Simpson Third-Round Leader at Players Champion by Seven
I remember Webb Simpson, at least I do after the third round of the Players Championship on “that” course. You know, the one with the scary island green, the one that causes munis to calculate the price of lost balls, and dig deeper into the bag for rejects. But back to the point – I remember Webb Simpson. I saw his name from time to time around the late first decade of the new century. Did a little winning, made a lot of cuts, went on a temporary binge of less than spectacular play, then came back to show his real stuff.
My sharp memories of Simpson are the same ones many people have. It was 2012, and the good guy won the U.S. Open. I know, there are a lot good guys on the PGA Tour, but we could tell that this was an especially good guy. I found myself cheering for him that year, on that basis alone. When he hoisted the trophy, I have a vivid recollection of a happy family just starting out on the fortunes and perils of an international golf career. I recall an extra sense of gratification that with his first major win, some bills would get paid, and some financial worries would be at least temporarily eased. And, of course, it was the U.S. Open, one of the four majors. Winning on tour is wonderful, but winning majors is a sign that you’ve arrived. Some arrive and stay in the public consciousness. Others make sporadic appearances at the top of the board, but win a major, and you have taken on a mantle no one can take from you, even if it never happens again.
Simpson went through some rocky times, but was surrounded by the right people. He took his undergraduate years at Wake Forest University. Unless I’m mistaken, that was Arnold Palmer’s alma mater.They might as well just call it the University of Good Guys. His father made sure he had top-tier golf training, but he gave more than that. Simpson has worked through the not so good days with patience and quiet resolve. He learned the lessons and came back to the top of the board.
With all sorts of team and match experience (Palmer Cup, Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup), including being named a three-time All-American, Simpson made good at Q-School in 2008.Â His first win came at the Wyndham in Greensboro, close to home. He recalls having an awful lot of fun that week. He won again at Deutsche Bank, but in between there were some long days of missed cuts. Then came 2012, finishing with a two-under 68, and edging out Graeme McDowell and Micheal Thompson by one. Simpson has looked pretty good through 2017, and regarding the money list, no home repair should ever frighten him again.
Yes, I remember Webb Simpson, but I wondered what had happened to him since that U.S. Open victory. I still see his name, but where’s that good guy who won that major? I’ll tell you where he is. He’s leading by a whopping seven strokes going into the last round of the Players Championship – that’s seven strokes and more over the likes of Tiger, Jordan, Jason, and a group of other heavy hitters. He leads Danny Lee, new to the Players, by seven, and Dustin Johnson in third by nine.
There are big rewards for talented people who work through it and don’t quit. Simpson’s father was right about that. In fact, the PGA generally just isn’t a good environment for one who is easily defeated in the mind and heart. Where Patrick Reed showed incredible nerves, and Jason Day taught us what a recovery game really looks like, Webb Simpson has played high IQ, don’t learn the hard way golf. I can’t wait to see what he might do tomorrow…or next week…or at the next major.