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
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
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
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
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
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.