Simpson to play Ryder Cup before defending Vegas title

When Webb Simpson woke up Tuesday morning, he didn’t know if he was going to have a short vacation from golf or would have to keep working.

All he knew was come mid-October, he was coming back to Las Vegas to defend his title at TPC Summerlin after winning the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last fall.

Then the call came later in the day. It was Tom Watson, the captain for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Simpson was told to pack a bag, grab his passport and get his game in order. He was one of three captain’s picks for the 12-man U.S. squad that will compete against Rory McIlroy and the rest of Team Europe Sept. 23-28 in Scotland.

“It would be an honor,” Simpson said before he got the good news from Watson. “I want to be out there with those guys.”

He went 2-2 in his only Ryder Cup appearance at Medinah in 2012 so Simpson understands what he’s getting involved in. He’s hoping he can recapture his run from last October when he played an exceptional four days, including a second-round 63, to win the Shriners Open with a 24-under-par 260.

“Getting that win was so important for my confidence,” Simpson said. “I had played well, but I didn’t have that ‘W’ yet. I wanted to win so bad, and I love the course. It really sets up well for my game.”

Simpson’s win helped him get off to a fast start on the PGA Tour’s revamped schedule which began in mid-October 2013 and picked up in January in Hawaii. He had three top-10 finishes following his success at TPC Summerlin with just one round over par during that four-tournament stretch.

But maintaining a high level of play is difficult for every golfer, and Simpson found his game fluctuating as spring turned to summer. One week, he would find himself in contention. The next, he would miss the cut. Still, he has won $3,378,254 this year playing 23 events and ranks 19th in the FedEx Cup standings heading into today’s playoffs at the BMW Championship in Cherry Hills Village, Colo.

“That was frustrating,” he said. “I don’t know if it was because the season’s so long or what it was, but I was struggling with my consistency. Some of my fundamentals had broken down.”

Simpson played the four majors, and he missed the cut at the Masters, the British Open and the PGA Championship. He finished 45th at the U.S. Open. Yet, here he is, playing in the Ryder Cup, where he’ll have a chance for redemption when the U.S. team heads to Scotland in a couple of weeks to try to win back the Cup. The Americans last held possession of the Ryder Cup in 2008 when they rallied at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. The Ryder Cup competition dates back to 1927 and the U.S. holds a commanding 25-12-2 lead overall, though Team Europe has won seven of the last nine meetings.

Watson cited Simpson’s recent solid play — a third-place finish at the Greenbrier Classic and his fifth-place finish at the Wyndham Championship along with his experience for selecting him, along with Keegan Bradley and Hunter Mahan as his captain’s picks.

And while Simpson’s season just got a little longer, he’s fine putting his vacation off and he is looking forward to defending his Shriners Open title next month.

“I think it’s going to be a stronger field,” he said now that the players have had a year to adjust their schedules. “It’s a perfect time of the year to come to Vegas, and you know the course is going to be in great shape. I loved the changes they made last year and the fact you could use different clubs off the tee and force yourself to think your way around the course more I think worked to my advantage.”

Tournament director Adam Sperling said having a Ryder Cup participant can only help generate interest in this year’s Shriners Open, which will be played Oct. 16-19.

“I think it adds to the legitimacy of the strength of our field,” Sperling said. “It’s a statement about who’s playing in our event and who’s successful.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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