US Open Golf 2012: What This Year's Open Means for Golf's Best Going Forward

Kyle Stanzel@@DmndPrspctsCorrespondent IIIJune 19, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 17:  Webb Simpson of the United States waves to the gallery on the 14th green during the final round of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club on June 17, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
David Cannon/Getty Images

Twenty-six-year old American Webb Simpson was able to survive the harsh play of the Olympic Club and win the 2012 US Open, while many of golf's best struggled through inconsistent play.

So what does this mean for some of the top ranked players on the PGA Tour?

Simply put, it means that there could be a "changing of the guard" among golf's greatest players in the coming months.

Simpson's Open victory on Sunday was his first major tournament win, although fans should get used to seeing his name at or near the top of leaderboards.

With two wins and 12 top-10 finishes in 2011, Simpson was already on the brink of becoming one of golf's best and now he has pushed himself to No. 5 in the latest Official World Golf Rankings.

While I wouldn't quite put him in the elite category yet, Simpson's US Open victory is certainly no fluke and it is only a matter of time before he can consider himself in that category.

Perhaps the most compelling story of the tournament was 17-year old amateur Beau Hossler and his surprising run at the Olympic Club.

While he finished nine-over and tied for 29th, Hossler stole the show and the kid will surely be one to follow during his career at the University of Texas.

Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson finished tied for second and were in the mix for the title throughout the entire tournament.

While McDowell is more well-known, Thompson impressed with his fast start and his determination in after struggling on Friday and Saturday. Both golfers should be watched closely during the next few months to see if they can build on their excellent performances at the Olympic Club.

Meanwhile, it was rough-going for the likes of Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Phil Mickelson as they struggled to live up to the hype that surrounded them at the beginning of the tournament.

McIlroy and Donald failed to make the cut entirely, putting up a plus-10 and plus-11 respectively. While both maintain their top rankings for now, they will need to put up substantially better performances at the British Open to help push the US Open from people's minds.

While Mickelson made the cut, he was just plain awful on Sunday, spraying the ball all over the place en route to a 78. He finished the tournament with a plus-16 and while he still is a dangerous golfer, it would be too generous to still put Mickelson in the elite category at the age of 42.

On top of the struggles for those three, the golf world had to suffer through a disappointing finish by Tiger Woods and saw Bubba Watson miss the cut after the two were grouped with Mickelson in an all-star first group.

Through perhaps the greatest test for golfers on the PGA Tour, we learned that the sport's elite should be looking over their shoulders, as there is a new breed of golf greats coming.