Simpson’s maiden triumph sends major message out to the likes of Lee

Webb Simpson’s wonderful final round fightback at the Olmypic Club on Sunday night not only boosted American hopes of a new era of golfing superiority ahead of this year’s Ryder Cup but also sent out a further warning to some of the more elderly members of golf’s elite.

Simpson US Open 2012

Webb Simpson has now capped an impressive past 18 months with a major tournament victory

This latest major trophy victory continued the run of what is now fifteen consecutive different winners of golf’s major competitions and provided further evidence that there are plenty of players on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour  now who are capable of winning and competing in majors.

This run of different major winners highlights just how competitive the top end of golf is at present and though that may provide great excitement and joy for golf fans all over the world it must surely worry the likes of Lee Westwood who managed yet another top 10 finish in a major at the Olympic Club this past weekend but again failed to capitalise on a promising position going into the final day of the tournament.

Having now competed in a total of 57 majors, Westwood  certainly has a great wealth of experience on his side when approaching the

Westwood US Open

Lee Westwood has now competed in 57 majors without success despite several flirtations with glory

showpiece events of the golfing calendar but this week  he showed great heart and great talent in San Fransisco but fell just short once again.

As always it has not been a question of whether Lee Westwood has the ability or the talent to win a major competition this past weekend but rather a case of whether he can land enough putts or get on lady luck’s good side on enough occasions to finally get the major tournament monkey off of his back.

There are certainly some real positives for ‘Westie’ to take out of another four days of being in genuine contention to win a major and it must be of some consolation to him that he once again competed strongly in one of golf’s toughest tests on a golf course so tough that Webb Simpson’s winning score for the competition was just 1 over par. However, moments like

Westwood lost ball US Open

Lee Westwood searches in vain for his lost ball up in the canopy of the trees on the 5th hole at the Olympic Club

when he smashed his tee shot into the trees on the fifth only to never see the ball again as it got stuck in the canopy must surely damage his self-confidence, which up until now he has maintained so adamantly and so stubbornly throughout his career. This drive on the 5th hole when his score stood at 2 over par, just one shot back from the eventual winning score, was yet another ‘what if’ moment for Lee in a career which has been full to the brim with such near misses and frustrations.

However, as much as many golf fans would love to see Westwood win a major after years and years of near misses it would be hard to argue that Webb Simpson wasn’t deserving of his triumph.

Having stuck in there throughout the first three days of the competition and having reached a tournament score of three over par thru three rounds, Simpson remained confident that a hard-earned under par round would put him in the mix having started the final round 4 shots back from Jim Furyk’s tournament lead and ultimately it did so and more.

If he had been asked honestly at the beginning of the final day’s play if he thought a round of 70 would win him the tournament outright he would have been forgiven for saying that it wouldn’t quite be enough but Simpson demonstrated tremendous self belief and did exactly what he needed to in order to win the tournament.

He got round in a couple of shots under par and posted a testing clubhouse lead, which added significant pressure to the final couple of holes of front-runners Graeme McDowell’s and Jim Furyk’s rounds, and on Furyk in particular the pressure told. A wayward drive on 16 cost Furyk his lead of the championship and handed the initiative to Simpson, who of course had no time left for mistakes having safely navigated his way into the clubhouse.

McDowell and Furyk

McDowell and Furyk both fought valiantly over the four days at Olympic Club but to little avail

In a way it was no surprise that Simpson managed to win his first major this past weekend in spite of him having to face-off with the likes of former US Open winners McDowell and Furyk and Lee Westwood who has competed at the business end of such tournaments on numerous occasions, as Webb Simpson has had a fine past year and a half and very much comes under the category of ‘bright, young things’ in American golf.

It wasn’t that long ago after all that Simpson went into the last PGA Tour event of last year locked in a straight shoot-out with world number one Luke Donald for the right to end the year at the top of the money list. He may have lost out in this first major face-off of his PGA Tour career but he will have learnt from this disappointment and the two ‘big’ tournament victories and the wealth of top 10 finishes he had achieved to put himself in the position where he could have topped the money list will have given him an enormous boost so early in his career.

So, as much as it would have been lovely to be sitting here reflecting on a third straight Northern Irish victory of the US Open or upon Westwood’s first ever major tournament success after more than a decade of close calls, it is important that Webb Simpson’s victory is not forgotten amidst British disappointment and that he is rightly congratulated for his success as he deserved to win the tournament having produced two wonderful rounds of golf over the weekend.

Simpson’s victory was the product of experience, form and self belief and it sends out a harsh reminder to the likes of Westwood and indeed someone like Tiger Woods that there are now a lot of very talented and mentally capable golfers coming to the fore (no pun intended), and indeed it sends out a reminder to the European team that the US will have a team full of quality and full of success stories come the Ryder Cup later this year.

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Rory looking to secure Major step towards emulating Tiger

With Rory Mcilroy currently destroying the field at Congressional it seems once again that a maiden Major title is well within his grasp. He is furthering his reputation as a major player and looks to be creating a trademark for himself with an unerring ability to consistently go low in the early rounds of golf’s premiere events. Such confidence and extreme scoring has again created a buzz around the young Northern Irishman comparable only to that which surrounded the young Tiger Woods fifteen years ago.

The master and the young pretender

Just as was the case with the young Tiger, Mcilroy is far from the finished article at the age of 22 and still has several areas of his game in need of refinement. This though is the major reason for the impression which Mcilroy is making. His potential is frightening, he is already going in to Majors and shooting unbelievable scores when his game is way short of what it could eventually prove to be. He may not yet be the model of consistency that fellow europeans Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer are, but more than these three appears to be making the greatest splash when it comes to major events in 2011. It is scary how at ease young Mcilroy seems amidst the excitement and anticipation which surrounds these events but in the wake of his final round capitulation at Augusta caution must be taken if Mcilroy is to break his major duck this weekend.

The hideous scenes in the final round at Augusta this year were painful to watch as Mcilroy relinquished his stranglehold on the title around Amen Corner. These uncomfortable scenes were emphasised by the host broadcaster’s apparent decision to spare the public from having to watch Mcilroy’s demise once he had slipped from a four shot lead going in to a few shots back from the lead. It was the toughest day of Mcilroy’s fledgling career but now holding a six shot lead at the halfway stage of the US Open it will be fascinating to see if he can prove he has learnt from his deadline day demons at the Masters. To secure his first major scalp at the very next attempt following his this disappointment would be some signal of intent, and one which could see Rory cement the changing of the guard amongst golf’s elite.

Rory's Masters Misery, will there be a repeat performance?

Rory has much to do in order to match the career achievements of the ailing Tiger Woods but there are some definite comparisons to be drawn. When they are in the zone and competing at the business end of events they bristle with verve, confidence and assurance. Mcilroy perhaps lacks the intensity which has forever been part and parcel of Woods’ game, but they both seem to possess a similar auror and authority. Perhaps the greatest compliment which could be paid to Mcilroy is that his game at this age is arguably more technically sound and certainly more maintainable than that of Woods. He is able to produce phenomenal length and greater accuracy all with a swing which places seemingly far less stress upon his body than that which Woods’ swing inflicts upon his own. One would hope that this will stand Rory in good stead in his quest for a career of longevity as he seeks to emulate the successes of his heroes, including those of the great Tiger Woods.

Is this the swing which will give Rory success coupled with longevity?

Rory is certainly taking a little longer than Woods did to become a consistent winner on tour, but his unmistakable talent and natural swing and ability have set him out on an exciting career path. It is yet to be seen whether he can go on to match Woods’ achievements but if he does it could prove to be achieved with more of a marathon than a sprint. Even if he doesn’t go on to match Tiger, it seems implausible that he won’t go on to become the number one in the world at some point in the not too distant future. With Woods’ future in the game looking ever more uncertain, there is a huge void at the top of the game for a real character capable of sending the galleries of the world’s tours into raptures. Rory certainly seems to have a similar effect on golf’s greatest audiences and the thought of a developing Mcilroy and a recuperating Woods battling it out at the peaks of their powers is wondrous if not a little romantic given Woods’ ill health, both physical and psychological.

This weekend will be a huge test of character for Mcilroy, and we await with baited breath to see if he can hold his nerve this time around. He possesses all the talent in the world, all he needs now to prove that he is a real force is a Major to his name and this Sunday evening could see him claim his first.