ATLANTA – For five years, Webb Simpson had his golf life laid out for him, just one of the perks that came with winning the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club.
And for a time, Simpson played on Ryder Cup teams and Presidents Cup teams, winning four times as if it were no big deal. But when Simpson played the PGA Championship in his literal backyard at Quail Hollow Club in August, it marked the end of his five-year U.S. Open exemption.
Two years without a win. Two years without making a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team. Two years of chasing the form that began to feel elusive.
It forced Simpson to take a fresh look at where he is in his career and it made qualifying for the Tour Championship one of his primary goals. Making the 30-player field at East Lake comes with exemptions into the four major championships next year and the World Golf Championship events.
“It felt a lot more special this year after missing two (Tour Championships) in a row and knowing I had a tough mountain to climb,” Simpson said. “I just started playing better the last few months and it feels great to be back.”
Simpson opened with a 4-under-par 66 Thursday at East Lake and he will play with leader Kyle Stanley in the final pairing Friday. He’s putted better this year (his second full season since abandoning the anchored putting style) and his ballstriking has come around.
The next step, Simpson said, is putting four good rounds together. That’s getting closer, he believes.
“I never questioned what type of player I was, it was more just trying to put the puzzle back together,” Simpson said. “I haven’t quite figured it out but I am definitely in a better direction than I was.”