Its 6:45 Thursday morning, and golfer Webb Simpson is rolling two gray garbage cans back from the street to park them beside his south Charlotte home until theyre rolled out again next week.
Simpson figured it wasnt a recycling week since none of the neighbors had rolled out their green containers, saving him an extra trip to the curb.
Sometimes I think some people put the recycling out there just to fake people out, Simpson says.
If anyone had the silly notion that winning the U.S. Open two weeks ago at the Olympic Club in San Francisco might change the 26-year-old Simpson, the idea should be gone with last weeks trash.
Simpson politely declined a request to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno the Monday night after his victory, preferring to fly home overnight with his wife, Dowd, so he could spend one day at home with their 1-year-old son, James, before leaving to honor an earlier commitment to play The Travelers Championship in Hartford, Conn.
On the ride to the San Francisco airport after his victory, the Simpsons stopped for cheeseburgers at Wendys. He ordered inside, and while waiting for the food, Simpson heard guys who had obviously been at the U.S. Open debating whether the U.S. Open champion had just walked into the restaurant.
Amused at the conversation, Simpson settled it by introducing himself, then posing for a photo with the group. It was better than having his trophy presentation disrupted by a man making bird sounds .
Speaking of the trophy, its been sitting on the counter in Simpsons bathroom since it came home with him.
I can see it when Im brushing my teeth in the morning, Simpson says.
The plan is to eventually move the trophy to a different spot in the house . Meantime, last Thursday, Simpson took the two-handled trophy with him to Greensboro , where hes heading for a pre-tournament media day appearance for Augusts Wyndham Championship, where he won his first PGA Tour event last year.
The tournament sent a car for Simpson and his agent, Thomas Parker, and, after putting the garbage cans away, Simpson loads the trophy into the back and settles in for the ride. Simpson wears white slacks, a green shirt, a white cap, dark loafers and no socks. He dressed down after wearing a gray suit and tie for a media appearance at Quail Hollow Club two days earlier.
I dont need a jacket, do I? Simpson asks Parker.
No, youre fine, Parker tells him.
Same old Simpson
The magnitude of Simpsons victory has begun to sink in with the number of congratulatory comments, calls and messages hes received. He anticipated the sponsor and media commitments that came with winning but not the overwhelming reaction from people.
When he walked his son James through Southpark Mall after the win, he noticed a group of teenaged girls looking at him. A mother in the group recognized him and told him, Nice job.
When Simpson ducked into the Ralph Lauren store (he wears their clothes on tour), the girls followed him in and asked for autographs, though he says they seemed more interested in his son.
One thing Im passionate about is I dont want it to change me as a person or as a golfer, Simpson says. Last week (at The Travelers Championship), I found myself trying to play up to being a major champion. Thats something I dont do. I cant put this big umbrella of expectations around myself. My dad (Sam) told me the night I won that I dont have anything else to prove.
After his victory, Simpson received a phone call from Greg Norman, texts from Phil Mickelson and Tom Lehman and an email from Tom Watson, among other notables from the world of golf.
The message from Watson resonated. He plans to print out the email and frame it.
It was the perfect mix of kindness and encouragement and giving me great advice for the future, Simpson says. It would have been nice enough if hed just said congratulations, but he took his time and wrote me a well thought-out email. He said that the next time I stand on the first tee, I wont have a two-shot advantage over everyone else just because Im a major winner. Keep working hard.
A perk of winning the U.S. Open is an invitation to throw out the first pitch at a New York Yankees game later this month. He already knows what not to do - Dont bounce it in there and dont throw it from in front of the pitchers mound, Simpson says. He doesnt intend to do either.
As the car approaches Greensboro, Simpson signs a personal message on a commemorative U.S. Open flag for Bobby Long, a Greensboro business leader, a driving force behind the Wyndham Championship and a longtime family friend. He also brings him a special putter with Longs name stamped in the back.
At Sedgefield Country Club, Simpson hurries out of the car and does a live shot on The Golf Channel, then smiles through a series of introductions and interviews. He hits the ceremonial first putt on Sedgefields new bermuda grass greens, then returns inside to be introduced by Long to a gathered group.
Long tells the story of playing golf with his son, Sam and Webb Simpson at Landfall near Wilmington through the years. Long believes he was in the group when Simpson, a Raleigh native, played his first full round of golf almost 20 years ago.
Many times, Long said he told his son, Robert, he should grow up to be like Webb Simpson. Long says he still reminds his son to follow Simpsons lead.
I have a number of friends who have achieved remarkable success and the best ones have been unaffected by it, Long says. (Webb) has that.
Hes that special guy, and hes been that way his whole life. He has every reason to be cocky, and hes never been that way. My dad told me the measure of a man is how they treat a defenseless person, someone who cant help them in any way. Webb is so nice to everyone, regardless of who they are. Thats what greatness is.
Family and Faith
After the interviews are complete, Simpson and Parker settle back into the black Cadillac Escalade for the ride back to Charlotte. Simpson calls his wife, asks how her day is going and tells her hell be back by 2 p.m.
Almost eight months pregnant, Dowd walked all 72 hilly holes watching her husband at the U.S. Open . He searches her out in galleries and shares smiles while hes playing.
Waiting to hit a four-foot putt on the 18th green Sunday afternoon at the U.S. Open, knowing it might be for the championship, Simpson was as nervous as he can ever remember being. On the back nine, hed kept touching his legs because he couldnt feel them.
His faith, he said, gave him an inner peace but didnt keep the nerves away. Preparing to hit the biggest putt of his life, Simpson thought about his son, James, back in Charlotte and how much he wanted to play with him.
It was the only thing I could think of to keep my mind off the fact it might be a putt to win, he says.
Is Simpson as good as advertised or has he ever gotten in trouble?
He tells a story of being in an advanced placement English class in high school in Raleigh when he bet a classmate he could climb out a window during a movie and get back in the classroom before the teacher noticed. He slipped out the window, walked around the building, then walked back into class through the door. The teacher assumed hed been in the bathroom.
I won my bet, Simpson says.
Its not about the money
Sitting in the back seat Thursday, Simpson has the U.S. Open trophy on the floor between his feet. He goes over scheduling options with his manager for the remainder of the year, talks about what he will and wont do and signs more U.S. Open flags for people and groups he holds close.
Hes considering a fall trip to China, an invitation that came with winning the U.S. Open. Its the only big thing hes considering adding as a direct result of his victory. Hes not planning to turn the win into a money grab.
Simpson received some gentle criticism for his quick decision to skip the British Open later this month because he doesnt want to be overseas in case his wife goes into labor early with their second child. Originally her due date was Aug. 3, but its been moved up a few days, reinforcing Simpsons decision to stay here. After playing the Greenbrier Classic next week in West Virginia, hell be home for three weeks.
The British Open will always be there, Simpson says. This may be the last child we have. Its a decision I havent thought twice about.
On the northern edge of Charlotte, Simpson and Parker stop for lunch at Chick-Fil-A. As he orders his grilled chicken sandwich, no one seems to recognize the U.S. Open champion. The trophy and his cap are in the car. Hes another young guy grabbing lunch, and he doesnt seem to notice that no one notices him.
When the Escalade returns Simpson to his driveway, the garbage cans are tucked away where he left them. He has a couple of errands to run before a short workout and maybe some practice.
When hes done, hell meet Dowd and James at the pool for a swim and then a casual dinner at Quail Hollow Club, just a mile from his house.
Its OK to wear shorts, isnt it? Simpson asks Parker.
In the grillroom, yes, Parker says.
Great, Simpson says.
A low-key night with his family, just what Simpson wants.
He walks inside through his garage. He carries the U.S. Open trophy with him.