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In the second round of THE PLAYERS Championship 2018, Webb Simpson sinks a 28-foot birdie putt on the par-4 15th hole.
I never doubted myself.
Much had happened since Webb Simpson last walked into the winner’s circle of a PGA TOUR tournament. On the positive side, his family had doubled in size with the addition of two more children. But what had decreased – to some extent, anyway – was the sense of calm that came within the ropes.
“I never doubted myself,” said Simpson, “but at the same time . . . that’s a long time.”
More than four-and-a-half years since his last win – an eternity to men of his PGA TOUR pedigree. He had won a U.S. Open and a FedExCup playoff event, the Deutsche Bank Championship, so to be stuck in such a drought started to put a dent into Simpson’s psyche.
“There’s been some tough moments along the way.”
That the skid would come to a screeching halt at THE PLAYERS Championship would rate as a surprise, given that Simpson had never achieved much success on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. In eight previous starts, he had made just four cuts, with only two finishes inside the top 20. But on those visits, as with all those weeks since his last win, Simpson said he was buoyed, as always, by the presence of one of his best friends in life, his caddie, Paul Tesori.
“He never was (frustrated), he stayed positive on my worst days,” said Simpson.
When Simpson opened with a 6-under 66 to get into a six-way tie for the lead, he said he leaned on Tesori, a onetime PGA TOUR member who suggested he had played the Stadium Course “at least 700 times.” Loved it, in fact, and Tesori channeled those positive vibes to his player, who ran off six straight birdies (Nos. 11-16) in a second-round 63 to open a five-stroke lead.
The putting woes that had plagued him for several seasons were gone. So, too, the self-doubt owed to more than four winless seasons.
Instead, the 32-year-old Simpson was ball-striking it beautifully, his lead bumped to seven after a third-round 68 and never was he threatened. A closing 73 for 18-under 270 didn’t even lose its luster with a sloppy double-bogey at the 72nd hole, not when it produced a four-stroke win over Charl Schwartzel, Danny Lee and Patrick Cantlay.
It was Simpson’s fifth PGA TOUR win, but guess what? The feeling was so fresh, “I feel like it’s my first win,” he said.
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