Webb Simpson wears U.S. Open title well

dscott@charlotteobserver.comMay 1, 2013 

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Webb Simpson watches his drive from the sixth tee box during the Pro-Am at Quail Hollow Club on Wednesday, May 1, 2013.

JEFF SINER — jsiner@charlotteobserver.com Buy Photo

Being the U.S. Open champion has always had a nice ring to it for Charlotte’s Webb Simpson. Especially now that he is the U.S. Open champion.

“I remember playing with Lucas Glover after he won at Bethpage and hearing that,” said Simpson. “I thought it sounded pretty good.”

Life has changed in some obvious ways for Simpson since he won golf’s national championship in San Francisco last June. It’s a title he wears proudly as he returns to his home course this week to play in the Wells Fargo Championship, which will begin Thursday at the Quail Hollow Club.

He’s more recognizable now to fans, much more so than he was before he won at the Open at San Francisco’s Olympic Club. Before that, Simpson’s career highlights had been victories in 2011 at Greensboro’s Wyndham Championship and the Deutsche Bank Championship.

“I’m being recognized more,” he said this week before a practice round at Quail Hollow. “I would sign people’s hats and flags and they didn’t know who I was. Now they do.”

But there have been other, more subtle repercussions for Simpson, 27. One of the storylines of his victory at Olympic was the impending arrival of his second child, Grace, who was born just a few weeks later. Now that he and wife Dowd have two kids (son James is 2), Simpson’s life has happily become more complicated.

“If you win a major, if you play well, if you’re in the top 20 of the world, you have opportunities to do whatever you really want to do around the world,” said Simpson, a Raleigh native who played at Wake Forest. “So it’s just a matter of how much am I willing to be away from home.

“A lot of guys told me if you’re going to travel and do things, whether it’s tournaments or corporate deals, do it when (the children) are young. They don’t really know that you’re gone for a week, compared to a day. So I’m still learning.

“I know one thing. I’ll never regret 10 years from now not taking a deal when it meant I got to be home with my kids.”

The U.S. Open victory also had an impact on the business side of Simpson’s career. According to Golf Digest, he made $650,000 in off-course earnings in 2012. That, combined with his $9.5 million in prize money, ranked him 16th among golf’s top earners (he was unranked in 2011).

“My manager and I had already come up with a game plan of what we saw for me, what fit my brand and what we were trying to accomplish,” said Simpson, who switched his apparel sponsor from Polo to Izod this year. “I wanted to stay within that, but also take advantage of any opportunities that might arise.”

The return of Simpson to his home club – he is a member at Quail Hollow – is one of several plotlines in what has already been a newsy week at the Wells Fargo Championship – and that doesn’t even count the ripple caused by the absence of Tiger Woods, which was announced last week.

With just one of the world’s top 10 players (Rory McIlroy) in the field, the tournament figures to be wide open. The shaky conditions of at least four greens is a concern for many players.

Ian Poulter, one of five players who have withdrawn from the tournament, hinted the greens were a reason why. Vijay Singh, who also withdrew Wednesday, was cleared by the PGA Tour and Commissioner Tim Finchem of doping charges Tuesday.

Simpson has steered clear of all that. He hasn’t won since the Open, but he arrived at Quail Hollow fresh off his best finish of the year, losing in a playoff to Graeme McDowell at Hilton Head two weeks ago.

“I think I’m doing things better than I was a year ago,” he said. “But this is a funny game, so a lot of times your results won’t show what you’re actually doing.

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14

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