Simpsons are just wild about Wyndham

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2014, 12:02 am

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Any questions about where the Wyndham Championship ranks on Webb Simpson’s priority list can be answered by his daughter’s birth certificate.

Simpson is a crowd favorite at Sedgefield Country Club, and deservedly so. A native of Raleigh, he went to school at nearby Wake Forest and now calls Charlotte home, which means that nearly the entire state of North Carolina has at least one reason to root for him.

Add in the fact that his first PGA Tour win came in Greensboro in 2011, a three-shot victory that occurred 10 months before his U.S. Open breakthrough at Olympic.

Then there’s the newest addition to the Simpson clan, a daughter born in May – named Wyndham Rose.

Yep, this is more than a typical Tour stop for Simpson, and he played like it Thursday, carding a 6-under 64 to move within a shot of the first-round lead.

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“Just played good, solid golf today. One of my favorite rounds,” he said. “I felt like I was in control of my ball for the first time in a few weeks, since The Greenbrier. That was nice.”

Simpson started hot, with birdies on his first four holes and five of his first seven. He grabbed a share of the lead after curling his tee shot at the par-3 12th to within 4 feet of the hole, and despite a dropped shot at No. 17 he remains near the top of the leaderboard.

It’s a familiar position for Simpson around these parts. Since 2010, he has finished no worse than T-22 at Sedgefield, including his maiden win.

“The course is just similar in the way it shapes, and the hills and undulating greens, to what I grew up playing,” he said. “I really see the tee shots well, where like Akron I don’t see the tee shots that well. I don’t see the lines that well. Guys feel that way about certain courses out here.”

That may be true, but most Tour players don’t name their children after tournament sponsors. Simpson did, in part to honor the event that helped propel him onto a path toward becoming a major champion. His wife, Dowd, said she didn’t need convincing on the name, and that the idea came from family friend Bobby Long, chairman of the Piedmont Triad Charitable Foundation in Greensboro.

“We were sitting outside Augusta National, and Bobby came over and we were talking baby names,” she said. “We thought, ‘Oh, if you win the Masters, then we’ll name the child Augusta.’ Then we missed the cut, so Augusta was quickly crossed off the list.

“Then Bobby said, ‘Why not Wyndham?’ And Webb and I both went, ‘I love that name.’”

Simpson gave some of the credit for the naming process to the couple’s first two children.

“We had three names as a possibility,” he said. “We would say to our son, James, and daughter, Willow, ‘Which name do you like?’ They kept saying Wyndham. All right, y’all pick. We named her Wyndham.”

Simpson added that part of the name’s inspiration came from Arnold Palmer’s wife, Winnie. Like Simpson, Palmer played at Wake Forest, and Simpson’s father got to know Palmer’s wife before her death in 1999.

“We love the name Winnie as a nickname,” he said. “Maybe when she gets older she might change it. That’s how it came about.”

Etymology aside, Simpson continues to thrive at Sedgefield. It’s a venue where he continues to perform well, in contrast to the consistency that has marked his career. This season he has a win in Las Vegas to go along with three third-place finishes, but he has also missed the cut in three of the four majors and has only one top-25 finish from his last six starts.

“Buddy of mine texted me about persevering and not pressing, and I have a tendency to press to try to make things happen,” he said. “I’ve had multiple times in my career where I won’t be playing well for a couple months, but I know I’m doing the right stuff and I’ve just got to stay patient.”

After missing out on an automatic qualifying spot for the Ryder Cup team, Simpson has made clear his desire to be one of captain Tom Watson’s three picks on Sept. 2. After Tiger Woods withdrew from consideration Wednesday, Simpson began play in Greensboro with the belief that his prospects for Gleneagles had increased overnight.

“As for me and my chances to be a pick, it’s greater now,” he said. “I think he was going to be a pick if he was able to play. So yeah, it opens up, I feel like, another spot that wasn’t there before.”

Simpson hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation during the opening round, his lone bogey coming when a 3-foot putt hit a spike mark. After he missed the cut last week at Valhalla, his game once again appeared effortless upon returning to a course where he has thrived before.

Perhaps that’s all it took.

“It’s just kind of no matter how you’re playing coming into certain weeks, you feel like you can play well,” he said. “That’s kind of like how I feel here.”

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Aiken, Waring tied at Nordea; Olesen three back

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 5:45 pm

MOLNDAL, Sweden – Paul Waring of England and Thomas Aiken of South Africa share the lead, three shots clear of their rivals, after the third round of the Nordea Masters on the European Tour on Saturday.

Waring was tied for first place with Scott Jamieson after the second round and shot a 1-under 69.

While Jamieson (75) slipped down the leaderboard, Aiken caught up Waring after shooting 67 - despite three straight bogeys from No. 15. He bounced back by making birdie at the last.

Thorbjorn Olesen (67) and Marc Warren (66) are tied for third.

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Koepka: 'Surreal' Woods waited to say congrats at PGA

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 3:47 pm

Brooks Koepka was moved by the respect shown when Tiger Woods waited for a half hour at scoring last Sunday to congratulate Koepka for his PGA Championship victory at Bellerive.

While Koepka stands as an example of the new athletes Woods has attracted to the game, he laughs hearing people compare his body to an NFL player’s.

Those were among the observations Koepka shared Friday on "The Dan Patrick Show."

“That was surreal,” Koepka said of Woods waiting to congratulate him. “To hang around on 18, I wasn’t expecting it. It was probably the coolest gesture he could have done.”

Koepka credits Woods for drawing him to the game.

“He’s the reason I am playing,” Koepka said.

Koepka said playing with Woods in contention was a noisy experience that went beyond the roars Woods created making birdies in front of him.

“Even when he makes contact, you know what shot he’s hitting,” Koepka said. “That’s how loud people are.

“When they are putting [his score] up on the leaderboard, you hear it three holes away.”

About those NFL player comparisons, Koepka said his parents wouldn’t let him play football when he was growing up.

“I wasn’t big enough,” he said.

Koepka said he marveled meeting former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

“To be compared to them, it makes me laugh,” Koepka said. “I’m about the size of a cornerback, maybe a free safety.”

Koepka said he’s just over 6 feet tall and weighs 208 pounds.

“I saw Brian Urlacher give an interview,” Koepka said. “It was kind of funny. He said he was impressed at how big I wasn’t ... If I stand next to Justin Thomas, I’m going to look big. Golf doesn’t really have many big guys.”

Koepka told Patrick he is impressed at the athletes just now coming into golf.

“I see the young guys coming out of college,” Koepka said. “They are bombing it past me. They hit it so far, they are leaving me in the dust. It’s hard to think of, because I’ve been one of the longest hitters on tour.”

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McIlroy skipping first FedExCup playoff event

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 3:19 pm

Rory McIlroy committed to playing the FedExCup Playoffs opener at The Northern Trust, the PGA Tour announced after The Open Championship last month.

But McIlroy left the PGA Championship last week saying he might need to skip the opener to regroup, and that’s just what he is doing.

McIlroy wasn’t on The Northern Trust field list published Friday on the PGA Tour’s website.

“I need to assess where I'm at,” McIlroy said leaving Bellerive last week. “I think the best thing for me to do right now is just sort of take a couple days off, reflect on what I need to do going forward.

“The best thing might be to take that first FedExCup week off and work on my game and come back, hopefully, in a better place for Boston.”

McIlroy also skipped the FedExCup opener in 2015, choosing to make his start in the playoffs at Boston that year. It appears he will do the same this year.

“Historically, the first FedEx playoff event hasn't been my best event of the four,” McIlroy said. “I've played well in Boston. I've played pretty well in the other two.”

McIlroy left Bellerive saying he would do some work on his game and see if he felt ready for the playoffs opener as part of a run of big events leading into the Ryder Cup.

“There's a lot of room for improvement,” McIlroy said. “My swing really hasn't been where I want it to be. It was pretty good at the start of the year. I had a couple of months to work on it, but it's just sort of regressed as the season went on and you start to play tournaments, you start to fall back into some of the habits that you don't want to fall back into."

McIlroy has won once over the last two seasons – at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last March – but he has given himself other chances this year with some frustrating finishes. Overall, he has five finishes of third or better in 2018. He got himself in the final pairing with Patrick Reed at the Masters but stumbled to a T-5 finish. He tied for second at The Open last month.

“Inconsistency with the swing has been the big area,” McIlroy said. “If you look at my statistics, especially with approach play on my irons, and even my driving, even though it's been OK, there's been a two-way miss, with sort of everything throughout the bag, and that obviously isn't a good thing. So that's something I need to work on.”

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Watch: Wagner saves season with walk-off eagle dunk

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 18, 2018, 2:45 am

Johnson Wagner kept his FedExCup Playoff hopes alive on Friday at the Wyndham Championship ... and he did it in dramatic fashion.

Needing a birdie on his final hole of the day to make the cut on the number, Johnson used a 9-iron from 153 yards out to dunk his approach for eagle to get inside the cut line.

Johnson's eagle at the last gave him a 66 for the day and earned him two more rounds to try and get inside the FedExCup top 125 for next week's start of the postseason, The Northern Trust.