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Simpson finishes strong, fails to unravel like others ahead of him at tricky Olympic

by | Senior Golf Columnist

Simpson takes control after those around him fumbled the opportunity. The result? Sweet glory. (Getty Images)  
Simpson takes control after those around him fumbled the opportunity. The result? Sweet glory. (Getty Images)  

SAN FRANCISCO -- The man, probably lubed up on a few too many $6 beers or some other intoxicating concoction, legal or otherwise, actually hijacked the awards ceremony and crowed like a rooster.

Maybe he should have yelled, cock-a-doodle-don't.

No sooner had the trophy been handed to the winner of the 112th U.S. Open begun than did some clown in a knitted Union Jack cap jump in front of the NBC cameras, dodging some of Dirty Harry's finest brethren, while behaving like some sort of raving San Francisco lunatic.

Although that term might be a bit redundant, you know, depending on the neighborhood.

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Forever vigilant, U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis, standing stoically nearby in a blue blazer, grabbed the knucklehead by his left arm and flung him to the ground, and the man eventually toppling into a greenside bunker on the 18th green, where the trophy ceremony was being staged.

Webb Simpson, cradling the chrome winner's trophy, watched and laughed as the cops hooked up the interloper in chrome bracelets and hauled him off to the hoosegow.

"Enjoy the jail cell, pal," Simpson cracked.

Simpson surely didn't mind his time in Davis' outdoor torture track, surviving one of the more exhausting final rounds in recent Open annals to survive, shooting his second successive 2-under 68 to win by a shot at 1-over par.

Simpson, 26, was playing in only his second Open and was six shots down after playing the first five holes in two over, but unlike the vast majority of the more decorated guys ahead of him on the leaderboard, managed to find some birdies on a tricky, tempestuous Olympic Club track.

Simpson, who claimed his third PGA Tour title in the past two seasons and his first major, never unraveled -- which could not be said for Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell or Padraig Harrington, who all had legit chances to seize control and fumbled the ball.

After blitzing the course at the turn with four birdies in a five-hole stretch starting at the sixth hole -- statistically the toughest of the week in scoring average -- Simpson did something the others couldn't. He hung on in classic fashion.

Sorta like Davis during his impromptu takedown at the ceremony.

A fan in the gallery actually yelled, and drew big laughs, with, "Nice tackle, Mike Davis."

There stood Simpson, having played in a grand-slam total of five majors, wondering whether the idiot was part of the postgame procession as he spoke with NBC's Bob Costas and the guy appeared out of nowhere.

"I thought he was part of it, because I've never won a major so I didn't know what to expect," Simpson laughed. "I saw some fury in Mike Davis' eyes."

The guy had been spotted around Olympic Club all day, spotted in the grandstands, and a USGA official said it sounded like he was yelling, "esophagus."

If there was any throat constriction from Simpson, it was hard to see.

"I think it was the most calm I have ever seen him," caddie Paul Tesori said. Well, externally, anyway. Simpson had butterflies the size of pterodactyls in his belly and could not help but think of Tiger Woods.

"One of my thoughts on the back nine was, I didn't know how Tiger won 14 of these things," he said. "I couldn't feel my legs."

Eventually, he was the last man standing, nonetheless. McDowell bogeyed two in a row, Harrington made a mess of the last, and Furyk and Els both bogeyed two of the last three holes.

He took the lead outright with a par at the 16th as other bungled shots around him, and made it look rather easy compared to the others. He had to wait 45 minutes for the final group to finish before the outcome was secured.

He and his wife, Dowd, sat at a card table in the men's locker room, watching videos of their 1-year-old son, James, to lessen the tension. Simpson had one eye on a high-def TV in the corner as McDowell stared at a 25-footer for a birdie to tie and force a playoff.

Simpson certainly wasn't flawless -- it was more of a trademark Open survival test. He hit only 12 greens in the final round, and eight of 14 fairways. He one-putted six greens in a row starting on No. 6 and added another key par-saver from three feet at the last.

There's no such thing as perfect at an Open, of course. Well, until the awards ceremony, anyway.

At a club named Olympic, Simpson gave out a perfect score for the takedown that Davis delivered on the party-crasher.

"It was definitely a 10," he said.


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