By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Webb Simpson's wife Dowd was listening to her husband lament his lack of success on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
Simpson, who grew up playing a Pete Dye golf course like the Stadium, had made four previous PLAYERS Championship starts, playing a total of 10 rounds and making just one cut. He's never broken 70 here, either, and he has a hard time pinpointing what's held him back because he says the course fits his eye.
"It was a golf course that I've always loved; I've just never played well," Simpson said. "... At the beginning of the week my wife was telling me that she thinks I have nothing to lose. It's not like I built up any pressure on myself to play well here.
"So that's what I did here today, and it feels great to finally breakthrough with a good round here."
That good round was a bogey-free 67 that left Simpson tied for fourth, four strokes off the pace set by the red-hot Roberto Castro, who shot 9 under in the morning before the the wind picked up. Also shooting 67s were Casey Wittenberg, Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker, Ryan Palmer and Tiger Woods.
"It was playing a lot harder with the wind and the greens drying out," Simpson said. "But the scores were so good in the morning I knew I had to go out and try to make as many birdies as I could to save the golf tournament."
Simpson, who says he has a "special place" in his heart for Pete Dye, lost a playoff on one of the legendary designer's courses three weeks ago. Graeme McDowell beat him on the first extra hole but that runner-up finish was his third of the season, and Simpson knew his game was headed in the right direction.
"My confidence is high," Simpson said. "... It was there for the taking I felt like. It was just up to myself to try to get out of the way and try to just put together a round knowing that I've been working hard and working on the right stuff, and, fortunately, that's what happened."
Simpson was solid tee-to-green, hitting 11 fairways and 14 greens in regulation. He also had 27 putts, including seven one-putts on the front nine where he made four birdies.
"I think you've got to be patient and be smart," Simpson said when asked about his strategy. "You look at the guys that have won, and they're the guys that are on the fairway. Today fortunately for me everything was working well, but I think the most important thing was getting the ball on the fairway."