US Open champ back to work at PGA Championship

U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson is ready to get back to work at the PGA Championship.

Simpson has played only two events since winning his first major title at The Olympic Club in June, the last coming six weeks ago at The Greenbrier. Simpson skipped the British Open because of the impending birth of daughter, Willow Grace, who arrived July 28.

Simpson was happy to be there for his wife, Dowd, and growing family. The couple's son James is 18 months old. But by last week, Simpson felt the itch to return as he watched the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

"When you pack your bags for three weeks every month for a living, it kind of becomes second nature to you, so I felt like I wanted to pack up and get ready to go," Simpson said Wednesday. "Not that I wanted to leave the family or leave home, but as a competitor you always want to compete."

Simpson liked how he was playing heading into the summer, yet knew for months with his wife's due date that going to Royal Lytham & St. Annes was chancy at best. Simpson didn't want to risk being across the Atlantic when Dowd went into labor. "If I'm fortunate to play golf a long time, I think I'll have 20 or so more times to play in the (British) Open," he said. "We're only going to have two or three kids, maybe four at the most."

Simpson hopes he can add to his major title as quickly as he's planned out his future family. Simpson, who was born in Raleigh, N.C., and lives in Charlotte, played the Ocean Course just once as a 12-year-old. "I really don't remember it hardly at all," Simpson said with a grin.

He returned two weeks ago for some early practice and found it a typical Pete Dye layout. Simpson said the beauty of Dye's courses is "you kind of learn something every time."

Simpson got in nine holes Wednesday morning as more rain washed over the seaside course. The extra water has left the paspalum greens soft and slow. "But they're going to be great," Simpson said. "They're going to hold up well."

Simpson also hopes to hold up well in the face of upgraded expectations — both his own and from others. Simpson acknowledged he put some extra pressure on himself at the Travelers and Greenbrier to perform well following his major breakthrough at the U.S. Open.

"But I just try and tell myself, trying to live up to what somebody thinks of you or creates you to be is not going to help," he said.

Simpson leans on his wife, caddie and friends to keep him grounded and working hard in the gym and on the course. "Whatever you do in golf, whatever you put in, you'll get out of it," he said. "So that's kind of what I'm trying to tell myself."

Simpson got the most out of his play at The Olympic Club. He entered the final round trailing by four strokes. He overcame two early bogeys with three straight birdies on Nos. 6-8 and another on the 10th hole to move into the mix. Simpson parred in from there, a run good enough for a one-stroke victory over Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson.

Simpson finished his round — he went 68-68 on the weekend — ahead of chasers Jim Furyk and McDowell and went to the locker room to see things unfold. When McDowell's 25-footer for birdie stayed left of the cup on No. 18, Simpson could celebrate the biggest win of his career.

Simpson was seventh at The Greenbrier the last time he teed it up in early July. He understands it might take some time to knock the rust off his major championship game.

"I'm just trying to be patient this week because I know it might take a little time," he said. "But hopefully, maybe, I can get off to a good start and I can get right back into it."