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Simpson haunted by last three holes


CHASKA, Minn. -- Scott Simpson will think about the last three holes at Hazeltine National Golf Club for a long time. Maybe even longer than he will think about losing the 91st U.S. Open.

The last three holes -- two par-4s sandwiched around a par-3 -- turned into a Homeric struggle for Simpson. He bogeyed all three in yesterday's playoff to Payne Stewart; was 7-over the last three rounds and lost by two shots.

"I didn't feel any different playing the last three holes today," said Simpson, who finished with a 5-over-par 77. "They're good holes. I don't think the holes are that hard. But for some reason I didn't play them very good."

The one shot Simpson would likely recall was his tee shot at No. 17, the 182-yard par-3. Trying for the pin, he found the water instead. Though he made a tough, 10-footer to save bogey, Simpson's Open chances were drowned right along with his drive.

"For some reason I pulled it right," said Simpson, who dropped his 4-iron the moment he hit the ball. "I've got to work on that shot a little more. I still had a chance at 18, but I had to make birdie."

Instead, Simpson completed his imperfect stretch with a bogey. While Stewart was tearful in victory, Simpson was stoic in defeat. "I accept the loss," he said. "Hopefully I won't hang my head too low and go on from here."

Simpson, who beat Tom Watson with three birdies over the last nine holes to win the Open at Olympic four years ago, made eight bogeys and three birdies yesterday.

The defeat continued a two-year stretch without a victory for Simpson, who after fading in the final round of the 1989 Open at Oak Hill, went to noted swing doctor David Ledbetter. Yesterday showed that Simpson's game needs a bit more work.

"Obviously I'm pretty disappointed being two shots ahead with three holes to play and losing," he said. "I wouldn't be as disappointed if I just got snuffed out."

He did. Stewart didn't do it. The last three holes were the culprit. Again.

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