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Quite a Father's Day for Simpson
Webb Simpson will have a Father's Day to remember. The 26-year-old North Carolinian and father of one - with another child coming in August - closed with a 2-under 68 Sunday at Olympic Club in San Francisco to win the 112th U.S. Open.
After finishing 14th in last year's Open at Congressional, Simpson, in only his third year on the PGA Tour, ended up at 1-over 281 to beat Michael Thompson and 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell by a stroke.
After accepting the U.S. Open trophy, now named after the great Jack Nicklaus, Simpson sat down with reporters and discussed his wonderful day. Here's what the North Carolinian had to say.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Webb Simpson, the winner of the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club here in San Francisco. Webb, have you had a little time to let that sink in yet?
WEBB SIMPSON: No, I think it's going to take some time.
MODERATOR: Congratulations. Two wonderful back to back 68s this weekend. You earned a one stroke victory over Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson. Can you talk about your play this weekend?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, this weekend, I think for me this week, starting - I got here Monday, and I think every day my game got a little better. I hit it really well yesterday. The first few days I putted well and hung in there. Yesterday I hit it well and made me get excited for today. Today I had the best warm up I had the whole week before the round. You know, this is only my second U.S. Open and so I told myself don't get too excited, don't try to win. You've got to go out there ask try to make pars, and that's what I did. And luckily I made some putts, and got a couple under out of it.
Q. What were the options available to you as you were waiting for the other guys to finish and why did you choose to do what you did and what was that 45 minutes like?
WEBB SIMPSON: They asked me if I would go up to the Costas' booth and sit there for a couple of minutes, and we did that. Basically I just wanted to go somewhere quiet with my wife where we could talk. I was so nervous all day, but especially there at the end. Even when I was done I was nervous. I wanted to go some place quiet with her. We tried to watch videos of our son James that we have on our phone, and we did that to stay calm. I think we stayed in the locker room the rest of the time.
Q. Did you eat anything?
WEBB SIMPSON: Just water.
Q. During the weekend did you feel like you were still a pretty significant factor in this tournament?
WEBB SIMPSON: To be honest, I mean I never thought about - I never really wrapped my mind around winning. This place is so demanding, and so all I was really concerned about was keeping the ball in front of me and making pars. You hear all the guys say it, but it's so true, the course is so hard you don't know if you're going to make three or four bogeys in a row. Today I was 2 over through 5, but I didn't think anything of it because I knew I had 7 coming up and a few other birdie holes in the back. I definitely thought about winning and wanted to win, but I was just trying to keep my mind focused on the hole that I was playing and just somehow make pars.
Q. Paul said he told you to basically stop looking at leaderboards after those first couple early bogeys, were you able to do that and plow the ground in front of you? When did you sort of understand what you were doing and what was going on around you?
WEBB SIMPSON: I was glad he told me that because I've been a leaderboard watcher my whole life. But with what pressure a major brings I just didn't think it would do any good to see where I was at. So much can happen, even if I was 2 up or 3 up or even 5 back, so much can happen during the middle part of the golf course, so I didn't look again. The crowd was kind of telling me where I stood. They were getting louder and really pulling for me, which I appreciated. But I got done, I putted out on 18 and that was the first time I looked since early on the front nine, and I knew it was going to be close coming in.
Q. What does this mean to you, to win this thing, which I'm guessing maybe you've dreamed about, and what does it say about you as a golfer?
WEBB SIMPSON: You know, there's so many - there's so many great players who have won to tournament, won majors. I was kind of hoping for my first win on the PGA Tour last year. To think my second would come two weeks later I didn't. If I was honest with you I believed in myself I could win a major, but maybe not so soon. This is my fourth or fifth. And 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.
Q. Can I ask you also to clarify what you were saying before? Are you saying you were not watching the play on the final hole? Were you not even watching that?
WEBB SIMPSON: No, we were watching - just watching videos of our son to take my mind off it.
Q. It seemed like going into today a lot of people were focusing on some other people at the top of the leaderboard and you played two real solid rounds and all of a sudden kind of came out of the shadows to some extent. I wonder if that position helped you psychologically coming into the weekend not being in the center of attention as much?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think so. I have no experience in major championships and contention at all. So for me to play Sunday fourth from the last group was probably a huge help as opposed to the last group. I felt a lot of pressure all week playing this golf course, how demanding it is, but I can imagine playing the final group of a major is really tough. So I was happy that - I thought where I was going to alleviate some of the pressure and I think it did. Never played with Nicolas Colsaerts, but we had a great time. He was great to play with. Given the circumstances I was happy I wasn't in the final group.
Q. In the digital world we live in today, I know you're surrounded by the swirl of having just won. It appeared you were texting something when you were sitting there when we all came in. Would you mind if I asked you who you contacted and what the message was you were able to send?
WEBB SIMPSON: I was just reading - I have 135 texts as of five minutes ago. I was just thumbing through them trying to see all the congratulations.
Q. You're now the 15th straight different major champion. To what would you attribute that?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think the game's changing. My caddie and I were talking this week, the 14 year old kid was here. Beau Hossler was playing so well. I couldn't imagine playing in even a qualifier for this tournament when I was in high school. But I think the Tiger effect of inspiring people to play at a younger age, and I think the access to golf has gotten so much bigger that the game is changing. Even in college, I would have been scared to death to play in a U.S. Open. And these guys are playing like they're trying to win the tournament. So I think the game will continue to evolve like that. I'm lucky because I feel like we're playing at a time where golf is at its best.
Q. The 6th hole, I think it played the toughest hole in the tournament. There were only two birdies there today. And I think yours was one of two. Would you talk about how you played that hole? How you'd done on it the previous three days? Did that change your mindset because you ran off two more birdies right after that. Talk a little bit about that 6th hole?
WEBB SIMPSON: That's a tough hole. It's one of the toughest on the golf course because our driver gets to the bunker and our 3 wood doesn't. But if I hit 3 wood which I did the first two rounds I'm left with a - I hit, I think, a 5 iron and hybrid the first two days and had two tough ups and downs for par. My caddie kind of talked my into hitting driver on the weekend and to try to get myself a 6 or 7 iron. I did that yesterday. I made par. And today set us up for a 7 iron. We weren't trying to hit it close. We were trying to hit it left of the hole. But it ended up about five feet and made birdie. That hole all I wanted to do was make par. The birdie was an added bonus to kick start the run away.
Q. You talked about following up on Jason's question there about 15 different major winners and the past nine have all been first time winners. Coming into this weekend Tiger Woods was tied for the lead and obviously wasn't a contender. What does it say, all the different winners and him finishing where he finished, what does it say about the landscape of golf right now?
WEBB SIMPSON: Well, one of my thoughts on the back nine was I don't know how Tiger has won 14 of these things (laughter), because the pressure. I couldn't feel my legs most of the back nine. If grew my respect for Tiger all the more. But I think the best - I think the prime of golf, the prime age 10, 15 years ago was mid 30s. Now it's moving closer to the mid 20s or late 20s. There's so many young guys. If I see Keegan Bradley win a major, I respect his game a ton, but I feel like, Keegan Bradley won one, I want to go win one. All these guys that won before me, I thought I played with these guys all my life. I want to win a tournament. They're great players, but I want to do what they're doing. Everybody is so competitive in this world that we just kind of feed off of each other.
Q. You had such a great year last year with the two wins and everything. I was just wondering about this year, whether there was a lot of pressure to kind of follow up on that and whether you felt like maybe you weren't performing up to those standards up until now?
WEBB SIMPSON: I knew what would probably come with having a good year like I did last year. And one thing I've kind of noticed with certain guys that have had great years is maybe they change equipment or they change swing instructors. And I wanted to make sure I didn't change anything. And I wanted to continue with what we call our process, which is that we're trying to get better. And I didn't care if I came out and made a million dollars, as long as I was getting better. I wanted to just come out and continue to improve my game, continue to improve my mental capacity to play well in tournaments. And I've had a slow year compared to last year, but I've been pleased because I felt like I was getting better, up until now.
Q. So you're done with your round and you're watching the end; and Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell, they're likable guys, you probably respect them as golfers. Can you describe what it feels like to watch and kind of needing them to make a mistake, and also are you sort of mentally preparing yourself for a playoff?
WEBB SIMPSON: I was. I did not want to play a playoff. I did not want to play tomorrow, for a lot of reasons. It's a tough situation. I've never been in that situation on the PGA Tour watching guys coming in and myself having a chance to win. And I was just as nervous watching on the telecast as I was playing. They're such great players. Each of them have won a major. I knew they would probably put some pressure on me, especially given the birdie opportunity on 17 and 18. And Graeme had a heck of a chance to make a putt. I respect those guys games so much. Yeah, it was just - it was nerve wracking to say the least.
Q. So many times we witness these celebrations on the green, to putt out to win. But you had your own private celebration with your wife. Can you tell us what that was like for you? If you got emotional and just kind of what that was like?
WEBB SIMPSON: I got a nice, hard hug from my wife. But it was. It hasn't set in yet. Greensboro, my first win hasn't really set in, because I was the overnight leader. And I won by three. And I just kind of dreamt it up in my head that I was going to win there. This feels much different. It hasn't sunk in at all. I'm sure we'll celebrate on the plane back tonight. I look at my wife and said, "I don't think you'll be able to sleep now." I can't sleep on planes, anyway, so I'm sure I'm not going to sleep any. When Graeme missed on 18 and I realized I had won, I just kind of shook my head in disbelief. I couldn't believe it actually happened.
Q. I apologize if this was the first question asked, you missed your last couple of cuts. How do you turn around? Were you playing bad when you missed the cuts, and how did you turn it around if you did?
WEBB SIMPSON: The first cut I missed was at the Players. I actually played pretty well that week. I had a tough finish. Then had two weeks off and worked on a lot of things and my golf swing, and one move in particular that I kind of perfected, but it produced another bad habit, which we saw at Memorial. And I hit it terribly. But it was a blessing in disguise. If I had showed up at Memorial and hit it well, we would never have noticed that move I was working on.
My caddie, Paul, flew back to Charlotte with my wife and I and stayed a couple of days in Charlotte over the weekend at Memorial and we worked hard on weeding out that bad habit I had picked up. Last week I went to Pinehurst with five of my buddies and we played golf for four days straight. And I honestly didn't do a whole lot of practicing once the Pinehurst trip came around. It was needed for me coming into a major was just getting my mind off things and just go and play golf.
Q. I would like to know how did you start playing golf when you were a kid and who was your inspiration growing up?
WEBB SIMPSON: My parents had a house at the beach and it was on one of the putting greens of the golf course. There was a kid there. He's a year older, Kevin Larsen. He played at Georgia Tech. And he was the No.1 ranked junior for his age group in the country. He inspired me with how good he was. I started hanging around him. He was really a good friend to me. I picked it up and I just loved it from the start and slowly quit playing the other sports.
Q. I'm obviously kind of fishing for a laugh, here. What would you give that take down by Mike Davis on the green?
WEBB SIMPSON: That was a 10 out of 10.
Q. Did you see it coming?
WEBB SIMPSON: No, he just - he appeared in front of me and I didn't know if it was part of the deal (laughter) I never won a major, I never know what to expect. And I saw some fury in Mike's eyes. But I didn't really know what to do. I just kind of laughed.
Q. I know you don't want to encourage your competition, but for the younger players that are now going to be looking up to you, what might you pass on to them that might have them in the position that you're in right now?
WEBB SIMPSON: I mean, for the guys that were here this week, I don't have much to say to them. They're far beyond where I was when I was their age. 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.
Q. You spoke earlier a little bit about your connection to Arnold Palmer. Could you say a bit more about what kind of influence he's been and whether you anticipate getting an honest area membership at Bay Hill out of this?
WEBB SIMPSON: He's meant the world to me. I played obviously four years at Wake under his scholarship, which was a huge help. I've always been such a big fan of "The King" and what he represents. I had the opportunity to play in his tournament twice as an amateur, which kind of opened my eyes to the PGA Tour and how good these players are. He's meant the world to me and my family and couldn't have been a nicer guy to me flu the years.
Q. In general terms, can you tell us the bad habit that you worked on after Memorial?
WEBB SIMPSON: So in my backswing I've always kind of, as I take it back my hands open up and the club face kind of opens with it. So for the first couple feet of my backswing I was trying to keep my hands in and the club out. I got that down pretty good. But what I did from there is I picked the club up, so I quit turning. And so that allowed me to get really steep and you can hit it both ways hitting steep like that. At Memorial, I made a swing on 18. It was my 9th hole of the second round. I realized what I was doing and Paul saw it all week. And from there on he was adamant about working together for a couple of days to get that kink out of my swing. And I'm glad we did, it paid off.
Q. Where did you play in Pinehurst?
WEBB SIMPSON: My Buddy has a house - his parents have a house at the country club of North Carolina. We stayed there and played those two courses at Dogwood and Cardinal and played Mid Pines one day. I started that trip last year after Boston. It might be an annual pre U.S. Open trip now.
Q. You have another baby on the way soon. How will that affect your playing schedule, the trip to the British?
WEBB SIMPSON: You know, officially I don't know yet. We met with our doctor before this week, just to see if my wife, Dowd, could come. We're going to go back home and evaluate it. I play next week at the Travelers and have AT&T off. The next eight weeks are going to be up in the air. We're going to see what we can do. Fortunately we can drive to the PGA in Greensboro, so I'll be there, and my wife and then two kids will be there. It will all be kind of game time decision for us.
MODERATOR: Webb, congratulations again. A very happy Father's Day to you and to everyone else. Thank you all very much for covering the championship.
WEBB SIMPSON: Thanks.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.