Webb Simpson - Yank at Sun City

2015-11-09 08:50
Webb Simpson

Webb Simpson will forever have a unique place in the history of golf as the last player to win the US Open with a belly putter.

Simpson’s preferred putter for the 2012 US Open is, from 2016, now on the banned list. So Simpson, who had in any case begun the process of transition to a traditional putter, decided to retire this one in style. He snapped it in half and it now occupies a place in his trophy case.

“It won the US Open so it’s staying with me,” he told reporters ahead of this year’s US Open.

Simpson’s performance in that 2012 US Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco ranks as one of the most impressive comebacks in the history of the championship.

He came into the Major with finishes of tied 14th in the 2014 US Open and tied 16th in the Open that same year as his best performances in Majors.

It was only with a 68 in the third round that Simpson pushed into the top 10 on the US Open leaderboard that year.

When he made two bogeys in his first five holes on Sunday, Simpson didn’t look to be challenging for his maiden Major victory.

But then he went on a run of four birdies in his next five holes and closed with a 68, which was enough to see him edge both Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson by one stroke for the title.

But while that was easily the biggest moment of Simpson’s career, he had long already started to impress.

Coming from a family of six children in Raleigh, North Carolina, Simpson went through his amateur career as a three-time All American and played on the winning Walker Cup team in 2007.

On his first trip to the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School in 2008, Simpson finished tied seventh and secured his playing privileges for 2009. Four top-10s that year saw him retain his card, and while 2010 was uneventful he did enough again to retain his card.

In 2011 he twice came close to a maiden PGA Tour title, first losing the Transitions Championship by a stroke when he bogeyed the final hole, and then losing a playoff to Bubba Watson for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The latter came after Simpson incurred a one-stroke penalty as he was about to tap-in for par on the 15th green, and which dropped him into the playoff with Watson.

But in August of that year, Simpson made no mistakes. With a final round of 67 he won the Wyndham Championship in his home state. He and his wife Taylor Dowd named their daughter Wyndham Rose after the tournament, and an event that is still close to Simpson’s heart.

A month later he won again in the Deutsche Bank Championship. And he capped off a watershed 2011 when he lost to Ben Crane in a playoff for the McGladrey Classic.

All of which meant that Simpson was hardly an unknown quantity when he teed it up at The Olympic Club for the 2012 US Open. But his humility shone through when he said in his interview with the media, “I just gained all the respect for the guys who have won multiple Majors, because it’s so hard to do. The level of pressure is so much greater than a regular event. One of my thoughts on the back nine was I don’t know how Tiger (Woods) has won 14 of these things, because the pressure...I couldn't feel my legs most of the back nine. It grew my respect for Tiger all the more.”

Then in 2013 he claimed his fourth PGA Tour title when he won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open by six strokes. A Christian who has his own annual junior golf tournament, Simpson has a lighter side to him that has endeared him to his many fans.

In April this year he snuck onto the Olympic Club while in San Francisco and decided to recreate the chip and putt he had to win the US Open there.

Simpson seems to attract a few practical jokes.

At the US Open this year, somebody from the United States Golf Association had fun with his locker name and put a different one up each day. These ranged from “Webbron James” to “Spud Webb”, “Charlotte’s Webb”, “Webbazon.com”, “Webb Street Journal”, “Floyd Maywebber” and “The World Wide Webb”.

He even met his wife Taylor Dowd by way of a practical joke. And this from his own father. According to the senior Mr Simpson, he offered Taylor Dowd $100 to take Webb on a date and joked with her that his son wanted to be seen around campus with an older girl. Taylor Dowd was up for the challenge, and one date became marriage.

And of course, who could forget the man in the crazy peacock outfit who crashed Simpson’s victory speech at the 2012 US Open?

Perhaps it’s a combination of his firm faith and good sense of humour that even Simpson’s wife says makes for the perfect temperament on the golf course.

“Webb has the perfect disposition for golf. He can shake off one hole and move on to the next. He can shake off one tournament and move on to the next,” she told golf writer Tim Rosaforte.

And Simpson himself had an unshakeable belief in his own ability. “I always believed in myself and knew I had it in me to be a great PGA Tour player. But it took me awhile to win in college, and I thought it might take me a little while to win on Tour.”

And he says he learnt his famous Southern charm from his father, Sam. “I grew up watching Dad with Mom, opening her door. It was always, ‘Yes, ma’am,’ and ‘No, ma’am’.”

And despite the criticism he often receives for it, Simpson stays true to his faith, even embroidering Titus 3:3-7 on the back of his golf cap.

“Why bring God into it? Well, he’s in it for me,” he told Golf Digest when he was asked about his public displays of faith.

And on the website for his junior golf tournament, The Webb Simpson Challenge, the words on the homepage echo Simpson’s own approach to the game and his career: Glorifying God through the game of golf.

And it’s to his father, Sam, that Simpson gives a lot of credit as well.

“I think my dad just always instilled in me to work as hard as I can. But don't take it too far to where you don't enjoy the game. He did such a wonderful job of kind of pushing me but reminding me it's just a game. If I want to do something he'd be proud of me. It's not the end all, be all. At the end of the day it's just my job. I would tell the kids enjoy, work hard. If it's for you, great, if not, find something else you love.”


Born: August 8, 1985.

Turned pro: 2008.

Family: Wife – Taylor Dowd. Children – James, Willow Grace, Wyndham Rose.

Special interests: Sports.

Career highlights: Won the 2012 US Open. Winner of four PGA Tour titles.

2015 highlights: Finished 48th on the FedEx Cup standings following a PGA Tour season featuring six top-10s, including tied second in the Wells Fargo Championship.

2015 Majors: The Masters – T28. The US Open – T46. The Open – T40. The PGA Championship – T54.

NGC record: Debut.

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