B/R Exclusive: Webb Simpson Talks Tiger Woods, Masters and Rory McIlroy's Future
Last year's U.S. Open champ has never been one to settle. That's why Webb Simpson is continually improving his resume and setting his sights on the biggest tournament of the year, the 2013 Masters.
He's well on his way, already posting two terrific top-10 finishes this season at the Northern Trust Open (T6) and World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play (T5).
I got a chance to catch up with Simpson about not just the state of his evolving golf game but also about Tiger Woods' sizzling season, his (hopefully) winning formula for the Masters and, finally, his outstanding partnership with Chase Sapphire that's creating special opportunities for golf fans to learn from and interact with the pros.
Take a look and please leave a comment!
Webb's Winning Formula for the Masters
Q: The Masters is getting closer and closer (April 11-14). Do you believe there's a winning formula to conquer Augusta National?
Webb: It all comes down to who can control their irons' shots and who can make the most putts.
The fairways are fairly generous out there. The guy who wins usually hits his irons well and putts great. Its tough to get your irons close to a lot of the pin locations there.
If you're sharp with your irons and are making putts you'll probably be in contention Sunday and that's what I plan on doing.
The Aura of Augusta National
Q: What is it about the Masters that makes it such a special event in golf?
Webb: I think it's just the history. You could take a guy who doesn't know much about golf, but he probably knows Augusta National and the Green Jacket and Amen Corner being 11, 12 and 13 holes.
There's just so much history. When you play a major championship on the same course for that long, memories and traditions will be built. That's why I love Augusta so much, it's so familiar to everyone.
Tiger Woods on a Tear
Q: Tiger is on an absolute tear right now, winning three of his five tournaments in 2013 alone. How do you perceive Tiger as a competitor when he's clearly playing so well and has so much momentum?
Webb: He's tough to beat and he's a really tough guy to chase.
But having won 77 times and 14 majors helps him keep winning. They always say, 'winning breeds winning' and that's clear with Tiger. He'll probably be the guy we're chasing at Augusta.
I remember watching the '97 Masters when he won by 12 at 21 years old and the older I get the more I realize how great that feat was that he accomplished that day.
The Usual Suspects at This Year's Masters
Q: Who do you expect to be in contention at this year's Masters?
Webb: The usual suspects. Tiger, Phil, Bubba, Rory McIlroy.
It'll be guys who hit it long and can curve the ball. That's what I'm going to be working on so that I can be in the mix Sunday.
Rory McIlroy vs. Tiger Woods
Q: Rory McIlroy's made headlines this season for his early struggles, and now he's lost his No.1 ranking to a surging Tiger Woods. Do you think he'll be able to find his groove and recapture the No.1 ranking?
Webb: It's certainly possible. He's got loads of talent.
He's proved himself, but Tiger's also playing great golf, and it'll be tough to get it back. But it's certainly doable for a player like Rory.
Webb's Olympic U.S. Open Feat
Q: What's it like looking back on your U.S. Open victory last year at Olympic Club?
Webb: It was such a memorable week for me. My wife was out there and she was 35 weeks pregnant. It was all the more special because she was out there waiting for me on the 18th green.
I had played the U.S. Amateur at Olympic in '07 and loved the course then. It's one of those special places that we're lucky enough to play on Tour.
Q: How would you describe the feeling of making the turn on Sunday at a major championship and seeing you're in contention to win?
Webb: I learned a lot on that back nine about not being caught up in the leaderboard and what other people are doing. Also learned a lot about sticking to my routine, finding my rhtyhm and sticking to what I'm doing.
It was great, similar to the feeling I'd had at other tournaments, but it means more because it's a major.
Webb's Partnership with Chase Sapphire
Q: What can you tell sports fans about your involvement with Chase Sapphire?
Webb: This is my second year partnering with Chase Saphhire and the golf experience program they're offering. It's just tremendous.
This year I'm doing four different golf experience days and we'll be at the nation's best courses, where PGA Tour events and also major championships are played, giving the public an incredible opportunity to play these great courses.
Q: It sounds incredible. What's the interactive element of the golf experience?
Webb: It's an opportunity to get swing analysis by Stewart Cink and I. There's a Par-3 competition that's super fun. Maybe the coolest part of the day is the three hole walking clinic.
They mic Stewart and I up and we go through all the different types of shots and strategy behind each shot. They have an opportunity to get inside a PGA Tour player's mind.
There's no other opportunity like this in golf or any sport from what I'm aware of. It'd be like meeting LeBron James on the basketball court and asking him anything you want, which would be pretty cool. We look at their swing and they can learn a lot.
All people have to do is redeem their points online with Chase Sapphire and sign up. There's also some cool stuff if they go to the Chase Sapphire Facebook page. We've got swing instructions on that page as well.