within 10 feet - but I'm proud of myself. I didn't have my A-game. I did a lot right, but this course does not allow you to get into a rhythm and it was a struggle."
It was Furyk who was really the one who let it slip away. Winner in 2003, the 42-year-old did not have a single birdie in his closing 74, but after staying in front with a 30-foot par putt on the 12th - McDowell followed him in from 25 for birdie - he finished poorly.
"I have no one to blame but myself," Furyk said. "It was my tournament to win and I didn't close it out." He finished joint fourth with fellow Americans David Toms, Jason Dufner and John Peterson and also Dubliner Padraig Harrington.