Hometown boy Webb Simpson allowed the cheers to wash over him as he walked up the 18th fairway Sunday at Quail Hollow Club.
“I’ve never been in an event where I felt more support from the crowd,” Simpson said. “I have to thank them. I won’t forget it.”
Then Simpson, a Charlotte resident who still had a chance to win the Wells Fargo Championship at that point, went back to work.
A stroke out of the lead, Simpson had just hit an approach onto the green that gave him a legitimate chance at a birdie – and a spot in a playoff with eventual winner Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points.
Simpson’s second shot on the par-4 18th, from 165 yards, went right at the pin, which was tucked into the front-left corner of the green. But the ball bounced 31 feet beyond the hole.
“It looked good as soon as it landed,” said Simpson, who started the day one stroke in the lead. “I thought it was closer.”
The birdie putt slid past the hole, consigning him to a fourth-place finish. He shot a 1-over 73 for the day, finishing one stroke behind the leaders and 13 under for the tournament.
Simpson is pure North Carolina: Born in Raleigh, educated at Wake Forest, living in Charlotte. He also is a two-time PGA Tour winner – in 2011 at Greensboro’s Wyndham Championship and the Deutsche Bank Championship.
But a victory at Quail Hollow – where he’s a member – would have been even more meaningful.
“It was cool to have all those people pulling for me all week,” Simpson said. “It was really special.”
He kept his lead Sunday until he ran into trouble on No. 6, where he made bogey. He then hit into the water on the par-5 seventh hole, saving par when he chipped within 3 feet of the hole. But bogeys on Nos. 8 and 11 kept him behind Points, McIlroy and Fowler.
No. 11, incidentally, was the first time Simpson three-putted in 220 holes, the longest streak on the PGA Tour.
A birdie on No. 15 rekindled Simpson’s chances, putting him one stroke behind the leaders.
“I wasn’t looking at any leader boards, but I knew from the roar that I was getting closer,” said Simpson. “I was still trying to make birdies coming in.”
But he gave that shot back on the par-4 16th, missing an 8-foot putt for par that was tougher than it looked.
“It was a really tricky read,” said Simpson. “The ball was above my feet. I thought it would go left, then go back right. But I gave it too much credit and went about two balls to the right.”
Next up for Simpson is this week’s Players Championship. He thinks a fourth-place finish on his home course set him up well for the most prestigious non-major on the PGA Tour.
“I can lay my head on my bed tonight and know I gave it my best,” said Simpson. “I felt good in the moment all week and (handled the) pressure.”