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September 25, 2014

Webb Simpson


PAUL SYMES: Second Ryder Cup appearance, I know last time you qualified by rights and this time a captain's pick. Webb, do you feel any extra pressure to justify that faith that Tom Watson has placed in you?

WEBB SIMPSON: I definitely feel like I want to do my part. He believed in me. But certainly he wants me to go out and do my own thing and play like I normally do and prepare like I normally do and give it my best shot. More than anything, I'm looking at it as it's an honour to be picked by an eight-time major champion, and try to really dwell on that, as opposed to, man, I've got to win him some points. So it's kind of been fun to think about the last few weeks ever since he called me, and yeah, hopefully I will play well as a captain's pick, and so will Keegan and Hunter, and I feel confident that we will.

PAUL SYMES: You've only played a home Ryder Cup so far. Are you looking forward to the prospect of trying to calm down the raucous crowds over here in Europe?

WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, they have been great. I've actually been surprised so far, they have been very polite. I haven't heard many European chants, but I'm sure that will change tomorrow. Yeah, they understand golf better over here better than anywhere in the world. I'm sure there will be a few cheers for us tomorrow, and I'm sure that they'll be mostly Americans. But they'll be polite. I think in the States, we tend to take it a little too far sometimes.

Q. What is the coolest part about being paired with Bubba, and what is the biggest challenge, do you think?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think the coolest part is that our games are so different. The way he plays is very different than the way I play the game. But the best part for me is I'm hitting a lot shorter clubs than I normally hit. To me, he makes the game look and feel so much easier. You know, one of my strengths is kind of wedge game, short iron play, and he's given me that opportunity more times than I give myself. I would say the biggest challenge is I tend to be very quiet, calm, businesslike out there. He wants to joke around every hole. But I think that makes us a good team and I think it's what's helped in the past is that we kind of balance each other out. You know, if I get nervous, I get more quiet. If he gets nervous, he gets talking more. So we kind of balance each other out. We've played our best together when we're having fun, when we're talking a lot and keeping our heads held high no matter where the match is at. I think if we play together this week, that will be our goal; our No. 1 goal is just to have fun and be ourselves.

Q. Do you ever have to say to him, be quiet?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yes, all the time. Today I had to say it to him a few times. He just gets so excited. He wants to talk, and he's got a great relationship with my caddie, Paul. They are talking all the time. Bubba's love language is giving you a hard time, so if he's giving you a hard time, it means he likes you. It's fun to be with him, especially these last few days, trying to figure out if we are paired together, either format, what we are going to do and how we are going to play it. It's just fun. It's fun to play with a guy who plays different than every other person. It's been fun this week being out there with Raymond Floyd and even Andy North, seeing Bubba play and how he curves the ball. They used to do that a lot back in the day. They really curved it and now nobody really does anymore. He's one of the last guys to shape it like he does. It's fun to watch.

Q. Obviously all you guys are deserving to be on this team, but with some of the competitors that you had, some of the guys that perhaps maybe rank a little higher, a little lower in the PGA, the World Rankings; when you receive that call from Tom Watson, what kind of -- was there any kind of relief for you, surprise, any emotions that you experienced?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, he called me at 4.30 in the morning Denver time, and he knew I wasn't sleeping because I had texted him. I basically expressed everything I could to let him know how bad I wanted to be on the team. I mean, I tried to acknowledge that it was a tough decision for him. Chris Kirk had just won. Billy Horschel has been playing good golf and Bill Haas had not missed a cut all year. I knew it was a tough decision, and in terms of percentages, I wouldn't have been surprised if he had picked the other guys. I wasn't surprised that he picked me. It was kind of one of those things where I knew on paper, he had a few good choices, really good choices. But I made my final plea, I told him, I want revenge on what happened in 2012 and I really, really want to be on that team. He decided, whatever I said, maybe it was nothing I said, but he picked me. I think the emotions were relief and excitement. I was relieved I made the team. Us golfers, we have different goals, but I think everybody is -- kind of the common denominator for at least American players to make The Presidents Cup team or The Ryder Cup Team. Since my caddie Paul and I have got together, we have made every team which has been a fun goal to accomplish. No matter what, whether you make the team as No. 1 points winner or captain's pick, it shows that you're doing something right that year in your game. Yeah, I would say relief and excitement were big for me.

Q. From your experience last time and from your experience playing with a lot of the Europeans on the Tour, are there any particular players you really get on well with or more importantly that you would really like to have a Ding Dong with over the weekend?
WEBB SIMPSON: In terms of playing against?

Q. Yeah.
WEBB SIMPSON: You know, I would say that Graeme McDowell and I have had some good head-to-head battles: U.S. Open, I beat him by one. Hilton Head he beat me in a playoff. So it's always fun to play against him. Sergio is a friend. I love the way he plays the game, his passion. He's always fun to play against. I don't really have a pick. I mean, I lost two matches to Poulter at Medinah, so I would love to play him again, try to get those points back. In this format, in this tournament, doesn't really matter. Everybody wants to win so bad and doesn't really matter who you are playing. It would be fun to look back ten, 15 years to see if I've had some good rivals over the years, but right now, there's only a couple I would really like to play. I do want those points back. I'm sure he wants to keep them, as well. Any time I have a chance to play against a guy who seems like he's in Ryder Cup form, the best that they have seen, anybody wants that chance. When I kind of had the draw on singles at Medinah on Sunday, I was excited. I think as athletes, you want a challenge and you want a guy who is playing good golf, so that was us at Medinah.

Q. You mentioned that Bubba is a good friend or gets along with your caddie, Paul. Bubba, when he was in here, mentioned how much fun you guys have as a group with the caddies involved, sounds more like a foursome than a twosome. Can you explain that dynamic?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, Paul and Teddy Scott are friends away from the course and so are Bubba and I. We all seem to have the same sense of humour. We talk about the same things and we laugh about the same things, and when you put all that together, it really helps when you're out there four or five hours, some days, eight, nine hours if you're playing twice. It's tough to pair up with a guy that fits your game well and fits your personality well. Usually you have one or the other, but rare that you have both. I did talk about the way Bubba and I, our games are different, but for some reason when we tee up, we are kind of thinking the same thing and the approach to the game, we are kind of thinking the same thing. It just kind of works well. Teddy, he knows -- he caddied for me at Hyundai this past year, so he knows me well enough now to even know how to talk to me and what to say to me. And Paul with Bubba, it's the same kind of relationship.

Q. You talked about wanting revenge for what happened at Medinah. Just how down did you feel straight after that and how long did you feel down? And also, has the memory of that come back to you at various times the last couple of years?
WEBB SIMPSON: I had nightmares after -- just kidding. I wouldn't take it that far. I'm a guy, I get over stuff I think quicker than most people. It lingered for a few days, maybe a couple weeks. But in our game we play, there's always another tournament. The only downside to that was The Ryder Cup is two years away, so we did have to wait a long time. So I would say it lingered for a little bit, and then I went back to business, trying to play golf, and win tournaments, kind of went away for a while. And then being a Ryder Cup year, I started really thinking about it this summer. Not so much of what happened but that I want to be on this team, to try to kind of get back in the moment where we could perform better on Sunday than we did at Medinah. But when we look back at Medinah, I think all players would agree that we wanted it so badly for Davis Love as a captain, and obviously the United States, given our Ryder Cup record the last few years, the last 25 years. But Davis was a great captain and he took a lot of heat for his lineup on Sunday. But we wouldn't have changed anything, and it was on us. We lost. We got off to a rough start. They played great golf. It happened. But yeah, I still have good memories from that week. Although Sunday afternoon was a bad, bad memory. But a lot of good things happened that week, I would say.

Q. Have you and the other guys on the team, who were involved that day; have you talked about how to avoid that happening again?
WEBB SIMPSON: No, because like I said, we wouldn't really change anything. We just went out and played poorly Sunday and they played great. Not much you can do about it in terms of strategy or the way you're thinking. I guess we had a four-point lead going into Sunday, and hard to build a lead bigger than that. So the game was there. We were all playing great. We were all confident. But if anything, this year, if we can learn from that, I would say that we would not get ahead of ourselves, and I think it's easy to do in big tournaments, no matter whether it's Ryder Cup or a major. You get ahead of yourself, because if you win, what does this mean; especially us, it's been a long time. It's 1993 since we won over here. History is going to be made one way or the other, but the only thing we can control is ourselves and our emotions, and hopefully we can do that.

Q. It's interesting to hear you say that it's a real motivational force for you to gain revenge for what happened at Medinah because a lot of your teammates have played down the idea of it being a redemption trip.
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah -- oh, you mean just comment on that? Yeah, I try not to hide anything I'm feeling. I think -- I remember that feeling Sunday afternoon. It was more a shock than anything, because I really mean this, that we were all playing such good golf and we were so confident, as well as their team was playing and as good as they were, as well. We just believed that it was going to be our week -- until late Sunday evening, even when I finished Sunday, it was looking pretty good for us. For me personally, I can't play this week without thinking about the way it felt to lose. I remember trying to win a golf tournament after I lost, a one-shot lead in Las Vegas, and the thing that kind of helped me get better and learn from it was I continued to think about it and continue to try to learn from it. Not that, you know, defeat really motivates me necessarily, but more of just kind of how much we want to win overrules the fact of, I don't want a repeat of what happened at Medinah. The positives I would say are definitely what motivates me, but it comes from that area of defeat when we lost. To me, winning is always better -- winning's more of an emotional experience than losing is a negative experience. And so, you know, every time Medinah comes up, I see them celebrating Sunday, and I just want that so badly for our team.

Q. Can you elaborate on that text message that you sent to Tom? What did you say to him, what did he say in response, and do you think that helped you get on to the team?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, I texted him -- I couldn't really sleep. I can't ever sleep after the final round of tournaments in general and I was laying there and I thought, I had not heard from him. I probably would have heard from him by now, and I've got nothing to lose. So I texted him, something like: I know it's a really tough decision for you, I know Chris just won and I know Bill 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. Something to that extent. All he says back -- and he texted real quick, 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. I was like, I didn't make the team. He's going to call me and I didn't make the team. But then he called me 30 minutes later and he asked me why I thought he should put me on the team. And 4.30 in the morning, it's a tough question to be asked, I'm still laying in bed. So I just told him, 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. Maybe it was my passion to play and desire to be on the team, and my push for him to pick me, but I don't know what he was thinking. Keegan told me he thought it was a good thing that I texted him to show him. Because 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.

Q. That was the morning he made the picks?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, it was Monday finish in Boston, so it was Tuesday morning.

Q. Just to clarify, he made -- you got the text, you sent the text at 4.30 in the morning and he made the picks later on that night?

Q. With this tournament, obviously different format, Europeans are big time favourites, that seems to be the general consensus. Do you, first of all, believe in that, that Europeans should be favourites? And what are some keys to the United States to come away with a victory this weekend?
WEBB SIMPSON: Well, I mean, if you just go off their record, yeah, they are going to be favourites. But I think when you break it down of players, individual players and how everyone's playing and has been playing, I think we're pretty equal. I think a key for us, as we've talked about all week, is to, as dumb as it sounds and as generic as it sounds, is to have fun. It's so easy in these environments to get too into it and to get too serious and to let the pressure get to you. One thing that you can learn from watching a good team, whether on our team or their team, is the chemistry. Zach Johnson is really serious, but still, watching him and Jason Dufner -- it was Presidents Cup, not Ryder Cup, but they had great chemistry and I think that's important. Whoever you're playing with, go out there as a team, win or lose as a team, but have fun. Nobody, their team or our team, you can't force it. You can't force it in this game, you have to do what you know how to do and add them up at the end and that's what we'll be thinking about.

Q. To follow up on the Tom Watson midnight texting, he said, as I recall, when he announced the picks on September 2, his decision to pick you, he made that morning, which maybe supports the idea that that text helped. Has he said anything to you about that text being influential?
WEBB SIMPSON: No, he hasn't. He was retelling the story of what I said on the phone when he asked what I bring to the table and he was giving me a hard time how it was a politically correct answer and didn't jump off the page at him. I don't remember what I said honestly, but we had a good laugh about that. 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.

Q. Just interested to know, did you go back to sleep after he confirmed the fact that you were on the team?
WEBB SIMPSON: I did not go back to sleep. I watched ESPN three or four times, same show. I called my wife and she didn't pick up and she later called me back. She celebrated for the both of us. She was super excited. You know, she asked me if I thought I was going to be a pick on Monday night, because she and my kids flew home to Charlotte and I flew to Denver. I told her, it was about as close as it can be. I honestly didn't know. I didn't have a bad feeling. I didn't have a good feeling. But I remember, I called Keegan once I got the pick -- I think I woke him up, and he was pretty excited. So we talked and started talking about this week and what it's going to be like. So he was pretty excited, as well.

Q. I wanted to ask the difference pressure-wise, playing in a major tournament and playing in The Ryder Cup. You've played once before, obviously in The Ryder Cup, and handful of majors; difference in pressure, one more than the other?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, there's definitely for me more pressure in a Ryder Cup, because you're dealing with your teammate -- your partner that day, your teammates and then your country. But if you're playing well, it's a great kind of pressure to have, because momentum is huge in this format, more so than in a major. In a major, you're answering to yourself and that's it. Whereas this format and this tournament, there's so many more people pulling for you, collectively as a team and also as an individual. Where in a major, you're going to have your family and your friends, and maybe a few fans for me. But here, you've got the whole country pulling for you, which is special. And so I think it's good if you're playing well and if you're not playing well, it's tougher than playing poorly in a major.

Q. Have the captains or the assistant captains told you anything this week by way of advice or encouragement specifically that you recall and helped you?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, Raymond Floyd has been out with us every day in the practise rounds with my group, and just little things he says I've appreciated. I approach the game from very much a feel -- I kind of learned the game by feel. I don't understand angles and swing plane as well as a lot of guys, and so just hearing a few comments he said about the golf swing, what he does when it's windy and his putting and all these things, just little comments he said, I've appreciated. Because I approach the game I think a lot like he did, a lot by feel. Lines and alignment and all that didn't matter a lot to him, which is similar to me. It's always fun when you get around guys who -- I obviously didn't play with any of those guys competitively -- except Tom, I've played with him now a few tournaments. But as much as the game's changed, professional golfers really haven't changed that much in the way you approach it and the way you think and the way you feel and what you try to do during a round. It's still kind of the same thing.

Q. Another Bubba question. He has an interesting dichotomy to his personality where he sometimes courts attention with his pink driver and rousing the crowd at Medinah, but then when asked about being the big target of the U.S. Team, he shies away from that kind of attention. From all the time you've spent around him, do you understand that dichotomy? Can you explain it?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, it's a great question. It's a tough question. I feel like I've gotten to know him really well now. And Paul always gives him a hard time and says, "If you don't want all the attention, get rid of that pink driver." You know, he's great. He's his own PR guy. He knows how to work it. He does it well. I think -- I guess what I've learned around him is the more fun he has and the more joking he can do, the better off he is as a golfer and as a person. I think when Bubba Watson gets too serious about golf or life, that's when you see a different side of him that isn't the Bubba that we know; who gives everybody a hard time, who wants to be a clown. And it's fun to be around him when he's positive and upbeat. But it is interesting. You said it great; he's there, and there's a lot -- he could be a comedian if he wanted to be, or at times I think he's an introvert. So he's one of those guys that he's hard to figure out because you see a couple different sides to him. But definitely, obviously a great golfer, great teammate and looking forward to being with him this week.

Q. At Medinah, Poulter pulled The European Team up by the bootlaces when they exactly needed that. If you had to look around your team room, which American player is capable of doing that kind of thing, which one?
WEBB SIMPSON: You know, Phil is kind of the team leader in the sense that if you're down, he's going to talk to you and help you out. He's got a great awareness for his role on the team. He's been paired with rookies in the past and he's always going to be kind of a big brother/dad to guys that need that help, rookies, veterans, whoever it is. His personality, he loves to have a good time. He loves to give you a hard time. He loves to joke and I think that lightens the mood of the team. Yeah, I think we would all look to him if we -- if I wanted a guy to start a run for our team, it would be Phil. He's a crowd favourite. He knows how to work the crowd, and he and Tiger have used kind of the crowd to their advantage in the past. I think you've seen with Tiger fist-pumping an 8-footer for par in the middle of the golf tournament, you realise it's because he wants to have people hear the Tiger roar. He definitely has some of that in him and he will definitely lead us in the right direction I think.

PAUL SYMES: Thanks, Webb, have a great week.
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