Mapquest says it is 0.9 miles from Webb Simpson’s home to the front gates of the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. From the back of the 16th green and facing an impossibly long putt, Simpson had to have felt closer to his home than the hole.
But he unleashed a curling 62-footer down the hill that found the bottom of the cup for birdie. Membership has its privileges, and Webb Simpson had to use them all to card an opening round 65 at the Wells Fargo Championship that has him tied for the lead.
As a member at Quail Hollow, Webb Simpson would have likely drew a large gallery on his own accord on Thursday at Wells Fargo, but paired with Tiger Woods in his return to the PGA Tour after a three week layoff following The Masters, the hometown kid was slightly overshadowed — for about an hour.
Simpson, who burst on to the scene last season with two PGA Tour victories that, at one point, vaulted him into the Top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings, poured in birdies on the second, third, and sixth. On No. 8, a short Par-4, Simpson chipped in from 36 yards for an eagle that put him on the first page of the leaderboard at five-under par.
Birdies on Nos. 11 and 12 tied him for the lead at seven-under par, and the long birdie on 15th hole gave Simpson the outright lead momentarily. He’d go on to drop a shot at No. 16 and wound up tied for the lead with Ryan Moore and Stewart Cink, but Simpson’s round was nothing short of remarkable.
He stole the spotlight from Woods just as he stole the spotlight in 2011 with his two victories and a berth on the President’s Cup team. And the former Wake Forest star certainly has the game to remain a threat at his home track, but whether or not he can stay focused with the pressures of a home crowd bearing on him remains the issue.
Something tells me that Simpson isn’t bothered by the comforts of home. That short walk or drive or jog to the course from home is probably a welcome departure from the weekly routine of hotels and rental cars.
It helps to know every inch of a golf course, too. Although, I’d imagine he still has to take a peak at his yardage book from time to time. Especially on winding 62’7″ putts that seem to leave the putter face in Raleigh and find a convenient home just 0.9 miles away from his own.