BETHESDA, Md. —It probably won't cost Webb Simpson a tournament this time. Still, he must be wondering what he did to get on the wrong side of the golf gods.
Simpson's early round of 5-under 66 at the U.S. Open on Saturday included a penalty stroke when his ball moved after he addressed it with his putter on the 13th green. It was the same penalty he took seven weeks ago at the Zurich Open in New Orleans.
"I addressed the ball, and the ball moved about a half-inch, quarter-inch," Simpson said. "I think we've been through this too many times, hadn't we? But it was kind of the same deal as New Orleans. It was unfortunate, but I think it really made me committed to try to finish strong and I made a couple of good birdies coming in."
Simpson said it was his third time such penalty as a pro. It also happened to him once while playing at Wake Forest.
But it was the misfortune at Zurich that might lead to a change in the rules of golf. He was leading by a shot and heading for a tap-in on the 15th hole on Sunday, but the ball moved as he addressed it on the green. He wound up taking a penalty and finished in a tie with Bubba Watson, who beat Simpson in the playoff.
The U.S. Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient are looking into changing the rule so that the golfer isn't penalized if it can be proven the ball was moved by an outside force.
But it was still in effect at the U.S. Open, which cost Simpson a stroke in the best round of the early going.
Simpson managed to come out even on a more adventurous hole. His drive at No. 18 landed in the lap of a spectator sitting cross-legged on the ground along the ropes. The fan dutifully sat there alone as everyone around him retreated. Simpson walked up to him and humorously pantomimed a swing, as if he were going to play the ball from exactly where it was.
"I'm a pretty experienced golfer," said the fan, Todd Parker, "so I knew not to move."
A rules official came along and instructed Simpson to pick up the ball. He took a drop and made a nice recovery, even though his follow-through smacked against the trunk of a large tree. He parred the hole.
"I've never had a ball end up in somebody's lap," Simpson said. "It reminded me of 'Happy Gilmore.' It ended up being a good break, just to the right of the trees. The rough there wasn't high, it was laid down, so it was a pretty good break."