New US Open champion Webb Simpson has had a remarkable last 12 months in golf!
Webb Simpson has had one of the most spectacular rises to fame in world golf. Two years ago he was a struggling player on the PGA Tour. At the end of 2010 he was 213th on the World Ranking and had only just secured his tour card for 2011 with a T-4 at Las Vegas, the penultimate event of the season. He finished 94th on the money-list. He hadn’t yet played in a major championship, and wasn’t eligible for and. A year later, at age 26, he had had two wins, three seconds, and earned more than $6 million to finish runner-up on the PGA Tour money-list to Luke Donald. Now, after winning the US Open at Olympic in only his fifth appearance in a major championship, he is ranked No 5 in the world.
He shook off consecutive missed cuts at the Players and the Memorial in his previous outings to win at Olympic. On Friday night he was six shots behind co-leaders Tiger Woods, David Toms and Jim Furyk, in a share of 29th place. At the weekend he shot 68-68 to win by one.
Tesori , who had previously worked for Vijay Singh and Sean O’Hair, was blunt when he first saw Simpson hit balls. After Simpson missed the cut at of the 2011 season, they met for a nine-hour session at a course in San Diego. «Webb has a no B… S… policy,» said Tesori. «Around 4pm that day he turned around and asked me, ‘what do you think I need to do?’ «
More than a caddie, Tesori is a former tour player who listened to Singh and Sean Foley when the latter was working with O’Hair. Tesori gave Simpson the «Vijay Foley or the Sean Singh» principles of the swing, and Webb bought in.
Tesori had Simpson take the club back with the face more square to the target, which got him away from taking the club back too far inside. Also, Simpson had a lateral move, or a sway to his swing. They cut that down considerably.
In Simpson’s next event, the Phoenix Open, he finished T-8. The remainder of the year he won twice, was in the top 10 11 times and finished outside the top 25 only twice. His driving distance improved more than 10 yards, and he went from 121st to eighth in greens in tour’s all-around statistical category.
«I always believed in myself and knew I had it in me to be a great PGA Tour player,» Simpson said at home in Charlotte, North Carolina. «But it took me awhile to win in college, and I thought it might take me a little while to win out here.»
At Wake Forest University it took Simpson three years to win, the same amount of time it took on tour. He was recruited by coach Jerry Haas and giver an Arnold Palmer Scholarship not because of a flawless swing but because of an intense competitive drive, an innate sense for seeing and pulling off shots and a marvelous short game. «He was blessed with a great set of hands,» says Simpson’s long-time instructor, Ted Kiegel of Carolina CC in Raleigh.
As a freshman Simpson also had a bad habit of re-gripping in the middle of his backswing, leading to wild misses Haas shot video one day at practice and showed it to Simpson, who could not mates, who had better fundamentals, are amazed at the level of success Simpson has enjoyed on tour, even though he was a Walker Cup hero in 2007 (making a liofooter in a key match at Royal County Down) and the 2008 ACC player of the year.
What nobody could believe was that the kid who made everything as the No 1-ranked junior golfer went to the belly putter his freshman year at Wake. «His gift was that he could turn 5 into 4 or 4 into 3,» says Haas. «As we know, you’re judged by what you shoot in this game, and he was very efficient at it.»
The efficiency only increased when Simpson pulled a Ping Craz-E off a display rack at CC of North Carolina in Pinehurst as a joke. His father, Sam, a 6-handicap who was there that day, questioned it. «I thought he was just messing around, but he tried it and has been on it ever since,» says Sam. «It works for him because he’s very handsy, and he keeps those hands still with the belly putter.»
Raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, by church-going, golf-loving parents, Simpson never missed Bible study. His father is a preppie, just like Webb, and now benefits from the hand-me-downs from his son’s Polo collection. Even at a young age, Webb was developing the charm of a 21st-century southern gentleman. «Webb had people eating out of the palm of his hand,» said fellow student Buck Wearn. «The men were already trying to figure out how to hire him, and the women wanted to introduce him to their daughters.»
It was actually Sam Simpson who wanted to introduce his son to Dowd after meeting her during a party, and offering her $100 to go on a date with Webb. «If he’s as cute as you, I’ll go for free,» was her response. Little did Sam know that Dowd’s best girlfriend had played golf with Webb in Raleigh and had already announced to her, «I met your future husband. He’s coming to Wake next year.»
They met and fell in love but took a year off during the relationship because both felt that they were putting too much hope in one another and not enough in God. «I had people tell me it was crazy, that I was losing the best thing that ever happened to me,» says Dowd. A year passed and on Christmas Eve 2008 Webb called to ask her out.
«I live with him. I’m his wife, and he is definitely not perfect,» says Dowd, «but it’s hard to walk away from Webb and not see a light in him, see a brightness he brings to a crowd. Ultimately, it’s the love of Christ pouring out from him.»
Simpson has expressed his spiritual gratitude publicly, causing some discomfort in the secular crowd. The viral criticism is one of the reasons why he backed off Twitter, but pointing to the sky after a win, having Titus 3:3-7 stitched to the back of his Titlist hat and giving green side testimonials is what Webb Simpson stands for. «Why bring God into it?» he asks. «Well, he’s in it for me.»
When asked to name the highlight of his 2011 season, it wasn’t the break-through win at the Wyndham Championship or his thrilling playoff victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship. It wasn’t earning $6.35 million or even making the Presidents Cup team. «The coolest experience was the birth of my son,» he says. «Off the golf course I had the greatest year of my life.