AUGUSTA, Ga. – As omens go Webb Simpson has some good vibes heading his way this week as he tees it up in the Masters.
This past Saturday in the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur it was Jennifer Kupcho, a Wake Forest senior and the top-ranked women’s amateur in the world, winning the tournament. Then on Sunday it was Wake Forest’s men’s golf team that won a tournament at nearby Forest Hills Golf Club.
Now Simpson, who will be playing in his eighth Masters, is hoping to take those good Wake Forest vibes with him.
Simpson, a 2008 Wake Forest graduate, loves everything about competing in the Masters but one of his favorite things is the Wednesday Par-3 Contest. He makes sure the entire family is involved.
“I love the par-3 and Bubba (Watson) and I play together and it really does kind of get me going as we head into Thursday’s first round,” Simpson said. “It’s a big family deal and with all of our kids and Dowd, it’s a great time.”
The fun ended in the late afternoon on Wednesday, and Simpson’s attention turned to Thursday’s first round.
Simpson will tee off at 10:31 on Thursday morning with Patrick Reed, the defending champion, and Norway’s Viktor Hovland, who won last year’s U.S. Amateur to qualify for his first Masters.
Of the many statistics that the Masters seem to have an endless supply of is the average amount of appearances for the winners. Since 1995 the winners averaged nine appearances before winning the title - another good sign for Simpson.
Simpson, and his trusty caddie, Paul Tesori, have a lot of experience around Augusta National and that will come in handy.
“I think the two biggest things are knowing where to miss it,” Simpson said, “and then when you do miss it it’s all about getting up and down. It seems simple but that’s what I try to focus on.”
Simpson saw some positives last year when he tied for 20th. What excited him the most was he started last year’s round in 36th place but caught fire and shot 67 to improve 16 places. The tie for 20th was his best showing of his career.
Simpson, 32, has never been known to be a long hitter off the tee but his short game and iron play are his strengths. Last season he won The Players for one of his most successful seasons.
Simpson, the winner of the 2013 U.S. Open, has a major on his resume and says he draws on that victory a lot.
“I definitely will draw on that U.S. Open experience and also with The Players last year I can use that as well,” Simpson said. “But honestly, trying to win any tournament you draw on past experiences to control your emotions and execute golf swings like you’ve done all week.”
So far this season Simpson has had mixed results with three top 15 showings and a missed cut at the Valspar Championship. He also lost early in the WGC-Dell Math Play Championships in his last tournament.
“The last couple of months, I’ve wanted a little more,” said Simpson, who is ranked 23rd in the world right behind Phil Mickelson. “Starting with Mexico and the Florida swing I would have liked to have played better. But my game is good and I like where it’s at right now.”
Simpson, who is the only former Wake Forest golfer in the field, says he’s always rented the same house every year he's been playing the Masters. Dowd and their five children made the short trip from Charlotte on Tuesday.
“I do like having the family here and it’s good,” Simpson said.
Simpson said he’s excited about this week, and is looking forward to what’s ahead.
“I’m very optimistic about this season and I feel like I am better than last season,” Simpson said. “My results aren’t quite where I want them but I’m paying close attention to what my mistakes are and I’m correcting them. I do feel really optimistic with the Masters, RBC, Wells Fargo and then the PGA Championship being at Bethpage (in May) is pretty cool.”
Simpson says there’s plenty to like as he heads into this week’s play.
“I’m just waiting to put it all together in a tournament,” Simpson said.