“To be honest, I never really wrapped my mind around winning,” said Simpson, who put together back-to-back rounds of 68 on Saturday and Sunday at The Olympic Club to finish one-over par and one stroke in front of former champion Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson.
Simpson came out on top on a day that saw former champion Jim Furyk lead most of the way, two-time champions Ernie Els and Retief Goosen make an impression on the leaderboard and Ireland’s three-time major winner Padraig Harrington make a late run.
If 14-time major champion Tiger Woods was conspicuously absent from the leaderboard, he was still on Simpson’s mind.
“One of my thoughts on the back nine was I don’t know how Tiger has won 14 of these things,” Simpson said. “I couldn’t feel my legs on the back nine.”
The affable 26-year-old from North Carolina, who won his first two titles on the US tour last year and challenged Luke Donald for the money title late last season, was playing just his second US Open.
‘I was nervous’
He wasn’t ashamed to admit to nerves — before the round, during the round and even after the round as he waited to see if McDowell or Furyk could force a playoff.
“I was so nervous all day, but especially there at the end,” said Simpson, who did a quick TV interview after his round then settled in with his wife Dowd in a quiet spot to watch the overnight leaders finish.
“We tried to watch videos of our son James that we have on our phone, and we did that to stay calm,” he said.
When McDowell’s putt to force a playoff slid past the hole, Simpson could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
The text messages of congratulations came flooding in, but Simpson said he was still having trouble getting to grips with his achievement. —
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