Simpson, Haas ready to close the deal at The Greenbrier Classic

July 03, 2013
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

Webb Simpson says it all comes down to whether or not a player can execute at the right time. He didn't on the back nine at The Old White TPC last year -- or the year before, for that matter -- and The Greenbrier Classic title eluded him each time.

"That's the difference," Simpson said. "... Anytime a player wins, they're playing quality golf for 72 holes. Can't really afford a bad nine."

Bill Haas, on the other hand, felt that he did everything he could two years ago when he closed with a 67 to tie overnight leader Scott Stallings and the red-hot Bob Estes and get into a playoff. He missed a 15-footer for birdie on the first extra hole, though, and Stallings converted from 4 to earn his first PGA TOUR win.

So in Haas' case, the disappointment was somewhat tempered.

"Unless your name's Tiger or Phil or a few other guys, it's so hard to win out here," he said. "... It's a great feeling knowing that you had a great week and you gave it such a good chance to win, but you also leave knowing how close you were. ...

"I felt like I did what I needed to do, he just did it a little better. I didn't lose it for myself, I guess, he just beat me, if that makes sense, and that makes it taste a little better, I guess."

Interestingly, Simpson and Haas will be playing together during the first two rounds of this year's The Greenbrier Classic, which also features Phil Mickelson as one of its headliners. Given the success Simpson and Haas have had at the Old White TPC in the three-year history of the increasingly popular TOUR stop, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them playing together in one of the final groups on Sunday, either.

Not to mention, Haas enters with momentum after winning last week's AT&T National at Congressional -- converting his second of five career third-round leads into victory. He birdied three straight Sunday starting at the eighth hole on the way to a 66 that gave him a three-stroke win.

"I think I was always taught break off the rearview mirror, good and bad," Haas said. "Everybody starts at even this week. But now with that said, I certainly have positive thoughts. Sunday was one of my best final rounds ever and no matter what I can always look back. ...

"So when I'm on the course, if it's going a little sideways or not going right, I can certainly have the confidence saying I can turn this around because I just did it not long ago. So certainly I think ... there is a momentum swing in golf as well."

Simpson, on the other hand, hasn't won since last year's U.S. Open but he's been in contention regularly. He has four top-10 finishes this year, all of sixth or better, including a playoff loss to Graeme McDowell at the RBC Heritage. He comes to West Virginia's scenic Alleghany Mountains on the heels of a tie for fifth at the Travelers Championship, too.

"I played well there, really played well at the U.S. Open," said Simpson, who played with Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry West in Wednesday's pro-am. "I just didn't score the ball well, so I'm looking forward to playing. I love this spot."

The pairing will be a comfortable one for the two, who also play with Nick Watney, making his Greenbrier Classic debut, in the first two rounds. Both played for Haas' uncle, Jerry, at Wake Forest, although they missed being teammates by one year.

"I can't say enough nice things about Bill Haas," Simpson said. "When I got out on TOUR in 2008, there was nobody nicer in terms of giving me advice, helping me out, whatever I needed. ... You want to see your buddies play well but at the end of the day you want to beat them, and I think he's one of the few that actually roots for me. So can't thank him enough for what he's done and continues to do in helping me."

Simpson is an ambassador for The Greenbrier, which is a sprawling 710-room resort on 10,000 acres that features everything from a casino and spa to falconry, kayaking, whitewater rafting, paintball and horseback riding. Concerts by Kenny Chesney and Aerosmith this week add to the allure.

Oh, and don't forget, three golf courses and a legacy that includes Sam Snead and Tom Watson, who is playing -- and making a scouting trip for his 2014 Ryder Cup team -- at The Greenbrier Classic this week.

"Any time anybody asks me about it, I recommend they play," Simpson said. "There's a lot of weeks where we play where it's high stress, there are certain courses that demand a lot of attention, big crowds, big atmosphere. This is more catered towards a small feeling, even though a lot of fans come. It's a laid-back week. You wake up, take a shower and get a little shuttle down to the golf course.

"I think those details make it where it's easy to talk players into coming here."

Haas said he penciled The Greenbrier Classic on his schedule back in January. A lot has changed for Haas and his wife, Julie, with the birth of their first child, a son named William, in May. This week marks the baby's first road trip.

"No matter what, it's a successful week just having them here -- golf aside," Haas said. "Priorities aren't the same. We certainly packed more stuff for this road trip than we've ever packed for any (other). ... It's a different week than I've ever experienced on TOUR but all for great reasons."

A win would make it even more special.