Simpson sees shot to capitalize on a home game
Webb Simpson has an envious number of memories concerning Pinehurst. Some are great memories. Others are along the lines of tough building blocks.
"First came here in 1999 as a standard bearer for Tom Watson and Stephen Allen on Saturday," Simpson said.
He was 13 years old during the '99 U.S. Open. Then as a freshman at Wake Forest, "I remember being here in '05 anticipating being able to play here in the U.S. Open one day."
Simpson, a Raleigh native, has competitive experience in hand here, too.
In his high school years, he played No. 2, No. 4, No. 6 and No. 8. He remembers rounds, and tournament titles, at Mid Pines Golf Club and the Country Club of North Carolina.
"I didn't really know where the trouble was (on No. 2), I just kind of went and played. So I'll need to draw on that a little bit, in the sense of just being innocent out there and not thinking too much," he said.
Not all of the playing experience was perfect though. It's still valuable.
"The North South Junior and the North South Amateur I never won. The Putter Boy trophy is the one trophy I really wanted and never got it," he said.
Simpson also ran up against friend, rival and PGA Tour mate Brendon Todd - at Pinehurst as a teenager.
"I didn't win the state championship until senior year," Simpson said, "and Brendon Todd won, seemed like every year I was playing."
Todd, from Cary, won three high school state titles. Simpson now has something grander, and perhaps more important to the next four or five days of golf.
Two years ago in the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Simpson shot a pair of two-under-par 68s on the weekend to finish one over par overall, rallying from four shots down going into Sunday to best Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson by a stroke. Simpson won his first major in his fifth major tournament appearance.
Simpson's dad lives a couple miles away. He'll have family and many friends in the gallery. Simpson's not shy about appreciating the situation and trying to channel it into positive momentum.
"Knowing that I have lot of people out there rooting for me and supporting me is great," he said.
"I have a great pairing with Rory (McIlroy) and Graeme (McDowell), so yeah, I absolutely love it. I love getting all the support that I've had all week."
The U.S. Open title two years ago fell on Father's Day. This Sunday is Father's Day.
"(Dad) will be out here. And certainly, if I'm in contention, my (three) kids will come up. I can't imagine a greater feeling," Simpson said.
He's one of the few golfers at Pinehurst who has something legitimate to measure that potential feeling against. He also has Pinehurst successes and losses to draw on.