ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GEORGIA | Webb Simpson held himself to his decision to take an extended break from the PGA Tour.
After the 2018-19 season concluded at the Tour Championship in late August, Simpson slipped away from the weekly grind of tournament golf, playing just one tournament in a little less than three months.
At home in Charlotte, N.C., Simpson drove his kids to school, slipped away to New York City with his wife, Dowd, and let the new tour season start without him.
All by design.
“We need to create our own offseason and I just had to do it. I wanted to be at home this fall. It’s hard not to play but I have to trust that I’m going to do what I have to do to maintain having a solid year,” Simpson said earlier this week at the RSM Classic, which is the first of an important three-tournament run for the 12th-ranked player in the world.
After this week’s event at Sea Island Resort, Simpson will play in Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas early next month and then head to Australia for the Presidents Cup, where he will be playing on his sixth U.S. national team as a professional.
In his down time, Simpson got away from the tour but he didn’t get away from golf. He stayed busy at Quail Hollow Club, where he lives, with an eye on picking up where he left off after a season in which he finished second three times and had six top-10 finishes.
In his only previous start this season, Simpson finished T7 at the Shriners Hospitals For Children Open in early October.
“I don’t feel it’s as hard to come back as it used to be,” Simpson said. “I had five weeks off after the Tour Championship before coming back to Vegas and I felt like I did in the middle of the season. I’m keeping a similar routine, just not playing tournaments. …
“What I found through trial and error is that the best I am when I come back is when I play and practice when I’m at home. So even though I took all that time off, I was still playing practice rounds and practicing every week, instead of taking three or four weeks off completely. I work out, keep in touch with my psychologist.”
Though Simpson will never be one of the longest players on tour, he has refined what separates him. Once he settled on a new putting style after the anchoring ban forced him to adjust, Simpson has become a model of consistency.
In 21 starts last season, Simpson had 15 finishes in the top 25. He ranked 20th in strokes gained tee to green, fifth in strokes gained overall and 11th in strokes gained putting.
While the RSM Classic and the Hero World Challenge are important individual tournaments for Simpson, he’s inspired by the prospect of playing for U.S. captain Tiger Woods in the Presidents Cup.
“I like how I have turned into a more consistent player. I told you guys this a few years ago, I wanted to become a more consistent player. I never thought year in and year out I was a consistent player and I wanted to get there,” Simpson said.
“So I’ve been excited that my bad weeks, they’ve been 30th-place finishes versus missed cuts. That’s what I’m after. I want to come out and feel like if I come out and play normal golf, I’m going to have a good finish. If I play below average, 30th. And if I play great, I’ll have a chance to win.”
While the RSM Classic and the Hero World Challenge are important individual tournaments for Simpson, he’s inspired by the prospect of playing for U.S. captain Tiger Woods in the Presidents Cup against the International team at Royal Melbourne in mid-December. Simpson has become a fixture on American teams and he’s been part of the good and the bad.
He’s been on two winning Presidents Cup teams and though he was among the few American bright spots in the Ryder Cup loss in Paris last fall, Simpson has been on three losing U.S. teams in that event.
“For me, there is a bitter taste still there (from Paris),” Simpson said.
“Winning is so fun and (the Internationals) have a good team. I know every year there is a similar story, are they going to be able to pull it out. They have a good team and we have to be ready. We have to be ready. I hope France inspired our guys on the team to focus on it that much more.”
Webb Simpson, after playing just one tournament in three months, is back at the RSM Classic and ready to play. Photo: Mike Lawrie, Getty Images
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