Players singing the praises of Simpson

By Jason SobelJune 19, 2012, 8:06 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Headlines proclaimed it a “shocker.” Casual fans considered it a “surprise.” Anyone who hasn’t paid close attention recently called it “unexpected.”

These are the types of reactions that occur when a player earns his first career major championship title – and they’ve been occurring a lot lately, with each of the last nine having been captured by a first-time winner.

And yet, they don’t really fit the profile for Webb Simpson.

In fact, we probably should have seen this coming.

Those alleging Simpson’s triumph at the U.S. Open was anything more than mildly unforeseen have clearly missed the emergence of one of the game’s brightest young players.

After a successful PGA Tour rookie campaign in which he kept his card in 2010, Simpson leapt into the upper echelon of elite players last year when he won twice and finished in the top-10 in more than half of his starts.

At age 26, he was enjoying another consistent if not spectacular season entering last week’s festivities at The Olympic Club. Sure, he may not have been the pre-tournament favorite, but anytime the world’s 14th-ranked player wins an event, it should hardly be called a shocker or surprise.

At least his fellow players understand that notion. One by one, they have praised Simpson in the days since his victory without falling victim to any hyperbole about its unexpectedness.

“He’s just good. He’s been hot for a long time,” said 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover. “That guy’s been on a tear for two-and-a-half years. He played good Saturday, got a lot of confidence for Sunday. He played well, so kudos to him for sticking it out.”

“He is really good,” Matt Kuchar echoed. “It’s been fun to see. I remember three years ago when he came out on Tour, he was top-fiving every week, had a little slow down, then he got back into the swing of things. The battle he and Luke Donald had last year for the money title was just awesome.”

“I don’t know if it was an overly big shock,” Zach Johnson said. “Webb’s a great player. He has a great short game and obviously that’s what’s carried him. Maybe for it to happen this fast, that could be somewhat of a surprise. But when it comes down to it, it’s one week; it’s putting the pieces together for one week and getting a little bit of luck, too, along the way. You need a little bit of that. But I’m a firm believer that the more work you put in, you get more luck. That’s just the way it works out.”

This week Simpson will follow his performance in San Francisco by competing in the Travelers Championship, where he will tee it up alongside fellow reigning major champions Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley.

If the Wake Forest grad – now ranked fifth in the world – contends or even wins once again, many will label it a surprise that he was able to bounce back from that long week with some gas still left in the tank.

It would be yet another mistake to doubt his abilities.

That’s because Simpson is the rare player who doesn’t rely on any singular aspect of his game in order to succeed. He doesn’t bomb it off the tee, doesn’t find the most fairways, isn’t the sweetest ball-striker and isn’t the best putter – though the last one is close. Instead, he succeeds thanks to an all-around conglomeration of talents.

“Webb just seems to have the whole package – a good head on his shoulders, drives it well, wedges it well and one of the better putters on Tour,” Kuchar said. “That’s a pretty good combination right there.”

“He does everything well,” added Glover. “I wouldn’t say he does one thing great, but he does everything really well. When you play good golf for two years, that’s the way it is. I think his putting is a strength and he knows that and he’s confident with it. Everything else is really, really solid.”

As proof, Simpson ranked first in the PGA Tour’s all-around ranking last year, a combination of eight major statistical categories. This year, his ranking is down to 22nd, but expect him to continue climbing.

Of course, those numbers only measure tangible totals, not intestinal fortitude or mental acumen. Not that either of those can be questioned, though. After all, any player who wins a major – especially the U.S. Open – must know a thing or two about having the right mind for success.

“You can tell he has a desire,” Kuchar explained. “You can tell when he’s not playing well, it burns him to get better. When he plays well, he seems to keep it going. When he’s hot, he really gets it going.”

Right now, Webb Simpson is hot. Don’t be shocked or surprised to see him keep it going.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.