Simpson back to finish one year later at The Greenbrier

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July 07, 2012
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Webb Simpson sprinted out of the interview room Saturday night.

If he had his choice, he'd rather have gone straight to the practice green, which is where he went immediately after answering a few questions following a third-round 65 to take a two-shot lead at The Greenbrier Classic.

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Or maybe he just wanted to get to the nearby Bon Jovi concert early. Not that Simpson can dispute that claim since he apparently doesn't read what's written about him anyway.

While everything around Simpson has changed since his landmark victory at last month's U.S. Open, nothing about Simpson apparently has.

"The best piece of advice I got was from Tom Watson and he said, 'Winning a major championship is great, but it doesn't really change the way you are as a golfer aside from the experience,'" Simpson said. "I took that to heart and I kind of put it in my mind that I was going to work harder than I did leading up to the U.S. Open."

Some players take a month off after a major victory. Others go right back to work.

Following his victory at The Olympic Club, Simpson passed on a national media tour and flew across the country straight to the Travelers Championship.

He tied for 19th there, took a week off to spend with his family, then drove 3 1/2 hours north to The Old White TPC, which is where, in earnest, his career began to take shape last season.

Going into the back nine of the final round here a year ago, Simpson needed to shoot even par to reach a playoff. Instead, he made three bogeys in a seven-hole stretch to close in 2 over.

"I wanted it so bad that it kind of put more pressure on myself than the pressure I was already feeling," Simpson said. "It kind of locked me up a little bit. I think it's good for me to remember that, not only [Sunday] but every week."

He learned fast.

Less than a month later, Simpson got his first career win at the Wyndham Championship, and in the last 52 weeks no one on the PGA TOUR has recorded more top 10s than Simpson, who has a dozen, including two more wins.

"I certainly think Greensboro was a breakthrough for me given that I got the monkey off my back and I proved I could win," Simpson said. "But more than anything I kind of pride myself in continuing the process that we're trying to accomplish, and that's just to get better and work on my fundamentals. That's been kind of the theme now for a couple years and we stuck with it and that's what I want to keep doing."

It certainly seems to be working.

Simpson hasn't made a bogey here since the sixth hole of his opening round (No. 15) -- a span of 48 straight -- and he's sixth in the field in fairways, fifth in greens and 10th in total putts.

Not to mention first on the leaderboard with a slew of players who are in the same position Simpson was a year ago trying to win for the first time.

Simpson isn't worried about any of them, though, or about anything other than whatever works to make him the best player he can be.

"I tend to want to give it all I have when I'm at the golf course, and then when I leave I don't want to think about golf at all," he said. "I just remind myself almost daily that golf's just my job, it's not who I am. That helps kind of motivate me for the time that I'm at the course to work hard."

Which can only explain why on a hot, humid Saturday twilight in the mountains of West Virginia, Simpson would be on the putting green after he just polished off his second 5-under round of the week. Only the sprinklers and lawnmowers stayed later than Simpson.

"It's easy to do -- it's easy to win a big tournament and kind of get a little lazy," Simpson said. "I didn't want to settle or become complacent after winning a major. I wanted to stay hungry. It's been a good motivator for me to work a little harder."

And a little bit longer, too.

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