WFU’s Simpson wins U.S. Open

Webb Simpson (’08) watched the final moments of U.S. Open golf action on Sunday sitting in the clubhouse next to his wife, Dowd (’07).

Simpson, playing only his fifth major, already had finished with his second straight round of 68. He and Dowd could only watch and wait to see if Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell could match his score.

Furyk struggled on the final holes, but McDowell had a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to force a playoff. When it missed, Dowd squeezed Webb’s arm and covered her mouth. Her hand’s attempt to keep her calm was quickly betrayed by a big smile, a shocked Webb said, “Oh, wow,” and they shared a hug and kiss.

Simpson won his first major, becoming only the fifth champion to shoot two rounds in the 60s on the weekend. After finishing second in the FedEx Cup standings last season (behind former Demon Deacon Bill Haas), Simpson, 26, is now firmly entrenched among golf’s top players.

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Arnold Palmer, Webb Simpson

Webb Simpson (right) talks with Arnold Palmer in 2011 when Wake Forest named its newly renovated golf complex in honor of Palmer.

Simpson’s victory came at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, the same course where Wake Forest legend Arnold Palmer suffered one of his most heart-wrenching defeats in 1966. Simpson attended Wake Forest on a scholarship provided by Palmer, and he made sure to give thanks in his victory speech on the 18th green.

“Arnold has been so good to me,” Simpson said. “Just the other day, I read that story and thought about it. He’s meant so much to me and Wake Forest. Hopefully, I can get a little back for him and make him smile.”

Palmer told USA TODAY Sports: “(Webb’s) a great representative of the game of golf. He’s a wonderful man. And golf is better off for him playing so well.” (read more)

Palmer told John Dell of the Winston-Salem Journal: “(Webb) is an outstanding representative of Wake Forest.” (read more)

Simpson, a Raleigh native, is the third former Wake Forest golfer to win the U.S. Open, following Curtis Strange (1988 and ’89) and Palmer, who won in 1960. Wake Forest golfers have now won 12 major titles.

Simpson closed his final round with a difficult par save from the fringe of the 18th green.

“I’m so happy for Webb,” said Wake Forest coach Jerry Haas (read more from Haas in the Winston-Salem Journal). “His swing looks great, and he looked so composed down the stretch. If you want to sum him up, how about that up-and-down at the last hole? That’s a perfect example of what it takes to win at that level. He’s got a great short game. I’m so proud of him. He’s a great young man and a great ambassador for Wake Forest.”

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Dowd Keith Simpson (’07) majored in communication and theatre, participated in the University Theatre and the Lilting Banshees comedy group and graduated cum laude. She comes from a truly Wake Forest family: father Greg (’78, JD ’81), mother India (’77, JD ’81), brother Graeme (’08) and sister Tanner (’07 to ’09) all were Demon Deacons.

Webb and Dowd shared the week together, their first time away since 16-month-old son, James, was born. Dowd, though 7½ months pregnant, walked all 72 holes on the hilly course with Webb.

“It was a challenge,” she told ESPN’s Bob Harig (read more). “This golf course is hard to walk whether you are pregnant or not. But I didn’t miss one hole. I was here Thursday to Sunday and just love being able to do that.”

Now she and Webb will have something new for James to play with when they return home to Charlotte — the U.S. Open trophy.

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