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Small Step Led To Big Time

The story of Webb Simpson’s U.S. Open victory a year ago at the Olympic Club began with one very small step. Simpson’s game was in a flat spot and his mood was lower. He had missed the cut at the Memorial Tournament by seven strokes and spent his pre-U.S. Open weekend doing work on the range at home in Charlotte, N.C., with caddie Paul Tesori, ironing out wrinkles in a game that felt as if it had been stuck at the bottom of a laundry hamper. In San Francisco on Monday of Open week, Simpson was in a funk, far from his typically chatty, upbeat and energized self. Tesori sensed an edge as they worked their way through a practice round on the big, sloping course built on the backside of a Pacific Ocean sand dune. The following day, Tesori confronted Simpson. “I said, ‘I don’t know what I did but tell me and I’ll fix it,’” Tesori said. Simpson, Tesori recalls, dropped his head. “He said, ‘It’s not you. My son [James] walked for the first time yesterday and I wasn’t there to see it. I wanted to be at home.’” Simpson and Tesori decided to make Tuesday a short practice day, calling it quits by lunchtime. Simpson called his wife, Dowd, to fly from Charlotte to San Francisco. She was eight months pregnant but she came anyway and spent her days walking 72 ruggedly hilly holes and her evenings having dinner with her husband at some of the city’s finest restaurants. “Dowd was a rock star,” Tesori said. The Simpsons also watched video of their son taking more steps. It’s what they were watching Sunday when Graeme Mc- Dowell’s putt to force an 18-hole playoff with Simpson missed and American golf had a new national champion. “As time passes I realize how special it is all the more,” Simpson said. “To always be remembered as U.S. Open champion, realizing how big a deal it is, it’s just become more special.” The most memorable shot of Simpson’s career-changing victory is the chip shot he played from heavy rough just off the 18th green, saving a par that gave him his one-stroke victory. But it was a shot one hole earlier – at the par-5 17th – when Tesori understood Simpson’s mindset even as he fought his nerves on the gray, damp San Francisco Sunday. Debating whether to hit a hybrid or a 4-iron second shot at No. 17, Simpson hit the 4-iron lay-up. It wasn’t where the ball went but where Simpson went with the shot. “He said, ‘Boudreau – that’s what we call each other – whether we win 15 U.S. Opens or 15 money lists, it’s all going to go away,” Tesori said. “He found his faith and he had an amazing inner peace.” The U.S. Open victory changed Simpson’s career and his resume but he has been intent that it not change him. The week after his victory, he honored a commitment to play the Travelers Championship because it had given him his first Tour start, though he wanted to have the week off.


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