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April 29, 2014

Webb Simpson


THE MODERATOR:  Like to welcome Webb Simpson.  Got a home game this week, Webb, at the Wells Fargo Championship.  Kind of want to talk about your thoughts coming in, and then we'll have some questions?
WEBB SIMPSON:  Yeah, so it's great to be here.  Great to be home.  It was nice the last few days.  They closed the course for members, and only let pros who are in the tournament play, so I got yelled at once or twice, and gently reminded them that I'm in the tournament as a member, so that was a little funny.
No, I'm really excited.  The course is, as far as I know since 2009 I played, it's the best I've seen it.  The greens have come a long ways.  Just with each day they seem to get better.  They operate so much better when it's warmer, so I know Chris, the superintendent is excited.  I know Johnny Harris and Wells Fargo and everybody who has worked hard to get this event where it is is excited.  You know, having a front‑row seat, playing golf here every day, I really know now what it takes to create an event like this, just seeing the time and effort put in to set it up.  So all of that to say, I'm excited, and looking forward to a good week.

Q.  Could you talk a little bit more about the changes on 16 and 17, and kind of how they affect things around?
WEBB SIMPSON:  I think 16 was a hole, before that it was a tough hole, now it's a really tough hole.  I think the wind is going to affect that hole a good amount.  If you get it downwind, the fairways are firm, you could have a short iron, but it's 510 yards, whatever it is, that there are going to be some guys hitting woods in this week.  Then 17 is extremely long as well.  I've been hitting 4‑iron or hybrid it seems like every day.  So a lot of it is going to be dependent on the wind.  But they're extremely difficult.  I can't think of three holes in golf, including majors that are tougher finishing holes than these.

Q.  We talked a little bit at Augusta about your season.  Is there any one thing that you're maybe focusing on?  What's been the‑‑ I know you're a little frustrated, but what's maybe been the big thing for you this season?
WEBB SIMPSON:  Well, you know, it's kind of the tale of two cities this season.  As bad as I feel like I've played the last month and a half, my caddie Paul text me Sunday night after we got the text from New Orleans that I'm 11th on the FedExCup and 11th on the money list.  So the good thing and positive that I'm taking away is though I played really poorly the last six or seven weeks, I'm still in 11th place on the FedExCup, so that's a positive.  I always try to look for the positives.
But like I always say, I'm just trying to get better.  We've tinkered with a few things the last couple months and we've tried to change equipment here and there, but I've remained positive, and I feel like the work we've put in will pay off, whether it's this week, in a month or three months.
So it's just I've got to tell myself all the time, it's a game that you go in waves.  Jimmy Walker's super hot right now.  He's playing incredible golf.  Maybe the best of anybody in the world.  Then you take a guy like Tiger Woods who has been the best player forever, and he even goes through the low slumps.  So all that to say, I'm not too worried.  I never get too down.  It gets frustrating, but it's nice to be able to play every week.  What we do is we get opportunities every week to start playing good again.

Q.  Is this a good time to be on your home course?
WEBB SIMPSON:  I think it is.  There is a comfort here, familiarity here that before I even teed it up I think helps me.  I know different wind directions, pin placements.  I think it hurt me the first couple years here.  I put too much pressure on myself, but I'm not putting any pressure on myself this year.  It's more just I know that, hey, you know this golf course as good as anybody.  So use that to your advantage.

Q.  What tinkering and how much did you do?
WEBB SIMPSON:  I changed irons at Tampa.  I've played three tournaments with them, two missed cuts, and in Houston I finished 50th or somewhere in there.  But the funny thing is I've been putting great all season, and in those tournaments I didn't putt well, but I hit the irons great.  So I have a new driver shaft.  I went from a 58‑degree wedge to a 60‑degree for the first time in my life.
My short game, I think, has always been the strength of my game.  But the last year or so I've noticed a big difference on watching other pros on TOUR chip certain chip shots, and most every other pro‑‑ I might be the only guy that still uses a 58, everybody else is 60 or more.  So I'm watching them hit these chips and they had a lot easier time getting the ball up in the air than I did.
So I felt like, well, I'm a really good chipper.  This shouldn't be the case.  So I switched to a 60‑degree two weeks ago.  Hadn't played a tournament yet, but I've seen some good results already.

Q.  You talked about the condition of the golf course being as good as you've seen it since 2009, but the big change is the new greens that are put in.  What can you determine the difference is from the old greens to these greens?  What does the week shape up like for guys that have been here before and played the old greens and now it's basically 18 new challenges?
WEBB SIMPSON:  Well, I think the character of the greens is the same.  So all of the‑‑ my caddie and I call it miss spots.  All the miss spots around the green are similar still.  You know, 10, the front right pin, short right is still pretty dead.  So all of those characteristics around the greens are the same.  But I feel like they're just less severe than they used to be.
So putting‑wise, I think they'll be easier to putt.  But where you'll really see the difference is pro shots.  The ball is bouncing so much right now still that front pins are going to be really hard to get to and get the ball close.  Anytime, which is often, that we have a mid‑iron or long‑iron, you really have to land the ball 10, 15 yards short of the hole.
So I think it's going to play really tough.  My guess would be single digits wins this year, even if we have good weather, just because the rough is a little longer and thicker than I've seen it, and the greens are, just like I said, really tough to hold.  So I think for the next couple years, the scores will be a little worse.

Q.  What kind of difference does the new tee on 17 do strategy‑wise, being all the way over there now?
WEBB SIMPSON:  I saw Tom Fazio at a dinner.  I joked with him with that new tee, if we play it back, the tournament's going to need to hire someone permanently to stand on the tee and every time somebody hits just yell fore because people will go right of the green.  I also told him that when we moved to the left tee in 2012, so we were there 2012 and 2013, there were more balls in the water in 2012 than any other year from the right tee.
So I just think‑‑ I saw the TOUR officials yesterday, and they're going to do a great job.  I just think that tee is so long for such a hard hole that you just have to have the right conditions, I think, to put the tees all the way back there.  So it definitely favors the guys who hit it longer and higher.

Q.  Webb, do you start thinking about the U.S. Open yet?  Is it still too early?  I know you have some very familiar vibes down there, is it something you've thought about yet?
WEBB SIMPSON:  I think I'll start thinking about it after THE PLAYERS.  These two weeks are so big for me, I don't have a lot of time to think about it.  But we went down there ten days ago to practice, so I guess I'm thinking about it a little bit, but I'll probably make one or two more trips back down between now and then.  You know, I do love it, so I want to be ready and prepared.

Q.  How was Paul's son, and how has that affected your year, not necessarily how you're playing, but just kind of the tenor of things for you out there?
WEBB SIMPSON:  He's doing great.  He's here this week.  This is their third week now.  They came to Tampa and then The Masters.  I think, as I step back a little bit and I see the attention that Paul and Michelle have been getting and the support, just hearing comments of what people are saying when they come up.  I mean, players who I didn't think really knew Paul, to caddies, to equipment reps, I mean, I've seen people get out of their comfort zones in sorts and be vulnerable and just talk about they've been praying for Paul or they've been thinking about Isaiah.  It's been really cool.
To see that and be part of that has been neat for me.  Paul and I are obviously already really close, but I'm just thankful that I got to walk through that with him.  Just every day we work together and spend so much time together.  He and Michelle's perspective on the whole birth process and the months after, I think, obviously were hugely encouraging to me.  But it wasn't just me.  The whole golf world, I think, rallied behind baby Isaiah.  So Paul and Michelle have definitely felt the love and support from everybody.

Q.  Webb, have you been injured in your career?  Do you regularly workout?  Do you have a regular workout regimen?
WEBB SIMPSON:  The only two times I've been injured were high school and college.  It was my wrist, but I haven't had any problems since.  I do have a workout team.  I have a couple guys I work with, mainly to prevent injury, not really to get that much stronger, but to make sure I'm strong enough to help guard against getting injured.

Q.  Do you have any thoughts to‑‑ it looks like a lot of guys that don't have workout regimens don't get injured very much.  Do you have any thoughts to the correlation between working out and getting injured than not getting injured?
WEBB SIMPSON:  I think more people workout than people realize.  I would say 90% of guys on TOUR now are doing something.  I think we always think of working out as pumping iron, but I think you go in the workout trailer tomorrow morning or before the first round, and it will be full.  There will be 50 people in the morning wave and 50 people in the afternoon wave coming in.
So I think guys are definitely taking care of their bodies a lot better than they used to.  But, yeah.  It will be interesting to know are guys getting hurt from working out or not working out.  I don't know.

Q.  I know you're not thinking about it right now.  But getting back to the open.  What is having it at Pinehurst mean to you as a NorthCarolina guy about having it here and the history of it?
WEBB SIMPSON:  It's special.  I grew up playing a lot of Donald Ross courses and grew up loving Donald Ross probably more than anybody else.  I mean, that's what I was most familiar with.  Pinehurst is kind of a second home for me.  My parents had a place there growing up.  So we go down there most every weekend.  It's one of those places I have a lot of history there.
I played a lot of junior golf tournaments, lot of amateur golf tournaments.  My dad caddied for me at the Southern Amateur there in '05 at the Country Club of NorthCarolina.  So it's a home event in a sense, but also I'm one of the few guys, I think, that's super vocal about loving Pinehurst, number two.  I think it gets forgotten a lot because we're never really there.  But the Merions and the Pine Valleys and the Oakmonts get talked about a little more.  I love it because there is one hazard on the whole golf course, and it's not even in play.  So it's a true fair test of golf.
When I was down there, there was just so much talk about the Women's Open the next week, so just a special place for golf and golfers to go and compete.

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