Webb Simpson: Pre-Championship Press Conference

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

BETH MAJOR: Welcome to the 2014 U.S. Open Championship here at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Very happy to have with us this afternoon, Webb Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open Champion. He's playing in his fourth U.S. Open. Didn't play in 2005, but played quite a bit in Pinehurst over the years. Can you talk about playing in The U.S. Open in your home state and being here at Pinehurst.

WEBB SIMPSON: First came here in 1999 as a standard bearer for Tom Watson and Stephen Allen on Saturday. I was 13 then, and in '05 I just finished freshman year at Wake. I remember being here in '05 anticipating being able to play here in the U.S. Open one day. Nine years later has flown by. Obviously I grew up in Raleigh, an hour away. As soon as I got my license, I'd come down here every weekend and play. I love Donald Ross. I love Pinehurst. My family is down here full-time, pretty much. And so it's a special week for me in the sense that, not only do I love the U.S. Open, but I'm playing a golf course I love, familiar turf. I probably played ten tournaments on No. 2. It's all good memories here. I'm excited the week is here and ready to tee it up tomorrow.

BETH MAJOR: You've probably played here as much as anyone in the field, perhaps. But obviously there have been a lot of comments about how different the course is this week. Can you talk about some of the differences you saw in your practice and preparation?

WEBB SIMPSON: I think the main differences are off the tee. With the old Bermuda rough, you'd hit driver on almost every hole. But 10 is a 620 par-5. I'm probably going to hit a 4-iron or hybrid off that tee. A lot of tee shots have changed. But the character of the golf course and what makes it tough is still the same. It's the greens. And a lot of these holes, some of the holes you're not trying to hit the green. I know 15, the par-3, a lot of guys will try to just hit it just short of the green. I think there will be some unique shots. I think you'll see a lot of different plays off the tee, a lot of different shots into the greens. It's really a week where I think its teeth will show, and I think it will be kind of a survival week. I don't think -- I don't think you'll see anything like McIlroy did at Congressional. But I certainly see this course as hard as anything I've played in a U.S. Open.

Q. Grew up in Raleigh, lived in Charlotte, won your first tournament in Greensboro, can you sort of speak to whether there is an increased comfort level for you playing in your home state, no matter where it is, given all the great things that have happened to you here in your life?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, I definitely think so. When I first turned pro, I had a difficult time playing Charlotte and Greensboro, but since then have kind of, I guess, figured out a way to go about the week and kind of used the crowd to my advantage. It's always a good feeling when the home crowd is pulling for you. I know playing my first Presidents Cup in Australia was difficult, because every 5-footer you missed they're cheering that you missed it. Here, it's going to be a little different, at least I hope. But, yeah, it is, knowing that I have a lot of people out there rooting for me and supporting me is great. You know, a week like this is a good week, in terms of, the more crowd, the better, because all the familiar faces kind of blend in. I have a great pairing for that with Rory and Graeme. Yeah, absolutely, I love it. I love getting all the support that I've had all week.

Q. Ten years ago last month you won the state championship here. Had a chance to walk a few holes with Coach Ratliff, the man in the straw hat. You shot 71 the first day, and 70 on course No. 2. Does this place have good karma for you?
WEBB SIMPSON: I like to think so, the North/South Junior and the North/South Amateur I never won. The Putter Boy trophy is the one I trophy I really wanted and never got it. So I wish the state championship I could have got a Putter Boy trophy. It was nice to win. I didn't win the state championship until senior year. And Brandon Todd won, seemed like every year I was playing. But I have great memories from high school golf coming down here. We played No. 6, No. 8, No. 4, and No. 2. So, yeah, I think back at that time and playing No. 2, early on, I didn't really know where the trouble was, I just kind of went and played. So I'll need to draw on that a little bit, in the sense of just being innocent out there and not thinking too much.

Q. What is your relationship with Brendon Todd and how cool is it to see him out here today?
WEBB SIMPSON: We're very close. We played on Tour, I think, including the Nationwide Tour, three or four years together; and our wives are good friends. We stayed close since he kicked my tail when I was 13 at Pine Needles. It's great to see him playing well. I love Brendon's game. He's a grinder and he just continues to work hard and it's paying off, for sure. I know he's happy to be in the field this week, too.

Q. As a past winner of this tournament, can you kind of explain the emotional rush you felt that day you won and whether you think this tournament's particular tie to Father's Day adds to that?
WEBB SIMPSON: Absolutely. You know, I think back on that day, what I remember most is just the back nine, knowing I was in contention. You really feel how big the moment is and how big the golf tournament is when you're in contention and your mind's racing, but you try to just continue to keep plodding along, and hopefully you post a score that's good enough and it was that day. So, I definitely learned a lot that day, that you think something in your mind might be so hard to obtain, but if you kind of put yourself there and keep giving yourself chances, I think we surprise ourselves more than we do what we expect. I think, obviously, I'm a father of three now, which is kind of crazy, considering three and a half years ago I had no kids. But, yeah, it would be amazing. My dad lives here, a couple of miles away. He'll be out here. And certainly, if I'm in contention, my kids will come up. I can't imagine a greater feeling.

Q. How familiar are you with the new design? How many times have you played it and do you think that this is a real home game for you?
WEBB SIMPSON: I played it a week ago, Monday of Memphis, and then I played nine yesterday and nine today. I was trying to get down a little more, but, you know, the hard thing is, you go play Augusta in February and the golf course is completely soft and different than we play in April. So kind of the same thing here. It was maturing in the spring. It's completely different this week than it was a week ago Monday. So I wanted to stay fresh, but also wanted to learn. My caddie did a lot of extra work without me. I think the difficult tension you have out here this week is to -- you want to be prepared, but you don't want to over think. There's so many things to think about on every shot and every chip with the way the greens are. But I'm going to go out and hopefully keep it simple. I think, to play well, I have to keep it simple. And, yeah, it feels like a home game. I lived in Charlotte. Greensboro is an hour from Raleigh, but this is where I have a lot of my memories from childhood.

Q. We're obviously in Pinehurst and you've been touching on how you have friends and family everywhere. How are you able to get away from the distractions of seeing people you know and still being able to work on the things you need to work on? Like on the range, the putting green, on the course? And also, as someone who has a bunch of people who look up to you, looking back, what are some of the things that you look back on and say, this is how you got where you are, decisions that you made, and just kind of draw on how you got to where you are and touch on things like that?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, well, I think your first question, it's a hard balance, because you want to be out here working hard. Your friends and family are excited for you. So they're kind of making the week -- bringing more excitement to the week. My caddie, Paul, after walking nine holes Monday, he called me and said, there's two things that we've got to do well this week; you've got to get your rest and we've got to stay patient on the golf course. And he was kind of communicating that the more -- he thinks rest this week is more important than practicing. It was kind of a good phone call, because you get here and there's so much you can work on, the practice facilities are so big and there's so many shots you can hit. The kid inside of you wants to be out all day practicing, but it's 90 degrees. So, yeah, I think we've had really good focused practicing sessions. They've been a little shorter than most tournaments. But the second question, I think, as I look back, I go to Wake as one of the top recruited players, and I didn't win until the second semester of junior year. And I remember a conversation I had with Coach Haas that really changed my life in terms of golf. He said the only thing that matters in this game is that you keep getting better. If you think you're better now than you were the freshman year, that's all that matters. I've stuck with that. The last two months I've played terrible, but kept working on it, kept trying to improve. And I think you've got to stay positive in this game, because there's countless stories of guys who play poorly for a while and then they win a huge tournament. I think those guys are guys who are ready for the moment. They're ready to play well. And, obviously, I think the better player is one who stays positive and is very optimistic and just waiting for that moment to just break through and play better.

Q. Obviously, you had great success early this year and you talked about your struggles the past two months. Can you describe the arc of your season and then describe where your game is right now in comparison to where it has been.
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, I mean, I obviously had a great start last October in Vegas. And it's a funny new season we have. I've won this year, but it didn't seem like it, because it was ten months ago or eight months ago. But what I try to focus on every year is to try to be ready for the majors and ready for the end of the year stretch. Because I play a lot of golf coming up. And the FedExCup cup is so big for us. And I want my game trending in that direction towards the end of the year of just getting better and better and hopefully peaking at the right times. Every tournament is important, but there's a few tournaments that stick out to all us players that we want to play better in. The better the field, the better you want to play. I do feel good about my game. I felt good about it before I teed it up in Memphis last week. Like I always say, if I'm working on the right things and I feel like I'm getting better, that's all I really care about.

Q. Just wanted to ask a little bit, they're talking about some weather that might come in. With the course the way it is and the heat, how do you think the weather is going to affect it, it's going to soften it up a bit, but.
WEBB SIMPSON: It's dry enough to where it won't do a lot to the fairways. It will definitely soften the greens a little bit, which will make it easier. It seems like in the summer, they call for 40 to 50 percent every day, and sometimes it's beautiful. So hopefully we'll -- I saw Mike Davis Monday night and he seemed to think the course is exactly how they wanted it to be. And it looks great. And it's playing fast. Which is fun.

Q. You talked about coming down here when you were growing up and playing the courses in the area. Is there any one in particular that you enjoyed playing the most?
WEBB SIMPSON: Any course?

Q. In the Pinehurst area you liked the best?
WEBB SIMPSON: I grew up playing Country Club of North Carolina. They have two courses. That was where I played most of the time. My first tournament ever was Mid Pines. I always like thinking back about Mid Pines. But also here. This is an underrated golf course, in my opinion. It's not talked about that often when you talk about the great courses of the United States. I think it should be. I think the reason is, there's nothing flashy about it. I think the changes now will bring it back into that top 5, top 10 courses that we'll see in the U.S.

Q. Do you remember the first tournament you ever won? Can you tell that story?
WEBB SIMPSON: I honestly can't remember. It might have been Mid Pines.

Q. What about the first big one?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, I mean, the first national tournament I won was the Rolex, the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions. And it was down in Florida, Innisbrook. Honestly, I was happy to be in the field. Coming down the stretch with Casey Wittenburg and Kevin Na. I shot 68 in the final round, thinking I finished second and it was like I won the U.S. Open at that point. But those guys made a couple of bogeys coming in, and I ended up getting the W. That was where I first started thinking really seriously about college golf and thinking that I could play college golf.

Q. How old were you?
WEBB SIMPSON: I was 15.

Q. Do you ever get emotional after a win, either privately, on your own, break down and cry sort of thing, like, why me, kind of thing? Or do you just move on to the next thing?
WEBB SIMPSON: I don't think I've ever gotten really emotional after a win. I've definitely gotten emotional after I've played bad. I got emotional this year after Augusta. I missed the cut. But, yeah, I think it all depends on the setting and all that. I'm sure if I play well here this week you'll see some tears. But I'm never going to cry as much as Bubba Watson. (Laughter). I mean that in a good way.

BETH MAJOR: Thank you for joining us and we wish you well throughout the week.


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