McCabe: Positive byproducts of Simpson's win
SAN FRANCISCO – A win of the major-championship variety not only brings with it a lot of fame and fortune. There are a number of positive byproducts, too.
Consider Webb Simpson’s caddie, Paul Tesori. He not only deserves a great deal of credit for helping fine-tune Simpson’s game since they began working together in late 2010, but he can say that Sunday’s victory at the U.S. Open takes care of two career goals.
He had always wanted to be on the bag for a major-championship win and to work in the Ryder Cup.
Simpson’s performance at The Olympic Club definitely took care of the first goal and should handle No. 2, too. Presently, Simpson is third in the Ryder Cup standings with 4,421.465 points – a sum that is virtually a lock to make the top eight. (That total would have placed him fifth in 2008 and second in 2010, and he’s got two months to add to it.)
There’s also the U.S. Open factor, because you’d have to go back to 1983, when Larry Nelson won, to find a Ryder Cup year in which the U.S. Open winner, if eligible, didn’t play in that fall’s matches. (Barring injury, of course, because that kept Tiger Woods out of action in 2008.)
Graeme McDowell in 2010 enjoyed U.S. Open and Ryder Cup glory, and Woods in 2002 won at Bethpage and played that fall in the Ryder Cup. Americans won the U.S. Open in 1999 (Payne Stewart), 1995 (Corey Pavin), 1993 (Lee Janzen), 1991 (Stewart), 1989 (Curtis Strange), 1987 (Scott Simpson) and 1985 (Andy North) to solidify their Ryder Cup spots that same year.
When Tesori revealed the news, it was surprising, because with so much time spent on Vijay Singh’s bag, the assumption is he must have had a major in there somewhere. But, no.
“We had 15 wins, but I wasn’t there for any of the majors,” Tesori said of Singh’s major wins in the 1998 PGA, 2000 Masters or 2004 PGA.
He hasn’t been in the right spot at the right time, either, because though Tesori has carried in six Presidents Cups (for Singh and Sean O’Hair), he has yet to feel the Ryder Cup pressure.
• • •
FULL ROUTE WORKED FOR HIM: With Patrick Cantlay the latest to leave college early, it’s refreshing to go back to 2009, Simpson’s rookie year on Tour, and recall what he said about why he stayed all four years at Wake Forest.
“I didn’t want to leave until I knew I was ready,” Simpson said. “I wasn’t ready after two (years), and I wasn’t ready after three. I needed a little more time to keep improving. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made.”
• • •
A LITTLE SOFT-SHOE ROUTINE: Simpson did something Payne Stewart was unable to do: convert his chance to win a U.S. Open at The Olympic Club.
Later that night, he did something Stewart did do: he slipped his feet into his sneakers and discovered that a very ripe banana had been placed in there.
“I had to explain the story to him,” Tesori said. “He got a good laugh out of it.”
The architect of the practical joke was Steve “Pepsi” Hale, Keegan Bradley’s caddie. Hale remembers how Stewart, an all-world practical joker, used to go back and forth with Paul Azinger with the banana-in-the-shoe joke. They pulled it on each other, and they joined forces once to play it on Lee Janzen when he won the 1993 U.S. Open at Baltusrol.
• • •
GIVE US BACK OUR PAR 5s: Safest bet of the year: Golfers who played in the 112th U.S. Open will run, not walk, to the tee box the next chance they get to play a par 5 on Tour. That’s because now that they’ve been battered and bruised by the massive 16th at The Olympic Club, everything else will seem like a picnic.
How difficult was it? Consider first that the field average for four rounds was 5.382, ranking fifth-most difficult. There were nearly five times as many bogeys, doubles and others (173) as there were birdies (36). And then there’s this: When all the data had been crunched, only 42.8 percent reached the green in regulation.
Yes, it was a brute. So demanding, in fact, that it helped skewer a stat that usually is tipped in the players’ favor. But instead of using the par 5s as their scoring holes, most players came away at just 1 under or level or even 1 over in playing the par-5 16th and par-5 17th. Most of that damage, of course, came at the 16th, because the 17th proved the easiest scoring hole.
Three players – Steve Stricker, Nick Watney and Jason Day – did go 4 under on the par 5s, while Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell were 3 under.
But more players struggled. Jason Bohn went 6 over on those holes, Joe Ogilvie was 3 over and six others all went 2 over, including major winners Keegan Bradley and Charl Schwartzel.
• • •
STRANGE ROUTE TO U.S. OPEN: We doubt he is doing this by design, but Kevin Chappell has an interesting way of leading himself into the U.S. Open.
In 2011, Chappell’s six tournaments before going to Congressional CC resulted in a WD, two missed cuts and two finishes outside the top 40.
This time around, his six tournaments before The Olympic Club saw him miss four cuts and finish outside the top 35 twice.
Of course, he’s shown that he does have the U.S. Open somewhat figured out – a T-3 a year ago and a T-10 this year, which earns him an exemption into the 2013 affair at Merion.
• • •
Ah, the red numbers will return to the PGA Tour scene with this week’s Travelers Championship at the cozy and delightful TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. Let the birdies rain down, but before we do, some statistical reminders of the brutal challenge that was The Olympic Club and the 112th U.S. Open:
TOUGHEST FAIRWAY TO HIT: Statistically, it was the short, uphill par-4 seventh, where only 21.3 percent of the field played from the short grass. But that’s deceiving, because the play was to rip it up there as far as possible, possibly onto the green, but it was OK to be in the front bunkers or short, right in the rough. For a fairway that players were actually trying to hit, it was most difficult to find the fourth; only 33.1 did so.
TOUGHEST GREEN TO HIT: That would be the one at the end of the 489-yard sixth. Only 19.7 percent of the field found it in regulation. No. 5, a 498-yarder, was next, at only 28.1 percent.
GIVE THE MAN A GPS: South African Branden Grace hit 10 fairways. Pretty good, you say? Well, we’re talking for the tournament! That’s right, 10 of 56, which includes a doughnut in Round 2 when he went 0-for-14.
AND HE WASN’T MUCH BETTER: Steve LeBrun failed to find a fairway in his fourth round, though he managed to shoot 75. For the tournament, LeBrun found 18 fairways.
THINK THE GREENS WERE TESTY?: A whopping 29 players averaged at least 30 putts per round.
NO FUN WHEN YOU CAN’T DRAW CIRCLES: Ian Poulter placed last in birdies made, with just four. Two came at the 18th, one at 11, one at 17. He did, however, manage to eagle the par 4 seventh, so it wasn’t all for naught on the front.
AND THE LEFT-HANDER CAN COMMISERATE: He usually makes five birdies in a round, so it was a different sort of tournament for Phil Mickelson. That was his output for the week.
GUYS, LET ME SHOW YOU HOW TO PLAY THIS HOLE: When all was said and done, nine strokes separated Simpson (1 over) and Hunter Mahan (10 over). Most of that difference came at the par-4 sixth, where Simpson went 1 under and Mahan 7 over. Of course, Tiger Woods (4 over) didn’t exactly shine at the sixth, either.
MIXED EMOTIONS: As much as he chopped up the fourth and 16th holes (8 over combined), Ernie Els has the par-4 seventh down pretty well (two eagles, two birdies).