April 21 2013
Webb Simpson was sure that his playoff birdie attempt was going to fall, but it didn't. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Webb Simpson was to the right of the 18th green at famed Harbour Town's finishing hole, 34 feet from the hole, the RBC Heritage hanging in the balance.
"I never thought I made a putt more than that birdie putt," Simpson said. "It was in. With a foot to go, it was in the left side."
Only it wasn't.
Even Graeme McDowell thought the putt by Simpson was better than the resulting outcome: A 7-footer coming back to extend the playoff.
Simpson missed the next one, too, and McDowell was winner, having already tapped in for par. Afterward, McDowell told Simpson he hit a better putt than the result showed.
"Coming back, that was a hard putt, because by the grain and the wind it's supposed to break," Simpson said. "But the regulation putt didn't break. So I was kind of stuck with, 'What do I do?' I tried to play it left center. It broke."
And with it went Simpson's best opportunity to win since his U.S. Open victory at The Olympic Club last summer.
Still, it was a step in the right direction for Simpson, who has barely contended anywhere this season.
He arrived at Harbour Town low in confidence. He left feeling positive about where he's headed.
"I just stayed true to the process of what we've been working on," he said. "My wife and I had multiple conversations this week just about my confidence, how I can become more confident as a player."
Only nine months ago, he was on top of the golf world after having won his first career major championship. But managing the whirlwind since hasn't always been easy even if Simpson has tried to make it so.
"I understand how some guys it puts pressure on them," he said. "But I try never to do that to myself. One of my friends, (author) Eric Metaxas said when he wrote his big book Bonhoeffer he didn't feel like he was a better writer, but all of a sudden he's world famous.
"I kind of felt that way at the U.S. Open. I won a major, but it didn't change me that much as a player."
On a windswept day at Harbour Town, it was the closest Simpson looked to the player he was when he won last summer.
Despite three bogeys in the middle of his final-round 71, Simpson also made three birdies, including one on the difficult 12th, where he stuck his approach to 5 feet.
Only 20 players were at par or better amid sustained winds of 20-25 mph and gusts as high as 40. Simpson was one of them.
"My caddie and I called 18 holes today 18 acts, as if we were in a play, just because you really cannot think ahead out there," he said. "It's as hard as we'll ever play."
The wind affected putts, too.
A few times Simpson had to step away from his ball. Once it even moved as he stood over it on the green. A change in the rules, however, didn't lead to a penalty, unlike in New Orleans last year when he was penalized for the same thing.
On Simpson's final putt, it sailed past the right side, getting caught in the wind, he said.
"It was tough," Simpson said. "Putting is so hard because you've got to play, break, grain, wind."