Joined The Augusta Chronicle in 1996 after spending nine years at The Aiken Standard. Served as copy editor, South Carolina bureau chief and Metro Editor before being named Sports Editor in April 2000.
Posted June 19, 2012 12:59 am

U.S. Open: Final thoughts

SAN FRANCISCO -- I'm sitting in the San Francisco airport, waiting for my red-eye flight home. After eight exciting days in this city for the U.S. Open, I am ready to be home.

First, though, some final thoughts on the week and what transpired. Let's do it day by day:

Monday, June 11: Great travel day and I arrived in San Francisco early. I took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, their version of MARTA) and went downtown. I was a total tourist with a cable car ride and a lengthy visit to Fisherman's Wharf. In N Out Burger for a late lunch, can't beat that.

Tuesday, June 12: First visit to Olympic Club and I get there in time to see Jack Fleck and Billy Casper talking about their victories there in 1955 and 1966, respectively. U.S. Opens at Olympic have strange finishes. What does Olympic have up here sleeve this time? Capped the night with a great visit with my friend Glenn that included dinner (Davis Love III was among those waiting outside our restaurant) and an amazing one-man comedy act.

Wednesday, June 13: I arrive at media center and hear the words "Jack Nicklaus is in the media center." Have I just won the lottery? No, but this is an unexpected bonus. The USGA announces that it is naming the gold medal it gives winners of the U.S. Open the Jack Nicklaus Medal. Plus, the USGA is building a wing at its museum in New Jersey to showcase Nicklaus's achievements.  This sways my pre-tournament pick and I go with Tiger Woods, who normally does great things when Jack is around. That night, we are invited to Art Spander's house for a party. He and his wife Liz are celebrating 50 years of marriage. Great time, even if we missed out on a chance to see a perfect game at AT&T Park. If I'm going to miss one, let it involve the Giants. I'm a Dodgers fan.

Thursday, June 14: I get to see most of Olympic's layout and I'm impressed. Tight fairways, small greens, heavy rough. My fantasy team includes Lee Westwood and Jason Dufner, among others, and Woods. Michael Thompson is surprise leader with 66, but that's not unusual at a major. Plenty of guys get off to a great start in a major, but few sustain it. Hometown boys Charles Howell and Blake Adams are respectable with 72s.

Friday, June 15: Thompson falters, and Woods takes a share of the lead with Jim Furyk and David Toms. The media center is going crazy with scribes predicting a Woods triumph. I wonder if I will need to contact the Nicklaus folks to get a comment on Woods inching closer to Jack's record of 18 majors. I decide to wait. Meanwhile, Blake Adams puts up a 70 and comfortably makes the cut in his first major. Howell misses the cut.

Saturday, June 16: A wild day if I've ever seen one at the U.S. Open. It's moving day, but Woods is going the wrong direction. He never has it and stumbles to 5-over 75. Blake Adams opens bogey, double bogey, bogey, but plays next 15 holes in 4-under fashion. He's in the hunt! John Peterson makes an ace while playing with his fellow LSU alum and idol David Toms. When the fog lifts, Furyk and Graeme McDowell, a pair of U.S. Open winners, are at the top. Also lurking are Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, amateur Beau Hossler and some other guys like Thompson, Adams and Webb Simpson.

Sunday, June 17: Final round, and the fog has really set in. Beautiful weather all week, if you don't mind wearing long pants and a pullover in June. (I don't). How will Olympic curse the leaders this time? No 54-hole leader at Olympic has gone on to win, but come on. This is Furyk and McDowell. These guys are cool and can play. First to go is Woods, who is all over the place on Olympic's opening six. To his credit he rallies for 73, but another missed opportunity. Adams, the local from just outside of Swainsboro, can't catch a break and bogeys the first six holes. To his credit, he rallies for 75 and ties Woods for the tournament. (I bet a lot of people would have taken a tie with Woods going into Olympic.) Then the goofy stuff starts happening. Lee Westwood's ball is swallowed by a tree. Jim Furyk hits one of the worst shots of his career at the 16th. Padraig Harrington makes bogey on the final hole. Thompson, who held the first-round lead with 66, posts 67 to get in the clubhouse at 2-over. But hold on Webb Simpson is making a charge of pars at Olympic. He pars the final eight holes and gets in at 1-over. Now, only Furyk or McDowell can tie him. Furyk hits his approach at 18 into the bunker. Bye, bye. He's lucky to make bogey. McDowell hits it above the cup, roughly 25 feet, and his putt doesn't come close. Webb Simpson, a Charlotte guy who played at Wake Forest, is your U.S. Open champion. Olympic has delivered an unexpected champion once again.

Monday, June 18: My last day of the trip, and I decide to go into the big city one final time. I take the BART to the Embarcadero area and mull around at the Ferry Building. Too much healthy food for me (organic stuff and all that, you know). So I hop the ferry and go to Sausalito, where 14 years ago my wife and I visited. We always joked about the tour bus driver touting one of the local burger establisments as being the best, then we saw why when he stopped in for his "free" burger. Sure enough, the place was still there. And the cheeseburger was just as delicious. On the ferry ride I got to see Alcatraz from a distance and the Golden Gate Bridge.

San Francisco is my favorite city I've ever visited, but admittedly I haven't traveled a lot. But I know I am fortunate to have traveled some, and I look forward to my next adventure.

Philadelphia, site of the 2013 U.S. Open, anyone?