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May 11, 2018

Webb Simpson

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

MARK WILLIAMS: We'd like to welcome Webb Simpson to the interview room. Webb, you're 15-under and five ahead right now, but sensational round of 63, matching the course record here at TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course. Just talk to us about that day. It must have been a wild day for you. You mentioned out there just not trying to get ahead of yourself. What's it like when you're making that many birdies and getting in contention? Explain that to us.

WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, well, obviously when you're out there competing in a big tournament, you're as focused as can be, but then at a certain point, maybe on 13 today, you start just -- like a kid, just kind of laughing. Everything is going in. You feel like no matter what, you're going to make it, and I grew up on an easy golf course, so it reminded me of being back home, shooting low numbers. But at the same time you're at TPC Sawgrass, so you know that trouble is everywhere, as you guys saw with me on 17.

But just a fun day. And it's rare as a golfer where everything is working well, driving, iron play, chipping and putting, and today everything came together.

MARK WILLIAMS: That atmosphere when you moved to 17, you're 11-under for the day and you get there, what was going through your mind? What sort of feelings did you have?

WEBB SIMPSON: Well, it's hard because I know where I am, I'm 11-under. I didn't know anything about a course record or 36-hole record or anything like that, but I've broken 60 a couple of times, so I'm thinking about it a little bit. But I'm still trying to be disciplined on 17 and hit it -- we always try to land it 12 on the green there, and I was in between clubs and tried to smash a sand wedge and blocked it a little bit. It was unfortunate, to be honest with you guys, I felt pretty good on the tee. It's a bummer, but I wanted to play 18 pretty solid, just to end the day well, and I think I did that.

Q. Anyone with a three or more shot lead at this point has gone on to win this tournament, but I'm wondering if any lead is safe at this golf course?
WEBB SIMPSON: I don't think so, especially not through 36 holes. You know, if I can shoot 9-under today, a guy can go out and shoot 7-, 8-, 9-under tomorrow, and shrink it pretty quickly. I think it's a beautiful golf course in the sense that I could go shoot a few under tomorrow because there's birdie holes out there, but if you're off a little bit, you make bogeys or double bogeys as easy as you can make birdies. I don't think any lead is safe.

Q. Sort of along those lines, do you prefer playing as a front-runner, or would you rather be chasing?
WEBB SIMPSON: Well, if I'm the front-runner, five shots is better than one. I enjoy it. I mean, it's -- you have a slightly different mentality, I think, especially on Sunday. But you know, there's no defensiveness in my game tomorrow. I want to go out and hit a good drive on 1 and just keep the same game plan. The only time you really get defensive, I think, is the last two or three holes of a golf tournament.

Q. Did you say sand wedge, and were you between sand and gap?
WEBB SIMPSON: Sand wedge and pitching wedge. Yeah, we had it 137 yards to where we wanted to fly it, and we're supposed to have help off the right, and I backed off a couple times because we got hit in the face, but the flags were still down. So normally my miss with that club is I'm trying to smash it is left, so it was a bit of a surprise that it came out right.

Q. Did I hear you say on TV that the fans were yelling at you to hit it?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, a few guys up there were a bit loud, but they didn't bother me, to be honest. Normally with that bit of wind change, I would probably just have hit it, but I was already pushing it with that club. It should have been a pitching wedge in most cases, but you feel a little more adrenaline on 17, so I always add three or four yards that I know I'm going to hit it with whatever club I'm hitting.

Q. Paul said this is the one-year anniversary of you putting the claw into play. He said it not only changed last season, it changed your career.
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, it was on the putting green last year, and Tim Clark was here, and Tim is a friend, and Tim asked me how I've been putting, and I told him, pretty inconsistent. He asked me had I ever tried the claw grip, and I said no. So I tried it. I liked it. It felt pretty awkward. Come Thursday, Paul asked me if I was going to use the claw, and I said, I still don't know. But I warmed up with it, and it felt pretty good, and last year, especially the first two days, was the best I had putted in a long time.

So yeah, I mean, thanks to Tim, I started putting better last year.

Q. A couple guys at 10-under and then certainly what you've done over the first two days, is there any element of you that's surprised to see so many low scores so far?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think we've had great conditions for Florida. The winds haven't been that high. The greens are pure. Guys I'm sure are making a lot of putts. Really, up until No. 9 today, they weren't that firm, and then the back nine they got more firm. So any time you have winds a little bit down and soft greens, guys seem to shoot pretty low.

Q. When you have it going the way you had today, can you discuss maybe the psychology of trying to keep it going, trying maybe not to be so conscious about how hot you are, or am I going to lose the mojo or any of that kind of thing? Obviously you were in a zone. Can you just discuss that a little bit?
WEBB SIMPSON: I mean, yeah. That's the challenge is you're hitting all your shots exactly where you're looking, and so the temptation is to start aiming more at the flag. But I didn't do that. I mean, every -- you've got to isolate every shot and every putt and just ask yourself, what's the objective here. Although I'm hitting it great, on 13, I aimed 30 feet right of the hole. 14, I have 9-iron in my hand, I'm aiming 15 feet right of the hole.

So you have to be disciplined and keep hitting shots on the safe side because short-side out here is a little more penal than most places.

Q. In baseball when a guy is throwing a perfect game you're not supposed to say anything to him. I was just wondering what your playing partners said to you, if anything, and then during the round, and then what they said to you once it was over, once you guys were shaking hands?
WEBB SIMPSON: They were laughing. 13, 14, 15, those putts were going in, they were just laughing. Tyrrell wanted me to touch his putter for him on 15, which I think is within the rules. But they were great. They were acting normal. They didn't say anything about, hey, you're 11-under; did you know that?

Q. What about the crowd?
WEBB SIMPSON: The crowd was great.

Q. But did they say it?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, I kept hearing stuff about the record and this and that. I didn't really -- I couldn't make it out exactly what they were saying. But they were great. They kept building, getting more and more people the last few holes.

Q. I know you really have a tight friendship with Paul; how important is that relationship with him to your success?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think it's massive. You know, to work with somebody every day for eight hours, nine hours a day, and you really like them, and you have a friendship outside of golf, I think it's pretty special.

You know, there's a lot out here. I get lonely because my family is at home, and there's ups and downs of the year for performance, and so he knows -- as a friend he knows me better than just a coworker, so he knows how to handle me if I'm in those bad places. So he's been a huge, huge piece in my career.

Q. Do you ever think on a Friday there would be so much drama on 17?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, I mean, today the last few holes had some resemblance of trying to close out a golf tournament, which is fun. I don't know if I've ever experienced that on TOUR. But it did give me a little insight maybe into how tomorrow and Sunday would be.

Q. Because of Paul's connection here and what he thinks of this tournament, does that add to the way you approach it or the way you think of this tournament, the importance of it?
WEBB SIMPSON: A little bit. I mean, I know this is -- outside of the majors, this is his favorite tournament. It doesn't put pressure on me, but it's always a place you think, like Charlotte for me, it's a nice place to play well. He's got so much support out there, more support than I do. It's been fun the last couple days seeing all the people coming out for Paul.

Q. They're out there hollering for Paul?
WEBB SIMPSON: Oh, yeah, I call him the mayor. He can't get from the putting green to the range without getting stopped a few times. Everybody loves him.

Q. You were mentioning aiming away from the hole on those shots. Paul said that the final round of the Masters was kind of a breakthrough in the sense that it gave you a different way to attack a golf course and particularly one you hadn't had great success at. Can you elaborate on what exactly that breakthrough in that final round was?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, so after Friday, I shot 1-over, and I was so frustrated because I've never played well at Augusta, and I feel like I know what to do there, and I got enough rounds to where I should have been able to play better, and I kind of started going through my round, and I missed quite a few approach shots on the wrong side of the green. So I just made up my mind, I was in, whatever, 45th place, that on the weekend I was going to try my best to not miss one shot on the wrong side. And I went out Saturday, played pretty solid, shot 2-under, and Sunday, again, everything -- so Sunday was two eagles in a row, but just really good discipline on missing it where I needed to miss it. It taught me that I'm going to have plenty of rounds where I play pretty good and shoot even par at Augusta, but to have any chance of shooting low, you've got to miss it in the right spots. It sounds simple, but to be out there with a 9-iron aiming 20 feet one side or the other is pretty hard, but I think that's why Phil has had so much success there, because he knows every hole where he can miss it, and his short game is good enough he's going to pitch it close to the hole. It was probably a result of playing bad so many times there that I finally got so upset about it that I'm just forcing myself to do what I know I needed to do.

Q. How many times in your professional career would you say you've had complete control over the bag like you had today?
WEBB SIMPSON: Probably not more than 10, where you feel really confident with every aspect of your game. Yeah, it doesn't happen much.

Q. You mentioned the claw, but the last three years I think 170 something in strokes gained, 180 something, 88th last year, 10th this year, and first by a long way today. What has the evolution of that been for your psyche as much as anything else?
WEBB SIMPSON: You know, I think golf as a whole and sports as a whole, confidence is so big, and it can change the way you think. And I think even more so maybe with putting. Putting there's so much -- there's read, there's grain, there's speed, and then there's you. There's the stroke, the aimer, and so I think the best test for me -- like I didn't want to -- even with the short putter, I had tournaments where I putted well, but I never had stretches three months, six months, eight months where consistently I was a lot better. So I think once that kind of four, five, six months of really good putting hit, I realized -- started to believe again that I'm a great putter. It had been a long time since I've really felt that and believed it.

Q. Nobody has ever shot 10-under for a round in THE PLAYERS and you were on the verge of that. Did you have a sense that it was on the verge of something historic, and Chesson Hadley talked about blacking out when everything is going right. Is there any out-of-body thing where you feel like you're not in here, like you're in a different place?
WEBB SIMPSON: No, I mean, I didn't know the record. I figured I was probably close. But to be honest, I cared more about having a good routine and hitting a good shot in this golf tournament than the record. The records are just bonuses to good play. Honestly, I wasn't -- it wasn't really in my thoughts as much as probably everybody else's.

Q. Just to follow up on that, now that you know what the record is, I know this is a great round; do you feel a tiny little bit disappointed?
WEBB SIMPSON: To be honest, not really. I mean, I'm 15-under through two days here, which is a lot lower than I ever would have expected to be. So I'm just looking forward to getting some good dinner and some rest and coming out and enjoying it tomorrow. It's a lot of fun to play good golf, and hopefully I can keep that up.

MARK WILLIAMS: We appreciate your time. Have a good weekend.

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