Simpson reflects on Open win, excited to defend

By Ryan LavnerJune 11, 2013, 6:33 pm

ARDMORE, Pa. – The memories came rushing back to Webb Simpson last weekend as he drove toward Merion, as he saw the USGA banners, as he registered for the 113th U.S. Open.

Nostalgia tends to engulf every defending champion, but especially a first-time winner. Simpson was no exception.

“There hasn’t been a day that went by that I haven’t thought about winning the U.S. Open,” he said Tuesday. “Being announced on the first tee as the U.S. Open champion hasn’t gotten old. I don’t want that to change.”

Only four players in the last 100 years have won back-to-back U.S. Opens, and none since Curtis Strange in 1988-89.

Simpson is a popular sleeper pick this week, not only because of his gritty demeanor and strong ball-striking, but also because he’s one of only 11 players in the 156-man field who have played a competitive round on the East Course. His first spin around Merion came in November 2004, when the then-19-year-old was joined by his father and a couple of friends. The weather was miserable that day, so they instead sat in the clubhouse with one of the longtime members, and Simpson, a history buff, listened to stories about the old club, about Hogan’s signature shot on 18.

Less than a year later, Simpson was teeing it up at the ’05 U.S. Amateur at Merion, where he advanced through stroke-play qualifying and lost, 4 and 2, to Anthony Kim – remember him? – in the Round of 32.

Immediately Simpson fell in love with the course, and has since grown only more enamored after a corporate function in September and a recent nine-hole practice round. It reminds him of the track on which he grew up playing, Carolina Country Club in Raleigh, which plays short from the tips and demands strong wedge play.

“What’s interesting here is there’s no 18-hole theme,” he said. “You go through the first 13 holes, and if you drive it appropriately, you can have nine wedge shots. And the last five holes you’ve got to hang on.”

His experience this week at Merion will be markedly different than ’05, and not just because he now plays a bigger, stronger game. When he played nine holes Sunday, Simpson hit two tee shots only a few feet into the rough line that guards the hallway-sized fairways. And he didn’t find the balls.

OK, so the gnarly rough is a departure from ’05, to be sure, but it’s not the most significant change for Simpson, 27. Also different this time will be the first-tee introduction – the 2012 U.S. Open champion, Webb Simpson! – and the way he’s perceived (and received) by fans and observers.

Though unintentional, Simpson’s victory last year at Olympic Club helped crystallize the anchoring debate. Yes, he was only the second player to win a major with the belly putter, but he didn’t just win any major – he won the USGA’s sacred championship. The long putter was doomed the second he was declared the winner.

Eleven months later – and after fellow anchorers Ernie Els and Adam Scott also captured major titles – the governing bodies deemed that style of putting to be illegal, beginning in 2016. How an anchoring winner would be accepted in these times, post-ban, remains to be seen.

At this time last year, before the anchormen lawyered up, that debate only simmered. And the final round at Olympic was the kind of Sunday that has come to define this championship – gloomy, gutsy, the ultimate grindfest.

The week had begun so poorly for Simpson. A day after flying to San Francisco, his wife timidly called and said that their 15-month-old son had just walked for the first time. Webb was crushed. For the first few practice days, he was so grumpy that his caddie, Paul Tesori, thought he was on the verge of being canned.

But on the 72nd hole, and needing an up-and-down from a tricky spot right of the green, he looked to the top of the hill, where wife Dowd, 35 weeks pregnant, was standing. A sense of calm washed over him. And after a nervy chip, he shoved the belly putter in his stomach and brushed in the short par putt.

As the final groups finished, Simpson made his way to the players’ locker room, where for 45 minutes he sat alongside his wife and watched the TV coverage, a camera crew zeroed in on their faces. They passed the time by watching iPhone videos of young James. Ernie Els failed to match Simpson’s 281. So did Jim Furyk and, lastly, Graeme McDowell.

“I remember winning the U.S. Open thinking this is the best, this is the one that I wanted, because it’s my national open,” he said. “It’s the hardest test in golf. I think that just made it all the more special.”

Simpson’s trophy presentation was memorably interrupted by a fan in a Union Jack ski hat who rushed onto the green and was tackled and pushed into a bunker by the USGA’s Mike Davis, demonstrating the kind of technique that would make Ray Lewis beam with pride.

“Enjoy the jail cell, pal!” Simpson roared.

When he is stopped in a restaurant or a mall or a grocery store to talk about the Open, that’s the moment that fans seem to remember most. And that’s OK with Simpson. Naturally, he now owns an official Jungle Bird hat himself.

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Report: Tour close to finalizing Detroit tournament

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 7:07 pm

With the final pieces of the 2019 schedule falling into place, the PGA Tour appears on the verge of returning to Michigan for the first time in nearly a decade.

According to a Detroit News report, the Tour is "believed to be close" to an agreement to bring a tournament to the Motor City beginning in 2019, reportedly likely to take place at Detroit Golf Club near downtown.

While the specifics remain undisclosed, the prime candidate for such a move appears to be The National. The Washington, D.C.-area event was sponsored by Detroit-based Quicken Loans from 2014-2017, and this year will be conducted without a title sponsor. According to a Detroit News report in September, Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert was open to continuing his company's sponsorship of the event if it shifted to Detroit.

In addition to The National, the only other current PGA Tour event without a title sponsor is the Houston Open. On Monday Charles Schwab was introduced as the new title sponsor of the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019.

The PGA Tour has not held an event in the state of Michigan since 2009, the final year of the now-defunct Buick Open at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club. While the final details of a revamped schedule have yet to be announced, the Tour is expected to unveil its itinerary for the 2018-19 season at The Players next month.

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Inbee Park quietly reclaims world No. 1

By Randall MellApril 23, 2018, 6:44 pm

Inbee Park moved back to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings in about as ho-hum fashion as you’ll ever see a player take the top spot.

It isn’t that she doesn’t care about the top ranking. It just wasn’t a priority in her return to golf this year, after missing big portions of the last two years with injuries.

With an Olympic gold medal and seven major championship titles, the LPGA Hall of Famer isn’t done trying to top the scoreboards that matter most to her.

“To be honest, I never really think about being No. 1 again,” Park said early last week, before tying for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open. “If it comes to me, great. If not, it doesn't matter.”

It came to her for the fourth time in her career.

Park, 29, reigned at No. 1 for 59 weeks in her longest run on top, back in the 2013 and ’14 seasons.

Oddly, this run to No. 1 almost comes as a surprise to Park, who didn’t need long to get back to the top spot after returning to the tour. She won the Bank of Hope Founders Cup last month in her second after missing seven months with a back injury.

Park last lost the No. 1 ranking in October of 2015, doing so to Lydia Ko.

In six starts this year, Park has finished T-3 or better four times. She leads the tour in scoring average (69.13) and is second in greens in regulation (77.5 percent).

Just wait until her putter heats up.

Yeah, Park’s not very satisfied with her putting. She’s one of the greatest putters who ever played the women’s game, but she has been frustrated with the inconsistency of her stroke much of this season. Of course, her standards are high. She ranks second in putts per greens in regulation so far this year.

On Sunday, this is how Park summed up her putting in 2018: “Some days, I’ve been really good. Some days, I’ve been really bad.”

Park has led the LPGA in putts per GIR in five of the last 10 years. She switched from her preferred mallet-style putter to a blade earlier this season and won with a Toulon Madison blade at the Founders Cup last month. She was back with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet this past week. That’s the putter she used to win the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro two years ago. She used an Odyssey Sabertooth winged mallet in her 2013 run of three consecutive major championship victories.

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Goose takes down junior golfer - it's awesome

By Nick MentaApril 23, 2018, 6:33 pm

A goose evidently went into business for itself somewhere in Michigan and took down this high school golfer in dramatic, hilarious, photographed fashion. To the evidence we go ...

Per the Blissfield Athletics Twitter account, "The golfers just finished teeing off and were walking down the fairway. To the left there was a goose nest and the golfers did a good job of avoiding it but the guard goose hanging out on the far right thought differently."

Just so we can all continue laughing, the Blissfield account confirmed the kid was OK.

If you're looking for related content, check out Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" and this video:

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It's official: Charles Schwab to sponsor Colonial event

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 6:30 pm

FORT WORTH, Texas – The longest-running PGA Tour event still played at its original site has a new title sponsor, one already deeply involved in golf.

The PGA Tour and Colonial Country Club announced Monday that financial services provider Charles Schwab & Co. will take over as title sponsor starting in 2019. The four-year agreement goes through 2022.

Local companies are backing the event after upscale grocer Dean and Deluca withdrew as title sponsor after only two tournaments of a six-year deal. The companies include American Airlines, AT&T, XTO Energy and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway.

Charles Schwab is already a major sponsor on the PGA Tour. On the PGA Tour Champions, the Charles Schwab Cup is awarded to the season's top player.

Next month's tournament at Colonial, which has hosted since 1946, will be played as the Fort Worth Invitational.