Nine of the last nine majors have been won by first time winners. Does this mean these premier events have become a game of chance or is this a testimony to the depth of young talent with mature competitive instincts that now pervades the game of golf?
Webb Simpson put on an unflappable 68-68 performance the last two days showing patience and resolve on Sunday after bogeying two of the first five holes. Four birdies over the next five followed by eight straight pars proved that, at 26 years old, he has what it takes to win on a U.S. Open course setup.
As you can read in John Garrity’s SI article attached, the USGA was determined to reclaim the U.S. Open’s spot as the toughest test in the game after last year’s scoring mishap at Congressional. So the real winner this weekend was the USGA whose head croupier Mike Davis set up a stern but fair test that would examine all the golfing skills of the greatest players in the game.
One fairway bunker, no water hazards, 7100 yards, yet no one was winning this one without great risk-reward judgment, the ability to move the ball in both directions on demand, and a willingness to accept the odd bad break and move on.
As to bad breaks, how about the Cypress tree on the 5th hole swallowing Lee Westood’s errant drive that did the same to Lee Janzen 14 years ago. This time the tree failed to regurgitate the ball and the double bogey that ensued banished Lee once again to the land of no majors.
Best story of the week has to be 17-year old Beau Hossler’s continued presence on the top side of the leader board in a major championship. He too had a bogey skein in the first five holes but managed to make three more birdies before finally falling victim to the pressure on the back nine. His attitude and his bunker play was that of a grizzled veteran not a high school junior. Somehow I don’t think he will be looking at those high school matches with the same reverence.
In the end the guy who could handle the USGA’s enormous pressure cooker prevailed. Simpson’s up and down for par from a knotty lie next to the eighteenth green showed remarkable aplomb in the face of a career defining challenge.