GLENEAGLES, Scotland – This week’s Ryder Cup matches haven’t yet begun, but there’s already been some history in the 40th edition of this event.
For the first time ever, a player early-morning texted his way onto a roster.
It was around 4 a.m. MT on Sept. 2, and Webb Simpson couldn’t sleep. He had finished competing in the Deutsche Bank Championship the previous afternoon, and then flew to Denver for the BMW Championship. With about 13 hours remaining before United States captain Tom Watson would make his three wildcard selections, Simpson felt the need to state his case.
So he sent a text message.
“I thought, I've got nothing to lose,” Simpson recounted on Thursday, “So I texted him, something like: ‘I know it's a really tough decision for you, I know Chris [Kirk] just won and I know Bill [Haas] is playing good, and you even have other options than that. But I really, really, really want to be on the team and I really want to represent the United States. I love this format, and I'll do anything to be on the team.’”
Not only did Watson immediately receive the message, he texted right back.
“He texted real quick,” Simpson continued. “I saw the three little dots on the iPhone and I was surprised he was awake. He said, ‘This is a tough decision, Webb.’ That's all he said.”
At that point, lying awake in a Denver hotel bed, Simpson assumed his Ryder Cup fate had been sealed.
“I was like, I didn't make the team. He's going to call me and I didn't make the team.”
Within a half-hour, Watson did call him, but it wasn’t with bad news.
Instead, the captain wanted to find out why Simpson thought he would be a strong addition to the team.
“At 4:30 in the morning, it's a tough question to be asked,” Simpson admitted. “I just told him [about] my passion for the Ryder Cup from my one experience and how much I cared about it and how much I believed I thought I could bring to the team. Nothing over the other guys, but just, hey, you know, Medinah is still there. I think about it and I want another shot.
“I didn't have a lot of interaction with Captain in terms of texting and phone calls throughout the year. He would text me occasionally that I'm on his radar, but it was kind of the first time I expressed to him how bad I wanted to be on the team.”
By the end of the phone call, Watson congratulated Simpson. He told him he would be named as a captain’s pick later that day.
Needless to say, Simpson never went back to sleep. He called his wife, Dowd, who was back home in North Carolina. He woke up fellow captain’s pick Keegan Bradley with another call. He watched ESPN until he finally left for a practice round at Cherry Hills that morning.
And they all lived happily ever after. The end. Right?
Well … not exactly. Something sounds a little rotten in Denver.
According to multiple sources, Watson had already leaked the information that his third captain’s pick – after Bradley and Hunter Mahan – would be someone other than Simpson. While he wasn’t asked about that after announcing his selections in New York City that evening, the captain did offer a different take on how he came to pick Simpson.
“It really came to me this morning after struggling with a couple different players, who was going to be best for the team,” Watson explained at the time. “I kind of had a revelation.”
He insisted that it was a stack of statistics compiled by PGA of America president Ted Bishop which caught his attention.
“I was cleaning up all these stats and putting them in folders and things like that this morning, and the last one that was out there was the results from 2012 Ryder Cup right there,” Watson said. “I looked down there and I see Webb Simpson, 5‑4; Webb Simpson, 5‑4. And I said, ‘That's got to be the guy.’”
Whether it was more because of Simpson’s text message or what he told Watson over the phone or the statistics he perused that morning, we do know that the final captain’s pick was an 11th hour decision, made in the early hours of the day of that announcement.
The captain hasn’t really spoken with Simpson about that morning so far this week, but at one point Watson was relaying their conversation to a few other team members.
“We had a good laugh about that,” Simpson said. “I don't know what it was. I know he had let Keegan and Hunter know earlier, and I kind of snuck in there. So whatever it was, whatever he saw, it worked.”