ARDMORE, Pa. Webb Simpson likes things orderly, but his rhythm has been knocked askew as he prepares to defend his U.S. Open championship this week at Merion Golf Club.
Heavy, day-long rain in the Philadelphia area Monday prevented Simpson from getting in a practice round. And it wasn’t as easy as simply picking up and getting in another round Tuesday. His carefully crafted U.S. Open schedule had already been altered.
“Us golfers, we want to try to make every week seem normal, with every week being the same, staying in your same routine,” Simpson said Tuesday before heading out to play nine practice holes in the afternoon. “With a major, you’ve got to prepare more. It’s a balance of resting versus preparation.
“I’ve already changed my schedule for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday three different times.”
Simpson, 27, understands he’s not the only player who is dealing with the uncertainty that the weather has created early in the week. Phil Mickelson, for instance, knew the course was in sloppy condition. So he skipped his Tuesday practice round entirely, leaving Merion on Monday to attend his daughter’s eighth-grade graduation in San Diego on Wednesday.
But Simpson – unlike Mickelson, who has a record five runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open – has won this tournament. In just his fourth full year on the PGA Tour, he won the 2012 U.S. Open at San Francisco’s Olympic Club by one stroke over Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson.
So he knows how difficult it is.
“There are guys who haven’t won majors who are great players, and they get a bad rap because (of that),” Simpson said. “But the fact is there’s only four of these a year. It’s so hard to have your game peak and beat the best players in the world one out of four times a year.
“It’s so hard to get everything ... there’s so many factors that have to be going well to compete, or even get into contention on a week like this.”
Simpson, who played at Wake Forest, has had an uneven time of it since his U.S. Open victory. He hasn’t won yet this season, and has mixed in performances like a tie for 32nd at the Wells Fargo Championship at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club, where he is a member, with a second-place finish at Hilton Head. He missed the cut at last week’s Memorial.
“I haven’t won a tournament since (last year’s U.S. Open),” Simpson said. “But all I care about is getting better. All I care about is the process.
“But there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t thought about being the winning the U.S. Open, being the U.S. Open champion. Being announced on the tee as the U.S. Open champion hasn’t gotten old.”
Like most of the players in this week’s field, Simpson doesn’t have much experience at Merion. The course with the red-basket flag sticks hasn’t hosted a U.S. Open since 1981 and the PGA Tour doesn’t stop there.
But Simpson did play in the 2005 U.S. Amateur at Merion, losing in the second round to Anthony Kim. The year before that, he played a practice round on a cold November day and remembers hearing stories in the clubhouse afterward, tales that included Ben Hogan’s famous 1-iron on the 18th hole in the 1950 U.S. Open that helped force a playoff that he would eventually win.
“I love history,” Simpson said. “Merion is considered an old-style golf course, yet we’re still having a U.S. Open here in 2013. I think that’s pretty remarkable for them.”
Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14
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