SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Webb Simpson returned to The Olympic Club for a memory and he wound up with so much more.
It was worth every penny.
Olympic is across Lake Merced from Harding Park, where the Match Play Championship is being held this week. Simpson had not been back to Olympic since he won the 2012 U.S. Open with a par save from the side of the 18th green. He wasn’t about to pass on the opportunity.
So he went there with a friend, and the first stop was the snack bar at the range. He saw a woman unloading groceries and she told him it was closed.
“I said, ‘I’ll pay you $50 for a burger,'” Simpson said.
The woman jokingly replied, “Did you win the U.S. Open or something?”
As she was making the burger, Simpson noticed a golf cart with a wedge and two golf balls. The original plan was for Simpson and his friend to have their picture taken on the 18th green, but this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“It was just kind of meant to be,” he said.
He drove off to the 18th green to recreate the chip shot that won him his only major. His approach wound up in a hole the size of a sprinkler head, and he hit a great shot to 3 feet for par and a one-shot victory over Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson.
“I chunked the first one, but we erased that video,” Simpson said. “So the one that we have was good. But it was amazing being back. I forget how small the green is, especially with no people and no scoreboard. But it was fun.”
As for the cost of that burger?
“So the funny part is I had either $48 or $100,” Simpson said. “And I’m thinking, ‘I can’t give her $48. I told her $50. I have to give her $100. And she didn’t take it. Her dad started cooking in the ’50s. She and her husband have a thing on the 18th hole. So she’s been in the business a long time. She appreciated the effort of the $100, but she didn’t take it.”
Simpson added another memory to the area. He beat Ian Poulter on the 16th hole on the first day of matches at Harding Park.
LEISHMAN OUTLOOK: Marc Leishman had a different outlook when he returned to competition last week in New Orleans, having gone through a harrowing experience when his wife, Audrey, had a life-threatening illness.
He said her recovery is going well — so well, in fact, that the entire family is coming to Florida next week for The Players Championship.
“She won’t be able to walk around the course probably at all,” Leishman said after his 3-and-2 victory over Justin Rose. “But she’s going to come down and we’re renting a house on the beach. She’s going to treat it as a bit of a holiday. It’s going to be a fun week to have her and the boys there, have us all together. This is the second week I’ve been away. It’s hard to be away, but it’s good that she’s well enough for me to be a way.”
His wife had strep throat that turned into pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Leishman said she also had a bladder infection that led to toxic shock. She was in a medically induced coma.
Now, she is doing well enough to get up and down the stairs. Doctors have said it will be a few more months before she’s fully recovered.
“It’s been a real eye-opener the last month,” he said. “They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I really feel like that. I feel like especially Audrey, she’s fought so hard to just be alive. And I feel like I owe it to her to be out here doing my best.
“But I don’t want to take it home with me — apart from trophies — baggage from the golf course,” he said. “I don’t want to go home and be in a bad mood or do that because I’m happy that she’s here and that we can spend our lives together again, which didn’t look like it was going to happen.”
OLD VS. NEW: Under the new round-round format, no one goes home until each four-man group has played against each other for three days.
It was still interesting to note which of the top seeds lost on the opening day. And there were plenty.
Four of the top-10 seeds lost Wednesday — Henrik Stenson (3), Justin Rose (6), Jason Day (7) and Adam Scott (9).
Meanwhile, it was the fourth time in the last six years that the No. 64 seed won in the first day of matches. The difference this time is that Francesco Molinari didn’t have to play the No. 1 seed, Rory McIlroy. There was a lottery draw to fill out the teams. Molinari wound up playing Scott, and beating him with ease, 5 and 4.
PAYBACK: Shane Lowry lost to good friend Graeme McDowell in his Match Play debut in 2013. They play a lot of practice rounds together, and Lowry is the one who is usually reaching for his wallet.
Wednesday was different.
Lowry never trailed, pulled ahead for good with a birdie on the 12th hole and hung on for a 1-up victory.
“I kind of owed him one,” Lowry said. “I play a lot of practice rounds with Graeme. To be honest, I don’t beat him very often, so it was nice to get one over on him today.”
DIVOTS: Five of the players making their Match Play debut won Wednesday — Anirban Lahiri, Ben Martin, Danny Willett, Marc Warren and Brooks Koepka. … Andre Iguodala, the sixth man for the Golden State Warriors, was helping the PGA Tour with social media while following the Jordan Spieth match. The Warriors, who swept New Orleans in the first round, were off Wednesday. … Lee Westwood had five bogeys and a double bogey in his 1-up victory over Matt Every.
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