As his 2012 victory at the U.S. Open moves further into his rearview, Webb Simpson believes it’s time to make another splash at a major tournament.
The Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee declared on the air Wednesday that Simpson’s strengths — particularly a combination of length and accuracy off the tee — and his recent strong play on tour should make him a factor this weekend at Winged Foot.
“I’m coming in confident,” Simpson said Wednesday in a Zoom call. “I’ve been playing good golf for a while, and I have always loved this tournament.
“I love the idea that patience matters here. Some weeks you can get impatient and that’s OK, but this week you have to stay patient. Every golfer is going to make tons of bogeys this week. So it’s kind of the marathon mentality of kind of who can kind of hang on and play the 72 holes as well as they can. I like my chances.”
Since his U.S. Open victory at Olympic in San Francisco, Simpson hasn’t finished better than a tie for 10th at Shinnecock Hills in 2018. His best placing at a major in those eight years was a fifth-place tie at the 2019 Masters.
Still, the 35-year-old North Carolina native has enjoyed a solid 2020, pushing his tour ranking to No. 6 with wins at the Phoenix Open in January and the RBG Heritage in June. He’s also posted seven top-10 finishes in 13 tournaments for the year, including at the Wyndham and the Northern Trust last month, and tied for 12th at the Tour Championship.
But experts believe the numbers may align for a place on the leaderboard this week at the challenging Winged Foot course. Simpson mostly has minimized big mistakes since the COVID-19 restart in June, ranking first on tour in bogey avoidance. He also mostly keeps the ball in the fairway (18th in driving accuracy) and has thrived with his irons (11th in greens in regulation).
“This is, to me, a classic U.S. Open setup where it’s brutally hard all day, but there’s no tricks to it, you’ve got to drive it in the fairway,” Simpson said. “I’m sure the guys are saying the same stuff that if you’re not in the fairway it’s hard to score and I do think this will be a higher winning score U.S. Open than we have seen in a while.
“Olympic was similar in the sense that it’s a classic, old-style golf course, doglegs, you have to shape some tee shots to hold the fairways. … Out here, there’s only a few holes where you’re going to have shorter shots in, you’ve got to take advantage of those holes.”
While one major tournament, the PGA Championship, already has been played without fans this summer, Simpson added that the rowdy local galleries will be missed.
“When I think of the fans in New York, I just think of the volume, the noise is louder than anywhere,” Simpson said. “Boston tries to compete a little bit, but here it’s just louder. I think people aren’t afraid to speak their mind when you hit a bad shot and that’s part of it. We know that going in
“And we appreciate that people care enough to come watch us. It’s a bummer, it’s a bummer for all these states and towns, but I think especially here hosting a major.”