Graeme McDowell admitted to frustration and pride after losing out in the US Open by a shot to Webb Simpson.
McDowell had a putt on the last to force a play-off but saw it follow the pattern of bad bounces and missed opportunities that marred his day. “I feel a mixture of emotions, disappointment, deflation, pride, but mostly just frustration because I hit three fairways all day. It’s not like I drove the ball awful. I just seemed to hit it in the semi-rough all day long.
“I was proud of the way I hung in, the putt I made on 17 and just to give myself half a chance on 18. I missed that fairway by a foot and my ball's sitting down in the right semi so I hit it about as close as I possibly could. And that putt, it was weird, because it bumped left. I hit that putt in practice and it moved right of the hole. It just didn't do that today.”
After four days of painfully attritional golf the 112th US Open finally contrived a dramatic end. Simpson was in the locker room with everything crossed as McDowell, playing in the final group with Jim Furyk, lined up his 20-footer. The course was by now enveloped by a dense mist blowing off the Pacific in sympathy with the grim spectacle this tournament had been.
Simpson had carded a second successive 68, one of the few to post a sub par score on the final day, to lead in the clubhouse by one. McDowell birdied the 17th and, like Furyk, needed another at the last. Furyk fell first finding a greenside bunker with his approach. McDowell was left with an awkward slider down the slope. The ball looked to be all over the hole until the final 18 inches, whereupon it straightened and rolled by on the left. McDowell tapped in. Simpson fell into the arms of his wife.
It had been a remarkable ascent. Eighteen months ago he had yet to break into golf’s top 200. The rapid progress of last year appeared to have stalled in 2012 until Olympic Club, where the overly penal set-up did for most of the game’s elite players. The U.S Open is predicated on precision and rigour. This course, with its cambered doglegs and small greens, is difficult enough without the ridiculous footprint imposed upon it by the United States Golf Association.
They shaved the fairway into narrow slivers inviting caprice to determine outcomes instead of skill. Half the 73 players that made the cut were qualifiers. The world’s highest ranked players were tossed aside in a blizzard of weird bounces. Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, the world ranked no.1 and no.2, Masters champion Bubba Watson and last week’s winner Dustin Johnson were sacrificed not because they played badly necessarily but because the course took away their skill with random variables.
No blame attaches to Simpson. He did his job, but not without a nod and a wink from fate. “I never really wrapped my mind around winning. This place is so demanding, and so all I was really concerned about was keeping the ball in front of me and making pars. The course is so hard you don't know if you're going to make three or four bogeys in a row. When Graeme missed on 18 and I realized I had won, I just kind of shook my head in disbelief. ”
Lee Westwood, who started the day three shots off the lead, has spent a career doing that. Yesterday was no different after seeing his ball claimed by a Monterrey Pine on the same fifth hole that almost did for Lee Janzen 14 years ago. Janzen’s ball fell from the tree as he made his way back to the tee. Westwood’s didn’t. A double bogey and a tie for tenth was his reward. “You could’ve understood it if my tee shot was way off line, but it was on the perfect line. You’ve got to cut that corner and try to hold it up against that slope, because the fairway is so severe. It ended getting stuck up in the pine needles. It was hard to get any momentum going after that.”