Simpson receives plenty of advice after U.S. Open win

By Jason SobelJune 20, 2012, 7:50 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – There’s an exclusive club of which every golfer wants to be a member … and no, it’s not Augusta National.

Its initiation process is so rigorous that most simply don’t have what it takes to pass the test … but it’s no tribal ritual.

The chosen few who are accepted into this club undergo plenty of interaction with their fellow members right away … though there’s no hazing period.

Call it the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – and Webb Simpson received membership into the club with his U.S. Open victory on Sunday.

The all-time list of major championship winners reads like a who’s who of the game’s greatest legends and most talented players. Upon claiming the title at The Olympic Club, Simpson heard from many of them, offering both their congratulations and advice for dealing with the newfound glory.

“I got some emails from older guys who I've looked up to my whole life that I didn't expect,” Simpson revealed on Wednesday in advance of playing the Travelers Championship. “So that kind of just congratulatory reception from them has been great. And I've got a couple of emails from older golfers that I'm probably going to print out and frame and guys that I've respected so much in so many areas of life. They've just given me invaluable advice through these emails that I didn't expect.”

It’s a list straight out of Major Champion Fantasy Camp.

Tom Watson sent an email. Greg Norman left a voicemail. Hale Irwin gave a call. Arnold Palmer joined him on a morning talk show as a surprise guest.

It was the type of reception that could leave a 26-year-old major winner looking like a wide-eyed child amongst his heroes.

“I reread the email from Tom Watson last night,” Simpson said. “Coming from a guy who's won eight majors, just the things he told me and as a good friend will do, just kind of encouraged me and warn me against feeling certain things I think are really going to help me because obviously I've never won a major. I don't know what to think or expect, but it's something I'm going to try to put into practice and try to remember.”

Simpson’s contact with major champions of the past hasn’t been limited to those who won long ago. Less than 48 hours after winning, he was already leaning on a few current professionals who have been through similar experiences in recent years.

“I even talked with Zach Johnson yesterday for a few minutes just about what advice he could give me after what he went through winning the Masters,” he confided. “I like to learn. And I have no clue really what I'm doing or what to expect, so I'm going to reach out, hopefully, and get some advice from the guys who have won a major and just see what to do and what not to do after.”

He will have even more chances to accomplish that this week.

For the first two rounds at the Travelers, Simpson will be grouped with a pair of recent young American major champions in Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley, the reigning Masters and PGA Championship winners, respectively.

“I've talked to Keegan already about it,” he said. “I haven't had a whole lot of time with Bubba because he hasn't played as much, but it's probably something I won't do during the round because we'll be trying to beat each other. But I have all their numbers, and probably when I know they're having a week off and I got a week off, I'll probably call with some questions and just see what to do.”

Watson has already offered some advice to his Presidents Cup partner.

“He texted me and asked what was going to be different,” he said. “I just told him, I said, ‘You're going to have more fans. You're going to have more people wanting you to sign, and your agent's going to have more things for you to do. You're just going to have to be able to say no. You're the boss. Your agent works for you. You’ve just got to be able to say no and do what's right for you and your family, not what's right for other people. It's always what's right for you and your family who comes first.’ So I tried to give him my little advice because he asked me, but who knows if he'll listen.”

Trust this much: Webb Simpson is listening.

He's soaking up information and advice from Watson and Norman and Irwin and Palmer and Johnson and Bradley and the other Watson. Everybody who has been through his situation before, in fact.

It’s all part of the membership process in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.


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“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


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The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


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It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


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Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”