Simpson talked, texted way onto Ryder Cup team

By Jason SobelSeptember 25, 2014, 2:10 pm

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.

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“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.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.

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Woods fires shot into crowd: 'I kept moving them back'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It added up to another even-par round, but Tiger Woods had an eventful Friday at The Open.

His adventure started on the second hole, when he wiped a drive into the right rough. Standing awkwardly on the side of a mound, he prepared for a quick hook but instead fired one into the crowd that was hovering near the rope line.

“I kept moving them back,” he said. “I moved them back about 40 yards. I was trying to play for the grass to wrap the shaft around there and hit it left, and I was just trying to hold the face open as much as I possibly could. It grabbed the shaft and smothered it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I was very, very fortunate that I got far enough down there where I had a full wedge into the green.”

Woods bogeyed the hole, one of four on the day, and carded four birdies in his round of 71 at Carnoustie. When he walked off the course, he was in a tie for 30th, six shots off the clubhouse lead.

It’s the first time in five years – since the 2013 Open – that Woods has opened a major with consecutive rounds of par or better. He went on to tie for sixth that year at Muirfield.