LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Golf has a new champion. The U.S. Open ended last night with a surprise victory by Webb Simpson, winning by one stroke over a crowded field of past champions and big names. It's his first major championship. He is 26 years old.
USA Today's Christine Brennan joins us. She watched the Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. Good morning, Christine.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Good morning, Linda.
WERTHEIMER: Now, Webb Simpson was hardly on the leader board until the final few hours of Sunday's fourth round. So, how big a surprise is this?
BRENNAN: Very big surprise, Linda. Just as the fog rolled in at Olympic Club, so too did Webb Simpson - unexpected, out of the blue. He was in the fourth to last group teeing off on Sunday and yet he ended up being the last man standing when everyone else faltered. He shot magnificent rounds on the weekend, a 68. Two under par on Saturday. Another 68 on Sunday under the extreme pressure of the U.S. Open. Four under total on the weekend to win his first major title, as you mentioned.
And he did with four birdies in five holes in the middle of his round. And then steady Eddie, eight straight pars to finish off the major championship. It really was a remarkable and surprising result at the U.S. Open.
WERTHEIMER: Christine, a couple previous U.S. Open champions were leading coming into the final round. What happened to them?
BRENNAN: Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell just did not play well. The pressure got to them. Jim Furyk had no birdies at all during the entire day and had a crucial mistake off of the tee on the 16th hole. Duck hooked a drive just like some weekend duffer and couldn't recover, and that's when he finally lost the lead.
And Graeme McDowell had trouble all day, fought back at the very end. Hit a 24-foot putt to try to tie Webb Simpson on the last hole. If he'd made it, it would've gone into a Monday playoff. But he missed. He finished tied for second overall.
WERTHEIMER: While we are asking what happened to people, what in the world happened to Tiger Woods? He was leading for two days.
BRENNAN: A great question. (unintelligible) leader at the halfway point, it was wide open for Tiger Woods and he blew it. He bogeyed four of his first eight holes on Saturday when he teed off. And then on Sunday, he lost six strokes to par in six holes. This is the kind of stuff that Tiger Woods never used to do, and it leads a lot of us to wonder what's wrong. And it's now been four years since he's won a major.
Everyone knows about the scandal and the injuries that he's had. But it's clear that Tiger Woods is not back and Tiger Woods is not the Tiger Woods of old. And we certainly saw that with a very uneven performance, finishing tied for 21st in the U.S. Open. And I think he should've won.
WERTHEIMER: Now, the course looked incredibly difficult on television, except that there were some miraculous birdies every once in a while. Did it feel difficult in person?
BRENNAN: Oh, absolutely. It's built into a hill right by the Pacific Ocean - beautiful setting. So you've got all of these side hill, downhill, up hill lies. The players are trying to hit these incredible shots that there's just no way they're going to be able to pull them off. Twice, top players had golf balls get stuck in trees and they never fell out.
This isn't a pitch and putt. This isn't easy and in many ways it's like a chess match, where they have to place the ball at certain points, or else the ball will roll right off the green. And so, I think those of us who play a little bit of golf enjoy watching these guys get tested in the most severe way.
WERTHEIMER: Christine Brennan is a sports columnist for USA Today and she joined us from San Francisco. Christine, thank you so much.
BRENNAN: Linda, thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.