It has been six years since Webb Simpson walked up the 18th fairway at Sedgefield Country Club for his coronation as a first-time PGA Tour winner. So much has changed since then. He’s a U.S. Open champion and is the father of three more kids. And still, a fifth career win now would mean almost as much as the first one did back then.
The Wyndham Championship in 2011 was his first win, a moment so precious he even named one of his daughters after it. And now, in 2017, it has been almost four years since his fourth and last win on tour. That’s a long time for someone with Simpson’s resume: major winner, two-time Ryder Cupper, twice on the Presidents Cup team. Once ticketed for stardom, at 32, as he awaits another win, Simpson has settled into a different routine.
This is his new reality. He has embraced patience.
“I want to play competitively for a long time. That’s my goal,” Simpson said Sunday after a final-round 67 left him three shots behind Henrik Stenson. “So I try not to look at the short term, try to look at the long term and how can we build our game out to really compete week in, week out. That’s what I’m trying to do. We’re just continuing on, doing what we’re doing. I’m putting it better, hitting it better. My game as a whole is improving. Hopefully, what we’re putting into place will really show itself when it matters most.”
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Simpson went into Sunday’s final round one shot off the lead, his best chance to win since losing to Hideki Matsuyama in a playoff at the Phoenix Open in February, only to struggle through the first 10 holes. By the time playing partner Ollie Schneiderjans moved into a four-way tie for first on the back nine, Simpson was four back and fading. CBS showed nearly every one of Schneiderjans’ shots, but the network had long ago given up on Simpson as he mounted an impressive rally with birdies on four of the final six holes – alas, not enough to catch Stenson.
If there’s frustration, it’s that it was his best finish in the three tournaments in his home state this summer. Simpson – who lives in Charlotte but grew up in Raleigh, learned to play at Carolina Country Club, went to Broughton and played college golf at Wake Forest – missed the cut at the displaced Wells Fargo Championship in Wilmington and finished tied for 33rd at the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, his home course, before going into Sunday with every chance to win.
“I always want to play better the closer I am to home,” Simpson said. “I do love all the golf courses in the area, with Hilton Head and Augusta and Sea Island. But after you play these courses enough, you come to know them a little bit, you feel like you should play better than some other guys because you’ve just seen it more.”
Being in contention may not have the same benefits as winning, but it offers positive reinforcement both tangible and otherwise. At 25th on the money list, Simpson is once again safely in the FedEx Cup playoffs that begin next week, in position for his best finish since a four-year stretch from 2011-14, when he finished in the top 20 each year.
In the meantime, while he awaits a return to the podium, there are consolation benefits. His family is with him most weeks on tour, a boy and three girls, all under 6, and the entire traveling roadshow was at Sedgefield on Sunday. While Simpson signed his scorecard, two of his children “guarded” his golf bag until caddie Paul Tesori returned to retrieve it. And then, the short drive home from a course he knows well, where he has won before and had hopes Sunday of winning again.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, @LukeDeCock