Webb Simpson sank his birdie putt at the par-3 18th hole and placed the finishing touches on a nearly flawless two-under-par 68 to tie him at seven-under with Brendon De Jonge atop the Greenbrier Classic leaderboard.
Simpson doesn’t look like your typical third-year professional on Tour. He hasn’t finished outside of the top 20 since May at the Players Championship. He’s made 15 of 17 cuts, highlighted by five top 10 finishes. Also, Simpson has come within striking distance of his first professional victory twice this season, finishing runner-up at both the Transitions Championship and Zurich Classic.
However, the same Webb Simpson currently tied for the lead at the Greenbrier Classic was packing his bags this same time last year. After two erratic rounds of 74, 76 at the Greenbrier in 2010, Simpson missed the cut and added another blemish to his awful season long scorecard. Ten missed cuts, not a single top-10 finish to his name, and an overall dejected outlook on his performance in the professional golf world. He ranked outside of the top 100 in most of the crucial statistics, including 121st in Greens in Regulation, 66th in Scoring Average, and 53rd in Birdie Average.
So how does a player like Simpson make such a dramatic leap over a single season?
Consistency, and probably a little bit of luck.
The 26-year-old hailing from Raleigh, North Carolina, has been a blueprint for consistency in 2011 and the numbers don’t lie. He’s currently ranked 22nd in Greens in Regulation, 6th in Scoring Average (69.60), 5th in Birdie Average and as of this weekend was catapulted to the No.1 All-Around ranking statistically. (If you were wondering who previously held the top-spot, it was none other than Matt Kuchar).
In addition to his sensational stats, Simpson is learning how to compete and thrive in the Tour’s most daunting, pressure-filled settings. He earned a T7 finish at the Memorial Tournament, followed by a T14 at the US Open and T16 at the British Open. While most professional players will be lucky to receive an invitation to these events, Simpson is contending in them.
His dogged work ethic and refusal to settle for another season of mediocrity has propelled him into the PGA Tour spotlight.
Simpson stormed out of the gates in his opening round at the Greenbrier, carding two bogeys alongside seven birdies for a five-under-par 65 to lead the tournament. Friday began slower for Simpson, but he ultimately found his stride on the back nine with four birdies leading to his second consecutive round in the 60’s. Perhaps that had something to do with a conversation he’d had earlier that day.
“I told my wife today I’m going to go out and be in the lead, so you’ve got to come for the weekend,” Simpson said.
The weekend will be another grueling test of Simpson’s nerves, but he appears to have found an unflappable rhythm.
“I’m confident and I’m ready for the weekend,” Simpson told Bob Stevens of the PGA Tour Network SiriusXM. “The course is awesome in terms of its got just enough trickiness to make you think on every hole and every shot.”
The former Wake Forest golfer looked in control the last two days, especially with the flatstick, which has earned him a tournament leading 11 birdies. Simpson will enter moving day at the Greenbrier Classic tied with Brendon De Jonge as both men seek their first professional victory on the PGA Tour.