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May 13, 2018

Webb Simpson

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

CHRIS REIMER: We want to congratulate and welcome our champion of the 2018 PLAYERS Championship Webb Simpson. Webb, it's been a little while since your last victory. How special is it to return to the winner's circle at an event of this stature?

WEBB SIMPSON: Man, it means everything to me. I feel like it's my first win. I feel so similar to how I felt in Greensboro back in 2011. You know, to win a major championship and a few other TOUR events and then go -- I guess it's over four years without a win, you know, I never doubted myself, but at the same time, that's a long time. You know, we train hard and practice hard to try to win, and so -- there's been some tough moments along the way, as I've shared with you guys this week, but to come here against this field and put up some good numbers the first three days and do what I needed to do today to get it done, I'm so happy.

I definitely could not have done this without the team that I've put in place with my wife, my management, my trainer. There's so many people that are part of what I do, day in, day out, just really thankful that everybody stayed with me and stayed positive throughout.

Q. Obviously you started with the big lead and we hear people say it's hard to play with that kind of lead. Was it difficult?
WEBB SIMPSON: It was difficult. It was harder than I thought. I would have loved to have gotten off to a little better start. I was 1-under through 7, feeling pretty good with 9 coming up and 11, but dropped a shot at 8, and there's so much noise in front of us with Tiger, and you wonder what everybody is doing. I felt like that middle part of the round was big. After I bogeyed 10, we had a little wait on 11, and making a birdie on 11 I think was probably the biggest hole for me of the day. Got me back to even par for the day, and I felt really good about our plan on 12, 13, 14, and I kind of managed in that middle part of the round in a way that I was just playing smart. I was hitting it a little bit further away from pins than I normally would. And then to birdie 16 was great, but you don't -- you don't feel relaxed until that ball finds land on 17. So once that happened, I felt pretty good about it.

Q. On the difficulty of the day, did you go through scenarios? Did you actually start crunching numbers? Were you able to do your normal reading and coffee routine, or was it a distraction?
WEBB SIMPSON: It was a little harder today than yesterday, to be honest. I kept up the same routine, packed up. There was still a decent amount to do, but 2:45 is such a late time, so it's hard not to future cast and start thinking about 7:00 p.m. and what might happen. But you do your best to not stay in that place, and I kept reminding myself today that the only thing that matters is my next shot. It's easy to do on Thursday. It's a lot harder to do today.

So yeah, I thought long and hard about how I'd feel coming off 17 knowing I had it won. So once I got to 17 and the ball was on the green, internally I was celebrating.

Q. I was wondering if you could talk about the role that golf played in you and your dad's relationship and the role he played in your relationship and your development, as well.
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, so my dad got me started in the game. He was a two-time a week golfer. He was great early on. He kept me in other sports, but he could tell that I was better in golf than the other sports. And what I loved about my dad was he had his normal Saturday or Sunday game, but once I got to be about 11, I started playing with him. I'd be his partner.

And he coached me less on technique and things like that and more on just how to approach the game, how to respect the game, character. You know, I remember a time where I told him he should move his ball into this good lie, and he took that opportunity to tell me that the ball would be closer to the hole and that would be bending the rules a little bit. And so I have a lot of memories like that with my dad, how he just wanted me to be always kind on the golf course and good to play with for other guys.

I still think about all those things to this day.

Q. And you said yesterday quitting was never an option because he taught you never to quit.

Q. Was there a specific conversation that stands out or maybe expound on that point a little bit, about how his influence helped you through the tough times.
WEBB SIMPSON: I think it was more of just -- there was a number of times where if I shot 82 in a junior tournament first round and maybe some other players would withdraw after a bad day, that was never an option for my dad. If I came back the next day and shot 74, like he would have been so proud of that.

I think through the struggle with putting, I said yesterday to you guys, he was sick, so we had less conversations about the specifics. But I think just years of him telling me to finish strong or do my best was in there enough to where he was still teaching me. He was still helping me through it and mentoring me.

Q. Along those lines, two things. What role did your mom play growing up for you?
WEBB SIMPSON: A huge role. I mean, my mom was taking me to tournaments when he couldn't. She was cheering for me. If I shot 80, she was proud of it. So I always felt unconditional love and support from my mom no matter how I played.

She just wanted me to enjoy the game, and she didn't get wrapped up in the results and my junior rank and all that. I always felt the freedom when my mom was around just to play golf.

Q. When you were going through your struggles with the putting a couple years ago, can you sort of verbalize maybe how low or how down you got about it at one point?
WEBB SIMPSON: You know, I think I had been a pro for eight years, seven years, and you get used to playing at a level that you know you're capable of, and then for -- you go a year or two years playing below that capability, and it starts to get at you. And I actually think it's easier to work hard when you're playing well. So it made working hard and staying positive and present that much harder.

And this game is so funny, you see it all the time, guys struggle for three, four, five, six months and then they go win. Every year on TOUR a guy will miss five cuts in a row and go win.

I think I just kept telling myself that, that if I throw in the towel and if I give up, I will never be successful, but if I stay at it, who knows. And I'm glad I did.

Q. As you know, Proverbs 27:17 says, As iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another. In the last seven years how has Paul sharpened you personally and professionally?
WEBB SIMPSON: Paul has been just a great friend through all this, a great coworker. Paul is such a great caddie with such a great resume that I never thought once that he would quit and go work for somebody else.

But through that, I expected him to be frustrated at times, and he never was. He never got frustrated. He stayed positive on my worst days. He would try to give me a pep talk. I think to go through that, you need someone more than a caddie, you need a friend, and he definitely was that for me.

Q. On 18 you said that you wanted to do this for your mom. Why was that so important to you?
WEBB SIMPSON: You know, with my dad passing away in November, it's been, I guess, about seven months, and to go through what she's gone through, losing him earlier than we all expected, you know, I think she's been maybe even more invested in my golf than before, which is hard to do because she's so invested before. But you know, to be on Mother's Day, and I know how much she prays for me and pulls for me and watches every putt and screams when I make long putts and hit good shots, I thought about her a lot today, and I knew she was watching every shot. It was for her, for sure.

Q. Looking ahead, I know you've obviously got to digest this one, but the next three majors, which one of the majors sets up best for your game do you believe, coming up?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think the U.S. Open because I really like when par is a good score. And from what I understand, Shinnecock doesn't favor any type of player. I know it's a little different than when Corey Pavin won, but he's a short hitter, and compared to the rest of the guys on TOUR, I'm pretty short. And it's going to be windy out there on Long Island.

I've never played Bellerive, I've never played Carnoustie, so it's hard for me to say, but I get more excited for that one than the other ones.

Q. I know this is still fresh, but if you can look ahead, what kind of confidence level do you think this is going to give you moving forward for the rest of the season?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think a lot. I think to beat the best field in golf will give me confidence going into the majors and World Golf Championship events. We all -- everybody on TOUR I think wants to think of themselves as a top player, and I want to get back to kind of that top level caliber that I played at for a few years.

More importantly, I just want to keep getting better. I want to enjoy this. It's going to boost my confidence, but I want to build on it and be in contention more in big tournaments. I haven't been able to do that as much as I want, so I think this will help in those tournaments.

Q. Usually caddies carry a yardage book, but Paul also seemed to be carrying a lot of sheets of paper, and I know that he is almost a local and he knows a lot about this golf course. Can you share what exactly what was in those notes or whether they were all that extensive?
WEBB SIMPSON: Those are green-reading sheets, so they're blown up versions of the green-reading book that we get. He pays for that each week, and it basically has the slopes on the greens, so it just helps us read the putts.

Q. I know you have a strong foundation with your faith and the team you've built around you as you've talked about, but how has the grief you've been through the last seven months changed your outlook?
WEBB SIMPSON: You know, it's given me motivation to work really hard. You know, if I ever wanted to do anything for my dad, it was to make him proud. I loved when he was proud of me. And so I've thought many times in the gym or on the practice area, if my dad were here, what would make him proud. It's definitely a great motivator.

And also, I thought before he passed that maybe the golf course would be the hardest place to be because of losing him, but I think it's my favorite place to be because that was where we had most of our memories was on the golf course.

Q. This win makes you Hall of Fame eligible. I just would like to know what you think about that.
WEBB SIMPSON: Well, I didn't think about it until you said it, but it sounds pretty good. (Laughter.)

Yeah, I mean, I don't know all the rules, but that sounds amazing. I'll take it.

Q. You were playing five groups, I think, behind a pretty important player in the game. Did you hear the roars? Did you feel anything shifting out there during your round today?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, I heard the roars. His roars are definitely a different sound than everybody else's. But I knew he started 10 back or 11 back, so I knew he would have to do something really special. But I love when he's in the field. It's always more fun. You guys obviously follow him every week, so you know what he does to the game, and I hope he keeps playing well.

Q. Didn't you break your belly putter over your knee before the ban was enacted?

Q. Why did you do that?
WEBB SIMPSON: I was going to play in the Dunlop Phoenix tournament, and I made a plan to switch to the short putter that week, kind of under the radar. I knew you guys wouldn't be there. (Laughter).

And it was a year before the rule was enforced, and so I thought, get a year under my belt. Well, I started to chicken out a little bit, and I had called Paul and said, hey, I'm going to take the belly putter, one more tournament, and my wife is in the driveway pulling out with the kids, and I tell her this, and I see my bag in the garage, and I see the belly putter, and for whatever reason I had an urge to just break it. If I break it, I can't take it with me. And so I go over there and snap it over my knee, and I'm on the way to throw it in the trash can, and she tells me I'd better hang on to it, it's been pretty good to me. So I put it in my trophy case, both pieces, and went to Japan with the short putter.

Q. Secondly, there's been some low points that you mentioned. Was there any particular low point that stands out to you now?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, the lowest point ended up being the turning point. It was 2016 at Barclays at Bethpage Black. I thought I missed the cut by one. I ended up making the cut. But Paul and I got in an argument on the golf course, and it was just frustration pent up in both of us. We go sit in my car for about an hour. I'm so frustrated, I'm over it, and he is, too, and he kind of encouraged me to really do something about it. So call certain guys who maybe have struggled, try out different putters. I was pretty stubborn. I wanted to go conventional as conventional can get, so I just started trying different things and became a lot more open minded. I think I was too closed minded and just tried to learn a lot about putting and what's important. So talking to great putters helped, Aaron Baddeley and Brandt Snedeker, had tons of conversations with those guys. I didn't start putting better immediately, but it's what led to using the Kuch-style putter, and it's what led to me being open to listening to Tim Clark here a year ago.

Q. So when you went conventional right away, you were just doing real conventional --
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, perfectly conventional with a 34-inch putter, just how I learned the game. In my first two tournaments or three of my first four -- two of my first three I top-tenned, the Humana or whatever it's called, CareerBuilder, and Doral, and I felt pretty good about it. But then it just started getting inconsistent, and I stayed kind of doing the same thing, and then I got to a point where I felt like I needed some coaching, some help to try to putt better.

Q. Did you break any of those putters?
WEBB SIMPSON: No, I never broke any of those putters.

Q. When the anchoring ban was announced and to be enacted, did you have any emotions about that? Did any frustration seep into your game and your approach to the game as a result of that?
WEBB SIMPSON: I certainly disagreed with it. I disagreed with the decision. My stance was, unless a lot of top putters are doing it, it's not really worth looking at, and I think probably why they took a hard look at it was Keegan wins the PGA, Adam Scott wins the Masters, I win the U.S. Open, and it started that conversation.

But to be honest with you guys, I mean, I've never putted this well in my life, and I think if I had stayed with the belly putter, I think I maybe averaged 35th to 60th every year in putting, so very average. And this year I think I'm in the top 10.

It's funny how those things happen, but, you know, it's been -- this is probably the first time I can say I'm glad they banned it, because I wouldn't have ever probably swayed away from the belly putter.

Q. More on the psychology of that because Adam Scott this week talked about how literally being heard called "cheats" and that sort of thing while he's playing, were there moments like that where it was just like pent up and you wanted to sort of just, I don't know, smash something?
WEBB SIMPSON: No. I mean, it never got that bad for me. I think the hardest part, and I talked to Adam a lot about this, that the unfortunate thing is I had used this putter for 11 years, and so it's still a learned skill. And to unlearn a skill or to learn a new skill in the middle of your career was the biggest challenge. I made the Ryder Cup team in 2014, and my game was pretty solid for a few years, and all of a sudden you feel like you go re-learn a skill that you never dreamed you'd have to do.

So that was the frustrating part.

But I had the resolve in myself to take my focus off those who enforce our rules and put my focus on trying to get better.

Q. Just wondering as much as you're willing to share, what did you and your dad say to each other when you won the U.S. Open, and what do you think the conversation will be like tonight with your mom?
WEBB SIMPSON: Oh, man, I remember calling him from Olympic Club about an hour after I won, and he picks up the phone, and he's just laughing, and that's kind of what he did to show his happiest emotion, was just laugh. He just told me he couldn't believe I did it, and I laughed with him. And so I think my mom when I call her, she's probably going to be probably in tears, speechless, and we'll talk a lot about my dad, I'm sure.

CHRIS REIMER: Congratulations, Webb. Fantastic champion, and we appreciate you spending time with us.

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