At the 8th he three-putted from 35 feet.
"A real downer," he said. At the par-5 9th Simpson stuck an eight-iron shot six feet from the hole and drilled the putt to get back to 12 under. "There were so many guys near the lead and so much golf to play, I didn't think it would hold up," he said, "but I wasn't going anywhere."
He hunkered down with his family and a handful of friends and watched in disbelief as one player after another gave away the tournament. First up was Tiger Woods, who had been in the hunt ever since a second-round 66. But on Sunday he missed a 2�-footer for par at the 15th and a short birdie putt at 17 and wound up tied for third, one stroke shy of the playoff. "Dodged a bullet there," said Simpson.
Love's fade was even more egregious. He was 12 under with six holes to play, including a pair of docile par-5s, when he developed a terminal case of the hooksies. Two bogeys later he too finished in third. "Really thought it was Davis's tournament," said Simpson.
Kevin Sutherland, groping for his first Tour victory, could have joined the playoff if he had made an eight-footer for birdie on the 54th hole, but his putt never scared the cup. However, his playing partner, Kendall, got up and down from a green-side bunker for a clutch birdie and strong back nine of 32. Sudden death.
Futzing around the locker room, Simpson grabbed his putter and sprinted to the practice green to relocate his touch. "Don't want to pull a Kenny Perry," he said, referring to the '96 PGA, when Perry chose to watch from a TV tower instead of warming up for a playoff he would eventually lose.
On the shortish par-5 18th, both Simpson and Kendall drove safely, with Kendall away. A 33-year-old journeyman from Milwaukee who had never finished higher man third, Kendall hit a heroic three-wood to 20 feet. Simpson bombed his approach pin-high but into some deep weeds right of the green. After flopping adroitly to four feet, Simpson nailed the putt with the nerve of someone half his age. Kendall, meanwhile, had left his eagle attempt stressfully short, and the putt that followed spun out.
"This is a great thrill," a moist-eyed Simpson said while standing on the 18th green. His father, Joe, was at his side weeping happily. It was suggested to Simpson that this win should elevate his expectations, particularly with the U.S. Open's return this summer to the Olympic Club in San Francisco, the site of his greatest triumph. This brought a grin.
"I wasn't sure if I was ever going to win again. I think I'm going to take it one tournament at a time," he said, offering what should be a refrain for the rest of the star-crossed West Coast swing.