Sony Open in Hawaii: Webb Simpson has Presidents Cup pull to fuel him in 2022

The American had a poor year in 2021 but feels his game is strong again as he tries to make Davis Love’s team for the showdown with the Internationals in September.

For someone who doesn't like flying, having a Presidents Cup played in his own backyard is the perfect scenario for Webb Simpson.

This year's event takes place at Quail Hollow in North Carolina, a 20-minute drive away from Simpson's home.

The only problem: trying to force his way onto Davis Love's team when so many of his ultra-talented compatriots have the same goal.

After a difficult 2021, Simpson had to sit out the last Ryder Cup when the USA romped to a record-breaking win over Europe at Whistling Straits.

And it must be in captain Love's mind to try and keep as many of that team together when they do battle with the Internationals at Quail Hollow in late September.

Of course, automatic qualification is the simplest route in and Simpson will want to make the team with his own play rather than having to lean on Love for a wildcard pick - even though there are six of them.

Simpson and Love, a University of North Carolina alum, are close friends but that won't be worth much if his game isn't good.

The current US Team standings show Simpson in 20th so there is much work to do after his disappointing 2021 campaign which saw his world ranking drop from 6th to 27th.

But he has an excellent chance to make an early move in this week's Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.

Despite having to brave the long flight, the 36-year-old has finished in the top four in each of the last three editions and in two of those, as is the case this time, he hadn't tuned up by playing in the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Maui the week before.

Notably, Simpson feels his game is sharp, something he addressed in his Tuesday media conference.

Here are some of the key lines.

On his difficult and injury-hit 2021

"Yeah, 2021 was a frustrating year for me both physically, and you know, golf performance, battling flu, COVID, neck injury, and I feel like that crept into my golf game.

"But after the Shriners tournament, I got a lesson from Butch Harmon and Pauli and I and Butch all agreed I needed to get more on top of the golf ball and kind of shallowing out a little bit and we saw some good changes at CJ Cup (T14) and it got even better at RSM (T8).

"I took a month off and really worked on it and RSM was my best ball-striking I had had all year, and it gave me a lot of hope for this season."

On the neck injury he suffered in 2021

"I was hitting balls at Wells Fargo on Tuesday and I was hitting for 45 minutes. Never really had any neck problems in my life.

"And I hit my second driver and I felt something strange in the back of my neck. It didn't really hurt but I knew something was weird going on. And I hit another one, the same thing happened. So I quit hitting balls and that night, Tuesday night, it tightened up.

"Wednesday morning it was worse. I had limited mobility. Withdrew from the Pro-Am and we tried everything Wednesday and it just kept getting worse. The MRI showed that there was a little bit of bulging but not bad.

"And with rehab from my trainer and a few weeks after, I went to PGA as my first start back and I had a little bit of pain but not bad at all. And then after the PGA, it was gone. It hasn't come back.

"You know, the injury I had specifically, my trainer said is super common for golfers with how many balls we hit one way. But he's played closer attention to it these last few months to make sure it doesn't come back."

On how his poor season motivated him and how he feels now

"Three things I've missed out on - the Tour Championship, Ryder Cup and Tournament of Champions, and those are my favourite events.

"So I felt like I needed to put in some extra work into the off-season, and it feels great.

"I feel like my game is in a good spot, and I fully believe my best golf is ahead of me."

On why he likes Waialae

"It feels great to play a golf course that I love. We get some wind. We get the elements here.

"This is really far from Charlotte (North Carolina), it's really far. I realised that when I got off the plane in Phoenix, I'm not even halfway there.

"I love it here. I have great memories here. And it is a golf course that if I put top five favourite courses for me and my game, this would be one of them.

"It's short, it's tight, we have doglegs, we have wind, I love bermuda greens. So it is really far. It's further for me to come here than The Open Championship.

"It's a trip worth taking. Charlotte is freezing right now."

On course conditions

"I played nine this (Tuesday) morning. Surprisingly, we were getting some run.

"I heard they had a lot of rain last week and you can see some of the areas where standing water was, it kind of killed the grass. The greens were soft, but the fairways were running."

On his main gripe with modern golf courses

"My biggest thing with the golf courses has been forced carries. I give people the example of East Lake, it's a very long golf course.

"But we have had Jim Furyk win, Bill Haas, probably average length. Snedeker, average length. But you also have bombers win. But the difference is there's no bunkers at 320.

"I try to avoid all the courses where you fly it 310 to carry a bunker. I'm not going there because I can't fly there and so my fairway is half the width. And I think Maui (last week) is a place where for the most part, there's not really forced carries, so shorter guys can win.

On trying to make the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow

"I've experienced the joy of winning the Presidents Cup three times, but 0-for-3 in Ryder Cups.

"I love Davis. Got to play for him first time at, I guess it was Medinah, 2012 (Ryder Cup). And it would be a dream come true to make that (2022) team because I got to play a Tour event there (Wells Fargo Championship where he was runner-up in 2015), a Major (2017 PGA Championship, T33) and I feel great support there.

"Question is, do I get to sleep in my own bed or do I have to go downtown 20 minutes away from my house to sleep with my team!"

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