PGA Tour

Simpson seeks rare repeat

Webb Simpson (AFP)
Webb Simpson (AFP)
Ardmore - Webb Simpson has not won a title since taking last year's US Open, but the confidence boost from that victory gives him hope of ending the drought this week by defending his crown.

The 27-year-old American who pulled off a shocker last year at San Francisco's Olympic Club will try to become the first back-to-back winner of the US Open since Curtis Strange in 1989 when the 113th US Open begins Thursday at Merion.

"I definitely grew from it. I got a lot of confidence from it," Simpson said of his first major title. "I haven't won a tournament since, but I'm always saying, all I care about is getting better and all I care about is the process.

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"So there hasn't been a day that went by that I haven't thought about winning the US Open. Being announced on the first tee as US Open champion hasn't gotten old. I don't want that to change."

Simpson would not mind a change in his fortunes. The nearest he came to a victory since last year's US Open was losing a playoff to Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell at the US PGA Heritage the week after this year's Masters.

Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Ralph Guldahl, John McDermott, Willie Anderson and Strange are the only men to capture consecutive US Open titles.

"The biggest factor is the courses change every year," Simpson said. "Merion is a totally different type golf course than Olympic. Short hitters have a lot better chance of winning this tournament than some of the longer courses.

"It's so hard to have your game peak and beat the best players in the world one out of four times a year. I think it's just so hard to put so much emphasis on four golf tournaments.

"There are so many factors that have to be going well for you to compete and even get in contention on a week like this."

Simpson respects the history of Merion, where Jones won the 1930 US Amateur to compete his same-year sweep of US and British Opens and Amateurs, Lee Trevino beat Jack Nicklaus in a 1971 US Open playoff and Hogan's 1950 win in a comeback after severe injuries in an auto crash that nearly killed him.

"We just really appreciate what's happened here in the past," Simpson said. "Merion is considered an old style golf course, under 7000 yards, but yet we're still having a US Open here in 2013. I think it's pretty remarkable for them."

The 6,996-yard layout also features red wicker baskets on flagsticks rather than the usual cloth that can flap in the breeze and provide players a hint as to how the wind blows. There will be no such clues this week.

"I don't think the caddies are happy about the wicker baskets, even though the players like it. It's fun. It's different for us," Simpson said.

"They don't like it because they can't tell the wind, so it makes their job harder. They might be a little on edge to keep their job this week.

"It will make us make decisions quicker. We'll never play anything like this again. So it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. It's just part of the tradition of Merion."

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