Webb Simpson back in the limelight ahead of The Open
On Sunday, Webb Simpson left his room and meandered down to the local Starbucks for a cup of coffee – just as he had every other day that week.
To the average punter, he appeared as an unremarkable figure quietly going about his daily business on a sticky May morning.
But within hours his face was plastered across TV and social media as the latest winner of The Players Championship.
The year that keeps on giving
The 32-year-old’s victory is another sub-plot to a season full of fascinating storylines, not least the resurgence and renaissance of Champion Golfers Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Simpson, a major champion in 2012 at the US Open, has openly acknowledged his struggles in the last couple of years.
When he broke through at The Olympic Club in 2012, it appeared America had another superstar ready to step into the void left by an ageing Mickelson and injury-prone Woods.
But a loss of form and change in regulations hurt him badly and he began to drift down the rankings. His hot putter began to cool.
With the anchoring ban coming into force, Simpson ripped up his well-honed technique. In 2015, perhaps his worst season, he ranked 174th in putting.
Back in the winner’s circle
This year, though, his game has clicked back into gear and the ruthlessness he displayed at TPC Sawgrass ensured that by Sunday morning he was already out of sight.
“I’ve never putted this well in my life, and I think if I had stayed with the belly putter—I think I maybe averaged 35th to 60th every year in putting, so very average—and this year I think I’m in the top 10,” he said.
“It’s funny how those things happen, but, you know, this is probably the first time I can say I’m glad they banned it, because I wouldn’t have ever probably swayed away from the belly putter.”
A low-key round of 73 carried him over the line but the damage was done in three flawless days of extraordinary golf from Thursday to Saturday.
A near-perfect 63 on Friday saw him equal the course record and only a trip to the water on the notoriously difficult par-three 17th prevented a new lowest total.
That meant he arrived with a healthy seven-shot lead, ensuring that not even Tiger Woods, who made a front-nine charge, could cause him to panic.
“It's probably harder work to be ahead by five or six. I learned from it, I battled through,” he added.
"I didn't have my best stuff but it was good enough."
Destined for the top
From a young age, Simpson was always expected to achieve success.
He finished high school as the top-ranked junior in the country, earning the Arnold Palmer Scholarship to attend Wake Forest, where he went on to be a four-time All-American and was named ACC Player of the Year in 2008.
Success always came quickly. Two years after his first professional start, he had his first trophy at the Wyndham Championship with the US Open following 12 months later.
When he romped home to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in 2013, carding a superb 24-under par, no one could imagine it would be five years until his next success.
Now the trick is to ensure he does not wait five years again.
The Open awaits
Along with a shiny trophy and big cheque, Simpson is guaranteed entry to The Open Championship for the next three seasons – starting at Carnoustie in July.
His record on these shores is solid but not spectacular, with tied-16th in 2011 his best result so far.
But Carnoustie may just play to his strengths. The Carolina native knows how to tackle the game’s toughest courses – highlighted with that US Open win, secured with a total of one-over par.
With The Players Championship now in his trophy cabinet, he will automatically be one of the favourites to win.
A quiet coffee will be a luxury he may have to do without.