SAN FRANCISCO A tense finish to the U.S. Open may have been difficult on Webb Simpson's emotions, but a boost to his prayer life.
"I probably prayed more the last three holes than I've ever done in my life," Simpson said after winning the tournament Sunday. "It helped me stay calm and get in with 2-under [on the final day of the tournament]."
Simpson finished at 1-over for the tournament and left the course without ever holding the lead. But Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell faltered in their own final rounds, leaving Simpson with his first major title. He watched from the clubhouse as McDowell missed a birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have tied Simpson.
"He knows that his hope is not in golf," said Ryan Carson, student pastor at Forest Hills Church in Charlotte, N.C., where Webb and his wife Dowd are members. "He knows that his hope is in the Lord, and that perspective, I think, has really kept him grounded."
Carson told said that Simpson is not someone "who just calls himself a Christian then just attends church."
"He's got a passionate pursuit of Jesus going on," Carson said. "It's something that is really contagious. He steers conversations back to the Lord, back to Scripture, back to experiences that he's had with the Lord or that other people have had.
"He's passionate about it," Carson continued. "He's not just a nominal Christian. He's truly got a life that wants to honor and serve Jesus."
Last year, after his first PGA Tour victory at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C., Simpson said he'd "be stupid not to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, because it was tough out there and I was nervous, and I felt his presence all day."
On Monday, after winning the U.S. Open, Simpson took to Twitter to offer his gratitude.
"Thanks to everyone for the support and encouragement," he wrote. "Humbled to win the US Open!! Thankful to God for His grace in my life." A few days earlier on Twitter, Simpson notified his followers that "I'm going to tweet a lot about faith, Jesus, Bible. Also, I'm going to tweet about golf and random stuff."
The 26-year-old Simpson trailed by four strokes going into the final round and was in 29th place after two days making him the first golfer ever to move from that far back to win the U.S. Open.
A native of Raleigh, N.C., Simpson attended Wake Forest University where he studied religion.
"He loves the Lord," Simpson's brother-in-law, Graham Keith, said about him in a PGA Tour video. "He tries to do everything he can when he plays on the golf course to glorify the Lord. To him, it's more about how he can use golf to reach other people."
In the same video, Simpson's wife Dowd said the love of Jesus Christ pours out of him.
"He's so full of joy and life and energy," she said. "I think people like being around a guy like that."