An Interview With: WEBB SIMPSON
KELLY ELBIN: One of the four rookies on the 2012 United States Ryder Cup team, Webb Simpson, joining us at the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah. Webb, you won the U.S. Open in June, had a baby girl in July, and now getting to represent the United States for the first time at the Ryder Cup in September. It's been quite a year.
WEBB SIMPSON: It has, similar to 2011, I've had a great year on the golf course, but it's been a much better year off. We welcomed James into the world last year, last February, and our daughter, Willow, was born in July.
I feel like a very blessed person, just to have the family that I have. I've represented my country in the Walker Cup and Presidents Cup, but to finally do it in the Ryder Cup is a dream come true, and I feel honored to be here this week and looking forward to getting everything started.
KELLY ELBIN: Give us a general sense of how the week has been for you since you all first got together on Monday night.
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, so I flew in Sunday with Jim and Bubba and took Monday off. But Tuesday, first practice round, we get to the first tee and there's 10,000 people. I felt like I was in the final group of a major in a practice round.
I had heard that the Ryder Cup is just exponentially more kind of in each area than Presidents Cup; just a little more exciting, a little more emotional, a lot more people, and we got to experience that on the first tee.
I'm just excited my first Ryder Cup is here in the States. Chicago is such a great city, and the fans are already loud and electric out there.
You know, it's been a great week already. My wife got in yesterday, and we had a great dinner with the European Team and went to the gala. We're having a blast.
Q. Could you explain what the Ryder Cup meant to you when you were growing up and what sort of memories you have of watching the tournament as a child?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, so my favorite memory is '99 when Justin Leonard made the putt on 17. I remember exactly where I was. My coach was in the room. I was in his office at my home course. I was with my dad and another member, and we were watching it, what looked like a defeat, and the U.S. was coming back, and then Justin made the putt on 17.
I think that was the moment where I realized how special the Ryder Cup was, seeing the guys run on the green, hopefully not in José's line. But I realized there how big it was and how much it meant to the country when we do play well in the Ryder Cup.
I think from then on I paid attention, I watched the Ryder Cup, and of course it only comes every two years, so I think it builds the excitement for everyone, even us watching, so that was kind of the birth, as you might call it, for me and my love for the Ryder Cup.
Q. Have the rookies had much discussion amongst themselves about the experience so far?
WEBB SIMPSON: The rookies? Yeah, I think so. I mean, Keegan Bradley is a good buddy of mine, and we played Tuesday together, and we were just laughing about that first tee feeling.
We've been on Tour now for a while, and you don't really get butterflies in practice rounds or pro ams but it was a different story Tuesday. We had a good laugh about it.
But I think all the rookies are just excited to be here. But being a long week, it's Thursday now, I think we're all ready to kind of get things going and get the competition started.
Q. Could you explain for those of us who don't know Bubba very well, what's he like? In 50 words, what's Bubba like, and what's he been up to in the team room this week?
WEBB SIMPSON: I'm still trying to figure him out. But Bubba and I are we're good friends away from golf, and I think that's what makes us a good team. I'm not sure whether Davis is going to pair us together or not yet. We're going to talk about that this afternoon.
But you know, he's laid back. What you see in his golf videos and all the other funny stuff he does, that's him on the golf course. He jokes around. He still is a competitor. You can't win the Masters and not be a very tough competitor.
But his approach to the game is laid back, and then when he has 30 seconds to hit a shot, and he's to be serious. But I think you put him and me together where I am a little more serious, he kind of relaxes me and I kind of help him focus on golf and draw him back to what we need to be looking at.
He's definitely a clown and everybody laughs at him, and he's a good guy to have on the team.
Q. In the practice rounds have you been when you're on No. 15, have you been trying it at different lengths, and has Davis sort of told you guys what lengths it's going to play at, something you maybe keep secret now?
WEBB SIMPSON: I think there's three different tee boxes on 15, so we've kind of play them all. A lot is going to depend on the wind direction there. We played the first round, it was into and off the left, and yesterday it was down off the left. We've talked a lot about it amongst our team, just strategy and do you approach it differently with foursomes than you do fourball.
I think it comes down to whoever your partner is and what you guys want to do and how you want to approach it. I don't think there's a right or wrong there, and I think certainly a lot will depend on that hole, whoever is teeing off first, what they do. If you're playing a couple guys and they hit it lay up perfectly in the fairway, you've got to think they're going to have two good chances for birdie, but if one of them hits it in the water and another one hits it in the left rough, it might be a little different.
I think that'll be a game time decision, and you'll see a lot of different shots there.
Q. Can you get there with a 3 wood from the first two tee boxes?
WEBB SIMPSON: We hit 3 wood yesterday from all the way up tee, but it was pretty much straight downwind. I would say it's going to be a driver if you're going to go for the green, unless you want to leave it just short, kind of on that upslope.
But it's a great hole. It's a perfect drivable par 4 because it's risk reward, and it gives you the option, a big landing area to lay up. I think you'll see different shots there.
Q. The guys who have been in here the last couple days have talked about the ping pong play in the team room. I want to get your thoughts on who the best player on the team is because there's been some dispute on that, and can you talk a little bit about the camaraderie that's drawn from that?
WEBB SIMPSON: Yeah, we love table tennis, but I think it's clear that Matt Kuchar is the best. Phil Mickelson is not quite ready to admit it. I think he's in denial. But he's pretty good.
My claim to fame is I beat Phil at Presidents Cup last year. And after I beat him, he said my serve was illegal. But then he beat me the next five times.
But we've got some really good players on the team, and I think I've seen about everybody play now, and everybody is really good. Zach is really good. Tiger is good. Bubba thinks he's good, but he just plays defense. He doesn't hit any winners or anything, and once he starts hitting those defensive shots, I start laughing and he beats me.
But everybody is pretty good on our team.
Q. Is experience overrated? You had a very good Presidents Cup; Larry Nelson went 5 0 as a rookie. Is it just one of those abstract things that we talk about that really has nothing to do once you get inside the ropes?
WEBB SIMPSON: Well, I've always been a guy who really believes in experience, whether it comes to winning a golf tournament or playing in a major, and so I think there's an element that does help. But I think as athletes and golfers and competitors, at the end of the day we tell ourselves, you get on the first hole, you've got to hit it in the fairway and then you've got to hit it on the green, and that's no different than a regular, individual tournament.
So I think experience helps with the emotions and knowing how to handle the crowds and playing the other teams. But I think for me, having not played Ryder Cup, I'm going to draw from Walker Cup, Presidents Cup, and just remember certain things that surprised me.
I remember getting to the first tee at Presidents Cup and there was a lot of people, and I was glad that Bubba was teeing off the first hole, and I said, I'll take the evens this week, I like the evens.
But I think more than anything, we just kind of dumb it down to it's just golf. It's A to B and hit it on the green and try to make a putt, and that's what I'm going to be kind of telling myself all week.
Q. I know you're close to Arnold Palmer and have spent some time with him since you won the Open. I wonder if you've talked to him about the Ryder Cup and if he's given any advice about how to approach this?
WEBB SIMPSON: I haven't talked to him about the Ryder Cup. Obviously we know what he's done for the game of golf, and he's been so good to me. I played under his scholarship and played in his tournament now I think five or six times.
But you can just watch videos of Palmer and learn a lot. That's what I've done. But I haven't spoken to him about the Ryder Cup.
Q. You mentioned the experience you've had in the Walker Cup before. I'm just wondering what you learned about match play at that and match play strategy, what was it about it that surprised you and something you might be able to use to your advantage this week?
WEBB SIMPSON: Well, I think in team events, momentum is so big because you have a teammate and you can't control what he's going to do, but you get a little momentum, you win a hole here or there, and especially if the crowd is behind you, the other team hears that the crowd is behind you. And I feel like in match play there's so many momentum shifts, and when the momentum is on your side you want to keep it going and just kind of ride it as long as you can.
But I think the biggest thing that everyone would agree with is the most important thing in match play is you can't give away holes. You can't best ball, you make a bogey, it's just going to kill the momentum, kill your team, and so you look at the best match play players the last 50 years, they're guys with really good short games, smart players, and guys that have a lot of guts.
They don't give up, the Justin Leonards, guys that are 4 down at the turn and somehow get a halve out of it. So I think just never quitting and learning how to never give away holes are really important.
Q. What do you put your extraordinary year down to? How do you explain it?
WEBB SIMPSON: Well, my motto is that I always get better. You know, I made over $6 million last year. I made about half that this year, but I feel like I'm a better player than I was last year.
I think it's an advantage to me to not look at results to compare my success and how I'm doing. It's in my heart do I really feel like I'm better than I was in 2011, and I do, so that lets me sleep a lot better at night than if I looked at results and said, hey, I've won half as much money this year and half as many tournaments, and you know, I'm not be getting better.
I think for me, I've gotten better this year. It's consistent than it was last year but I think my good events, I've played better. I just haven't been as consistent. So that's something I want to get better about for next year.
KELLY ELBIN: Webb Simpson, thank you very much.
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