Simpson wins Waste Management Phoenix OpenOvertakes Finau for sixth PGA TOUR victory
February 02, 2020
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Webb Simpson wins in playoff at Waste Management
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Step by step.
In a game where answers can be hard to come by, Webb Simpson adopted that mantra after reading about Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and even had those three words stamped on his wedges.
Control what you can control, keep moving forward, and have faith that good things will come.
“It’s just a reminder for me to take care of the little things,” Simpson said after making his second birdie on the 18th hole in less than a half hour to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open in a playoff over Tony Finau. “And the big things seem to take care of themselves.”
The victory was Simpson’s sixth, and first since THE PLAYERS Championship in 2018. It also came after four runner-up finishes since last summer. He moved to second in the FedExCup.
Finau was bidding to win for the first time since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open at Coco Beach.
“He got the upper hand this time,” Finau said, “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.”
Justin Thomas (65), Bubba Watson (66) and Nate Lashley (68) tied for third, three back.
Simpson looked out of it when he hooked his drive into the water at the par-5 15th hole, and while Finau failed to convert on an eight-foot birdie try, the lead was still two with three to play. Finau, the 54-hole leader who recently moved from Utah to Scottsdale, seemed to be in control.
“To me it came down to the putt on 15,” said Boyd Summerhays, Finau’s coach, “because anything can happen coming in.”
Paul Tesori, Simpson’s caddie, reminded Simpson of exactly that after their misadventure on 15.
“Step by step,” Tesori said as they sized up the last three holes. “Tony might birdie the last three and it won’t matter, but if we do our job, we might have a chance.”
Simpson nearly hit the flagstick at the rowdy, par-3 16th hole, but missed his 18-foot birdie try. He drove the green at the short, par-4 17th and converted a tough two-putt to cut the lead to one. At the par-4 18th, Simpson converted an uphill, right-to-left putt from 17 1/2 feet to force Finau to make, which he couldn’t do, his 8 1/2-foot downhill birdie try sliding off to the right.
Simpson birdied 18 from just outside 10 feet, on a similar line, in the playoff. It was over. In a span of three holes in regulation and one in overtime, the script had flipped.
Shot of the Day
Webb Simpson's winning putt is the Shot of the Day
“I didn’t think it was over,” Simpson said of his thoughts walking off the 15th green, “but I thought I am really going to have to do something special to get back in it.”
Step by step.
It was how the winner kept his head in the game after four runner-up finishes – The RSM Classic, Wyndham Championship, World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, RBC Canadian Open – but no wins since last summer. He told himself he was learning something every time, and that he hadn’t so much lost those tournaments as others won them.
“I wasn't in contention at Memphis when I finished second,” he said. “I had a great Sunday. Rory shoots 61 at RBC, J.T. Poston shoots 62 (at Wyndham). Tyler Duncan birdies 17 and 18 at RSM, which is incredible on those two holes. It could have been easy for me to get down, but as you look at those tournaments, guys played great and that’s the way the game goes sometimes.”
His father, Sam, who died just over two years ago, used to tell Simpson: You hang in there. You keep at it no matter what life and your job might throw at you.
“If you’re not ready for things to turn around,” Simpson said Sunday, “they probably won’t.”
His solid play this week was no surprise; he had lost a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama in 2017, and had three other top-10 finishes at TPC Scottsdale. The course appeals especially to big hitters, which Simpson will never be – he’s outside the top 150 on TOUR in driving distance – but he makes up for it with pinpoint accuracy with his irons, first and foremost.
Also, although few have probably noticed, he has gotten incrementally longer with the help of trainer Cornel Driessen. “He’s gained about eight yards in the air over the last two years,” said Tesori. “Transformed his body. He works out like a beast at home. I used to call him a skinny fat kid, and now he’s ripped. He’s stronger, more flexible.”
The result: Simpson, who had done everything but win with six top-20 finishes here, was able to comfortably hit 3-wood off the 18th tee and know he’d have only a sand wedge remaining.
“It doesn’t look like it, because he’ll never be able to do what they can do,” Tesori said, “but in his own way he has worked as hard as he could.”
Step by step.
At 34 years old and with six TOUR wins to his name, Simpson is really getting somewhere.