Dynamic duo ready to win again at Ryder Cup
September 19, 2014
By Helen Ross , PGATOUR.COM
- Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson have fared well when paired together in the past. (Rogash/Getty Images)
When Tom Watson made Webb Simpson one of his three Captain's Picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team earlier this month, it didn't really surprise anyone.
After all, Simpson was a proven commodity who had won his fourth PGA TOUR event to open the PGA TOUR's 2013-14 wrap-around season. He had eight other top-10 finishes, too, and finished a more than respectable 15th in the Ryder Cup standings.
Truth be told, though, Simpson's biggest selling point may have been the potent pairing he gives the U.S. captain with the other Watson on the team, his buddy Bubba, the two-time Masters champion.
Simpson and Watson have played together seven times in two international team competitions -- posting a 3-1 record at the 2011 Presidents Cup and a 2-1 mark at the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Not that there weren't some challenges early on, though.
The two good friends were the leadoff hitters for the Americans at Royal Melbourne, taking on Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa in the opening Foursomes on Thursday morning. They quickly found themselves 2 down.
Simpson had entered his first Presidents Cup on a serious hot streak, though. He'd won twice, lost another tournament in a playoff and only finished out of the top 10 one in his previous seven starts.
So Watson pulled Simpson aside after his partner had hit a loose tee shot at the fourth hole.
"You're the eighth best player in the world ... so let's look at it from that perspective," Watson recalls saying. "Half of those people are from Europe. So they're not on the Presidents Cup team. So now you're fourth or fifth in the world."
But Watson wasn't finished.
"Tiger's on our team, Phil's on our team ... so you're the third best player in the world at this event," he continued. "So play like it. Make some putts."
And that's exactly what Simpson proceeded to do. The Americans won six of the next 11 holes and ended up taking the match by a 4-and- 3 score.
"Maybe I should be a mental coach," Watson said with a grin.
Simpson, for his part, remembers the day vividly. His smile got bigger and bigger as a reporter recently related Watson's side of the story.
"Absolutely," he said. "It helped that he was nice enough to calm me down. It was my first team event and he just kind of reminded me of what got me there and I was ranked the best player there. So that was good for my confidence."
Simpson can't rememberwhen the two first met but said he and Watson really began to get to know each other at the 2011 Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The two had separated themselves from the rest of the field there and played together in the final round, with Watson beating Simpson in a playoff.
"We texted each other some scripture the night before so that was kind of our intro to being friends," Simpson said.
While both are devout, though, their personalities are very different.
"Anytime we play together, we both, I think, calm each other down," Simpson said. "I'm a little more serious, business-like even-keel, so I think that calms him down. I think if I were to be joking, it would feed his kind of nervousness. So I think we're good for each other.
"We're kind of opposite ends of the spectrum the way we play out there, the way we act. So I do think we're opposites but we're a great team when you put us in that environment."
And make no mistake. Behind that good-old-boy, happy-go-lucky exterior, Watson is a single-minded competitor. He wouldn't have won his second Masters earlier this year if he wasn't.
"I think that's his way of dealing with the pressure, his nerves," Simpson said of Watson's rather jocular demeanor. "When he gets in contention he's tough to beat. I think that's just his personality, his way of dealing with being nervous."
So if Watson and Simpson get the call at Gleneagles this week, they'd be only too happy to oblige.
"I haven't heard anything, and the captain hasn't talked to me, but I'd love to be paired with Webb again just so I can help him," Watson said with a big smile. "He needs somebody to put his arm around him and help him."