If he had played last week, Webb Simpson would have been a favorite to have won the Open Championship.
Simpson decided that being overseas when his wife was due for the birth of their second child was not a good idea, so he stayed home. In his short time on the PGA Tour, however, he has shown to be a very good decision-maker.
Since earning his tour card after the 2009 season, Simpson has won three times on tour and has accumulated a series of top 10s, ranging from the Sony Open in Hawaii to three straight top 10s, including a win up in Boston last year in the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
He has demonstrated that he can play well in elite fields and on elite courses. In his four other top 10s outside his U.S. Open win this year, he managed a tie for third at Kapalua in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and a solo fourth at the Wells Fargo played on the 2016 home of the PGA Championship, Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C.
Simpson is not long off the tee at all, ranking 111th at just 287.2 yards off the tee. He's not all that accurate, either, hitting just under six out of every 10 fairways (114th on tour).
Where Simpson shines, however, is getting the ball on the green. So far this year, he has hit two out of every three greens (16th on tour).
If you can put the ball on the green to give yourself a chance for a two-putt par, then you will be able to have success at majors.
Granted, Olympic Club was not all that long of a course, but when Jim Furyk and others went backward on Sunday, Simpson shot a two-under 68 and won. In fact, he went four under on the weekend—better than anyone else.
At almost 27, his game is finally fully developed. A master of the long iron, the kinds of courses that he has played well on are a variety of shorter precision courses like Olympic Club and longer tracks like Muirfield Village in Ohio, where he has had good success at the Memorial.
Simpson has his degree in religion from Wake Forest University. He has the mental part of the game down.
He is not an excitable player—not even showing too much jubilation when he won the Open watching from the scorer’s cabin this year. He has a plan and a game that translates well to most kinds of courses.
Do not underestimate how important that metal aspect is in winning majors. He finished in a tie for 14th last year at his first U.S. Open and a tie for 16th at his first Open Championship.
While he missed the cut at the PGA, he had a good Masters going this year until a final-round 78 knocked him back into a tie for 44th.
Simpson seems fazed by little. Once you win a U.S. Open, you pretty much have the game to win any Open after that. Next year’s Open at Merion will be even shorter than Olympic Club—he will be a favorite there.
While a top-five leader in making birdies this year, Simpson seems to have figured out early that making par is key. As long as he can get the ball on the green to make par, he should also be a factor at Augusta and the PGA.
If he can be comfortable with the wind, then he could factor in the Open Championship as well. His lack of length is not as big of a deal on the older courses as they are here.
Corey Pavin was not all that long of a hitter, but he found greens and found a major at the 1995 U.S. Open. Simpson plays a similar game.
He needs to be a bit more accurate off the tee and relax a bit on Sundays. Final rounds trouble him a bit, but on courses that demand good iron play, he has already stood and delivered the goods.
(All stats used are courtesy of PGATour.com.)