Caddie Paul Tesori called it “nothing short of miraculous.”
Tesori’s player in The Players Championship, Webb Simpson, had just putted better than anyone in the field to win for the first time since 2013 in Las Vegas, or 107 starts. Simpson built a seven-shot lead at TPC Sawgrass through 54 holes with rounds of 66, 63 and 68. And then the 2012 U.S. Open champion held on in the final round to win by four shots over Charl Schwartzel, Jimmy Walker and Xander Schauffele.
Simpson had fallen more than 100 spots in the putting rankings in recent years and was lost on the greens when anchoring the putter was outlawed by golf’s ruling bodies.
“To be at the bottom of the barrel like we were,” the caddie said, “I didn’t know if he’d ever putt well again. When you putt that poorly for that length of time and you play at this level, you can’t hide.”
The putting turnaround began a year ago at this same championship when another ex-anchorer, Tim Clark, suggested Simpson try the claw grip.
“[Simpson] led the field in strokes gained: putting (plus 9.368) with Odyssey’s Tank Cruiser V Line Long putter,” PGATOUR.COM reported. “The former anchor user was forced to give up his belly putter at the beginning of 2016 and spent time working with a conventional-length model before settling on the 44-inch long model.”
In addition, Simpson is one of the shortest hitters on the PGA TOUR, but that wasn’t a handicap at The Players Championship because he put his ball in play better than anyone. PGATOUR.COM wrote, “Simpson led the field in driving accuracy (82 percent) with five metal woods in the bag, including a Titleist 917D2 driver that replaced his 917D3 during the Honda Classic.”
All in all, it was a dominating performance by Simpson, even though protecting a massive lead wasn’t as easy as it looked, especially on Sunday.
“Being in that position is harder than I thought. It’s hard to stay motivated with a big lead, hard to continue to do what you’ve been doing, but I got it done,” Simpson said.
His resolve was inspired in part by his father, who died in November after suffering with dementia. Simpson thought a lot about his dad on Sunday.
“My dad always told me growing up to never give up …. I was never going to be done with golf, but it was certainly a struggle.”
Webb Simpson’s Clubs
Webb Simpson is a Titleist man with the exception of a TaylorMade 3-wood and an Odyssey putter. Here’s a look at his equipment setup at The Players Championship.
Driver: Titleist 917D2 (9.5 degrees) with Graphite Design Tour AD IZ 5X shaft
3-Wood: TaylorMade M2 (15 degrees) with Mitsubishi Chemical Tensei CK Pro 70TX shaft
5-Wood: Titleist 913Fd (18 degrees) with UST Mamiya Proforce VTS 8TX shaft
Hybrids: Titleist 913Hd (20 degrees) with Graphite Design Tour AD DI 105X Hybrid shaft; Titleist 915Hd (23.5 degrees) with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 MB (5-PW) with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (54-14F degrees) with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shaft; Titleist Vokey Design 2017 Prototype (60-06K degrees) with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shaft
Putter: Odyssey Tank Cruiser V Line Long (44 inches)
Ball: Titleist Pro V1