Raleigh native Simpson well-positioned to win Open
Posted June 11, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Three former Duke golfers are set to start the U.S. Open Championship Thursday at Pinehurst No. 2, and there’s not a hotter player in the world of late than Green Hope High School product Brendon Todd.
But if you’re looking for the best bet among Triangle hopefuls, it’s still probably Webb Simpson.
The 28-year-old Raleigh native, former Broughton High star and Wake Forest collegiate all-American hasn’t played a great deal during the past few weeks.
Now living in Charlotte, Simpson and his wife, Dowd, recently celebrated the birth of their third child – daughter Wyndham, named in honor of his first PGA Tour win.
Since that victory almost three years ago in Greensboro, Simpson has known the thrill of a U.S. Open victory (2012 at San Francisco’s Olympic Club) and has been a world-class performer on a regular basis.
But until last weekend in the Memphis FedEx St. Jude event, Simpson has struggled to score well on a consistent basis during most of 2014.
At Memphis, that changed after his opening round 71. From there, his rounds of 66-69-66 left Simpson tied with former N.C. State star Carl Pettersson and Matt Every for third.
Like another former Wolfpack hopeful, Tim Clark, Pettersson failed to qualify for Pinehurst. European tour regular Garth Mulroy will be the lone State product in the event.
UNC is in the same boat with State. When Davis Love III failed to reach, the Tar Heels’ lone hope was Mark Wilson.
Duke has Joe Ogilvie, Ryan Blaum and Kevin Streelman. All three are long shots, although Streelman has two Tour wins and has qualified for the last four U.S. Opens.
In a perfect Triangle golf world, Todd and Simpson would be there in the chase on Sunday.
As high school players, Todd was rated slightly ahead of his close friend and frequent playing partner. Through college – Todd at Georgia and Simpson at Wake – there wasn’t much separation between the two.
But after turning pro, Todd struggled almost from the start while Simpson found success early.
This year, however, the equation has flipped.
Todd has won and been in contention on a regular basis. He took last week off, while Simpson returned to tournament competition. Todd used some of the time to practice on the revamped No. 2. The Audible: Who should be favored at the U.S. Open?
Like everyone else, Simpson has had limited exposure with the course renovations. But few, if any, players in the field have spent more time in and around Pinehurst over the years than he. He’s played No. 2 dozens of times and should have enough confidence.
The key for Simpson will be avoiding trouble off the tee and on approach shots. His short game is a little rusty by his standards but, overall, his short game can be among the best in the business.