By Christopher Powers
Earlier in his career, Webb Simpson appeared destined to be on Ryder and Presidents Cup American teams for years to come. He earned spots on two winning Presidents Cup squads in 2011 and 2013, and two losing Ryder Cup teams in 2012 and 2014. He wasn’t aware at the time, but he was about to go through, by his standards, a mini career slump. He still made plenty of money with a ton of top-10 finishes but had no wins from 2014-’17 and failed to make any national teams from 2015-’17.
Simpson’s resurgent 2018 season, which included a victory at the Players Championship, got him back on the American Ryder Cup team, which unfortunately became his third losing appearance. This season, though, Simpson looks to get back to his national team winning ways by making captain Tiger Woods’ Presidents Cup squad. Though it’s no guarantee Simpson will make it automatically, he’s doing the work to do just that, with two runner-up finishes in his last four events, including one at last week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
That bumped up Simpson to 10th in the standings, something he’s well aware of judging by his response to a question from Golf Channel’s George Savaricas during Simpson’s Wednesday press conference at the Wyndham Championship.
“It’s a really big goal every year to make the team event,” Simpson said. “If you make a team event, no matter how you think your year has gone, it’s a good thing, it’s saying something good about your game.”
Simpson expanded further, mentioning a telephone conversation he had with Woods on Monday after his solo second-place finish in Memphis. Woods couldn’t resist getting in a dagger.
“I called Tiger on Monday to talk to him, I thought I was going to move up more [in the standings] and I didn’t, and he told me to ‘play better.’ So that was funny.”
Savage stuff from the 15-time major winner, who has no control over the standings, mind you. What he does have control over are the four captain’s picks, which will be made after the BMW Championship.
That gives Simpson three more chances at the Wyndham, Northern Trust and BMW to crack that top eight and not leave it up to Woods. With the rise of young stars like Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff, plus names like Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed and … ahem … Woods himself all on the outside looking in, Tiger is going to have some very interesting decisions to make when it comes to those picks. If Simpson doesn’t want to get caught up in a “who’s in, who’s out?” situation, it would behove him to heed Woods’ advice and “play better.”