2012 U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson grew up an hour away from Pinehurst in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is grouped with two former U.S. Open winners for the opening rounds, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, and he will be feeling the home state support, “I love it. I love getting all the support that I’ve had all week.”
As a 13-year-old, Simpson was a standard bearer for Tom Watson and Stephen Allen at the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. In 2005, he attended the Open at Pinehurst as a spectator after finishing up his freshman year at Wake Forest. Those experiences as well as playing 10 tournaments on No. 2 should give Webb good vibes heading into the first round.
Of course, Webb has not played tournament golf on the newly renovated Pinehurst No. 2, and he spoke about how his strategy will change, “I think the main differences are off the tee. With the old Bermuda rough, you’d hit driver on almost every hole. But 10 is a 620 par-5. I’m probably going to hit a 4-iron or hybrid off that tee. A lot of tee shots have changed.”
He added the greens are still the most challenging part of the course, “But the character of the golf course, and what makes it tough is still the same. It’s the greens. And a lot of these holes, some of the holes you’re not trying to hit the green. I know 15, the par-3, a lot of guys will try to just hit it just short of the green. I think there will be some unique shots. I think you’ll see a lot of different plays off the tee, a lot of different shots into the greens.”
Webb’s game plan also includes getting a lot of rest because of the heat, “My caddie, Paul [Tesori], after walking nine holes Monday, he called me and said, there’s two things that we’ve got to do well this week; you’ve got to get your rest and we’ve got to stay patient on the golf course. And he was kind of communicating that the more — he thinks rest this week is more important than practicing.”
Having a good strategy will be useful, and Simpson knows what to expect if he gets into contention on Sunday. He shot 68-68 on the weekend at Olympic Club to win the 2012 U.S. Open, “What I remember most is just the back nine, knowing I was in contention. You really feel how big the moment is and how big the golf tournament is when you’re in contention and your mind’s racing, but you try to just continue to keep plodding along, and hopefully you post a score that’s good enough and it was that day.”
I have a feeling the moment will feel even bigger at Webb’s childhood stomping grounds.
Here are highlights of Webb Simpson’s interview, courtesy of Alex Podlogar (@alexpodlogar):
–Bernie D’Amato (@bdamato711)