Published Monday, 18 June 2012
Graeme McDowell and Webb Simpson look down at the US Open trophy (© Getty)
Simpson, who was playing only the fifth major of his life, was crowned the surprised champion on Sunday after a closing 68 gave him a one-over total of 281 at a misty Olympic Club.
The 26-year-old clinched his maiden major title after coming from four strokes back.
He was in the clubhouse when McDowell found himself two behind with two to play.
The 2010 champion was left as the only man who could deny Simpson after long-time leader Jim Furyk bogeyed three of the last six holes.
The Portrush golfer kept his chances of winning a second US Open title alive by sinking a 10-foot birdie putt on the long 17th before he agonisingly missed a 20-foot putt on the final green.
McDowell, who was joint leader when he started the final round, finished in a tie for second, along American qualifier Michael Thompson, after his three-over 73.
The joint runner-up moves up from 21st to 11th in the world ahead of his return to Royal Portrush for the Irish Open later this month.
I don't fear success. I only fear failure really - we all do.
Simpson becomes the ninth first-time winner in a row in the majors - and the 15th different winner in a row, ending Northern Ireland's two-year streak of golfing hegemony at the US Open - following Rory McIlroy's success last June.
"I've never felt nerves like I felt today," he said. "I had to hit my legs because I couldn't feel them."
McDowell's disappointment was obvious as he spoke at the end of the tournament.
"It was grind and a slog, but I'll be back," said the 32-year-old.
"The pin on the 18th was brutal - it was tough to get it within 10 feet - but I'm proud of myself. I didn't have my A-game.
"I did a lot right, but this course does not allow you to get into a rhythm and it was a struggle."
Before the round, he had spoken of his fear of "going out there and messing it all up".
"You've got to put the game in perspective," he said. "This is not going to be the be-all and end-all for me. Hopefully I've got a few more years in me and I've got to not put it up on a pedestal.
"If it's good enough great, if it's not perhaps I'll drink a cold beer and get over it.
"I think the handicap golfer can probably relate to some of the feelings I had today and they'd be surprised that yes we're human beings and we have negative thoughts.
"Everyone has their ways of dealing with them and I like to verbalise them and talk to my caddie about it. He tells me to wise up and other expletives."
Hours after his near miss, McDowell was true to his word and tweeted a picture of a pint of Guinness, which he described as his "consolation prize".
Furyk finished joint fourth with fellow Americans David Toms, Jason Dufner and John Peterson and Dubliner Padraig Harrington, who matched Simpson's 68 and was still in with a chance until he bogeyed the last.