Webb double in trouble

Only six players have ever done the double of United States and British Open titles in the same year, but Webb Simpson may not even try to join them.

Wednesday, 20th June 2012, 9:11 am

The 26-year-old American, whose closing 68 in San Francisco made it an incredible nine first-time winners in a row in the majors, has a decision to make on Royal Lytham.

Golf’s next major starts four weeks tomorrow and Simpson’s wife Dowd is expecting their second child in six weeks.

“Officially I don’t know yet,” he said after beating compatriot Michael Thompson and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell by a shot at the Olympic Club.

“The next eight weeks are going to be up in the air. We’re going to see what we can do.”

His wife gave a more revealing answer, however.

“I don’t think he is going to play the British Open just in case I go into labour,” she told reporters. “It would make Webb too nervous to hop over the pond and then have to try to get back.”

Family is always going to come first, but Simpson (pictured right) must be sorely tempted to try to emulate the feat of Bobby Jones (1926 and 1930), Gene Sarazen (1932), Ben Hogan (1953), Lee Trevino (1971), Tom Watson (1982) and Tiger Woods (2000).

His first-ever round in the championship was a 66 at Sandwich last year. It put him only one off the lead but he went on to finish 16th.

Last week was only the fifth major of his career, but he had no reason to believe that that barred him from being a contender – Keegan Bradley won the USPGA Championship last August at his first attempt.

Simpson was six behind with 13 holes to play, but four birdies in five holes form the sixth brought him into the hunt, and the errors of others then made him champion in a real war of attrition.

McDowell, winner in 2010 and trying to make it three Northern Irish victories in a row after Rory McIlroy’s runaway triumph last year, trailed playing partner Jim Furyk most of the day.

Furyk opened the door with three bogeys in the last six holes, but McDowell dropped shots himself at the 13th and 14th, and after making a 10-foot putt on the long 17th, he needed another birdie on the last to force a play-off.

The Ryder Cup hero gave himself a chance from 20 feet, but it was not to be.

“One of my thoughts on the back nine was ‘I don’t know how Tiger has won 14 of these things because of the pressure’,” said Simpson.

“It grew my respect for Tiger all the more.

“When Graeme missed, and I realised I had won, I just shook my head in disbelief.”

Simpson was part of the US side which won the amateur Walker Cup at Royal County Down in 2007.

But McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson were the big names there and Simpson did not win any of his games.

He lost twice in singles to England’s David Horsey, but in the opening foursomes he finished with an outrageous eagle putt officially given at 37 yards for a half against Danny Willett and Jamie Moul.

Simpson’s first PGA Tour victory did not come until last season, but he quickly followed it with another, and looked like topping the money list until Luke Donald won the final event, and then won three times with Bubba Watson on his Presidents Cup debut.

Now they are the last two major champions and part of a fabulous sequence, not just of first-time winners, but also different winners. That makes it 15 in a row going back to Padraig Harrington at the 2008 USPGA Championship.

Less than a year ago, American golfers had not won any of the previous six majors.

Now they have won the last three through Bradley, Watson and Simpson. Lytham will be a chance to complete the set. Whether the US Open champ is there remains to be seen.