Monday Finish: Experience, precision boost Simpson to victory
February 03, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Webb Simpson's winning highlights from Waste Management Phoenix Open
Another super Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open saw Webb Simpson come through to claim his sixth PGA TOUR trophy, something he’d been threatening to do for a while.
Simpson knocked off Tony Finau, another who keeps politely knocking on the door of victories, in a sudden-death playoff thanks to a couple of clutch putts on the 18th hole. The Presidents Cup teammates both did enough to earn the title, but it was the former PLAYERS and U.S. Open champion who would ultimately prevail.
Welcome to the Monday Finish following another awesome week at TPC Scottsdale where huge crowds provided the celebration-like atmosphere we have become accustomed to at the event.
THREE KEYS TO SUCCESS
1. Experience. It is easy to say, but winning big in the past was clearly a huge help to Simpson as he came down the stretch at TPC Scottsdale. While Tony Finau had played very well to get himself out in front as the holes ticked away, Simpson stuck solid and refused to panic. Even after he bogeyed the par-5 15th hole. He had seen it all before and he knew the finish would provide opportunities. With his step-by-step mantra he pulled within one with a birdie on the 17th hole on Sunday. And then on the 72nd hole, he gave himself a good look at another birdie knowing if he made it he would have put up his best fight – and he could be content with that. The ball disappeared into the cup and Finau – who has been so close yet so far since winning the 2016 Puerto Rico Open – was unable to convert a tournament ending putt. They returned to the tee for sudden death and Simpson looked cool as a cucumber. He lost a playoff last November at The RSM Classic and was one shot out at the Sony Open in Hawaii – clearly he was playing well and he trusted it. A beautiful tee shot and great approach left a similar putt from moments earlier. This time, Finau was first and missed. Simpson saw his chance and grabbed it. Read more on his win here.
2. Resilience. Simpson has been playing next-level great golf for nearly a year without ultimately winning. Some could get lost in frustration, but Simpson just kept the faith, knowing he was on the right path and didn’t need to press. On Thursday, he shot an opening 71, leaving him 10 shots off the lead. He could have seen that as a mountain too hard to climb, but instead saw a challenge. Friday he shot 63 and on Saturday it was 64 to get into the final group. Since the start of last season, no one has gone low like Simpson goes low. Over 18 percent of his rounds have been 65 or better. Justin Thomas is the next best at just under 14 percent. The win in Phoenix was Simpsons' sixth top-three finish since June 1 last year, the most on TOUR in the span. But this was the first victory. Persistence paid off. Read more on his stats from this period here.
3. Precision. Simpson catapulted to second place in the FedExCup with his win and moved inside the top 10 in the world rankings to seventh. While the rest of the players around the top of the world share the ability to go long off the tee, Simpson shows that a premium on accuracy and a great approach game can still compete at the highest level. Simpson led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green gaining an average of +1.870 strokes a round on approach shots. This was the fifth best of his career in a four-round event (measured rounds) on TOUR. Perhaps the best was his ace on the par 3, 12th hole in round three from 196-yards. Simpson hit almost 78 percent of his greens in regulation and was T3 in the field with 40 of 56 fairways hit. He averaged a proximity of four feet, seven inches for shots from 75 to 100 yards.
Webb Simpson aces No. 12 at Waste Management
Finau frustrations will end soon: We have been saying this for a while now, but you just can’t imagine a world where he doesn’t win, and win quite a few times, in the near future. The experience gained over the near misses plus the last Ryder and President’s Cups have shown Finau how to continue to get himself up there. Now he needs to find the killer instinct to close things out. That’s easier said than done for a man who is one of the nicest human’s around. Since his win in 2016, we are now at 28 top-10s, six runner ups and two thirds along the way. “I’ll knock it off soon,” he said in Phoenix, “and will be on my way.” We still believe that to be true. Read more on Finau here.
Mamba Mentality will live on: The tragic passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi and seven others was still fresh on the minds of many in Scottsdale. But the overwhelming sense of needing to continue the Bryant legacy of the “mamba mentality” was inspiring to watch. Countless TOUR players paid tribute to Bryant throughout the week, including wearing jerseys on the famous par-3 16th stadium hole. The hole itself was cut 24 paces on and eight in from the left to honor Bryant on Sunday. Mamba mentality is one of being dedicated to your craft, whatever that is, and never giving up. It is not only for athletes, but for all in all walks of life. More on the tributes can be found here and here.
Golf can be enjoyed in so many ways: The yearly dose of huge crowds and raucous noise in Phoenix is a reminder to us all… golf can be enjoyed by so many different kinds of people. Be you a traditionalist or a revolutionary. Be you a millennial, or younger still. Or middle aged or playing out your final few years. There is a place for you in this sport. When you come at anything with an open mind and a willingness to see things from all angles, then everyone can have their fun.
“If you’re not ready for things to turn around, they probably won’t.” – Webb Simpson
“The biggest tribute is trying to imitate Kobe in the way to be a father like he was and work hard every day because you never know when it's taken away from you…” – Gary Woodland
“He got the upper hand this time… but I love that guy, and that’s one hell of a finish. If you’re going to birdie 18 a couple of times, you’re probably going to win.” – Tony Finau on Simpson
“It gets crazier every year. You expect that, you know you're getting it, so it's not like it's a surprise… It was great, 16 was awesome as always and very, very enjoyable experience.” – Justin Thomas.
The Wyndham Rewards Top 10 is a season-long competition that offers a $10 million bonus for the 10 golfers who end the regular season at the Wyndham Championship inside the top 10 in FedExCup points. The player atop the standings will earn $2 million, with varying payoffs for the others through $500,000 for the 10th place finisher.
Justin Thomas remains in pole position but Simpson, courtesy of his win, has rocketed into the top 10 at second place. He was 15th a week ago. His arrival pushes out Joaquin Niemann while the rest of the top 10 has done a little shuffling. Sungjae Im climbed a little while others slid. Tony Finau is now 21st after his runner up effort.
Here’s how the standings look heading into this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
THIS WEEK LAST WEEK PLAYER 1. 1. Justin Thomas 2. 15. Webb Simpson 3. 2. Brendon Todd
4. 3. Sebastian Muñoz
5. 4. Lanto Griffin
6. 5. Rory McIlroy
7. 6. Cameron Smith
8. 9. Sungjae Im
9. 7. Marc Leishman
10. 8. Cameron Champ
🤯 Ranks for @WebbSimpson1 this season:— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 3, 2020
1st in Putting Average
1st in Scoring Average
1st in Par 4 Scoring Average
1st in Strokes Gained: Total
2nd in Birdie Average
2nd in Strokes Gained: Approach
2nd in #WyndhamRewardsTop10
5th in Total Putting
5th in Greens in Regulation pic.twitter.com/6nRDAArpXL