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Simpson eyes rebound

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Webb Simpson is in an ideal place to put a poor 2021 behind him.

“I love it here,” Simpson said Tuesday at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he’ll make his 2022 debut in the Sony Open. “I have great memories here. And it is a golf course that if I put top five favorite 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.”

Loves his play in Hawaii, too. He has finished T-4, 3, and T-4 in his last three starts in the Sony Open.

But there wasn’t much to love about 2021. Coming off a two-win campaign in 2020, Simpson battled Covid-19, an extended flu, and a fluke neck injury that occurred on the range the day before the Wells Fargo Championship and forced him to withdraw. He recorded just five top-10s in 21 starts in 2021.

His struggles — he fell from eighth in the world rankings to his present mark of 27th — meant he missed out on The Tour Championship, the Ryder Cup, and this year’s Sentry Tournament of Champions.

“Those are my favorite events,” Simpson said. “So I felt like I needed to put in some extra work in the offseason, and it feels great. It feels great to play a golf course that I love. We get some wind. We get the elements here. So I feel like my game is in a good spot.

“I fully believe my best golf is ahead of me.”

Being healthy helps and Simpson, 36, who counts the 2012 US Open and 2018 Players Championship among his seven titles, knows an eighth win is well within reach.

“2021 was a frustrating year for me both physically and golf performance, battling flu, Covid, neck injury, and I feel like that crept into my golf game,” he said. “It was a letdown year, I guess. I have a lot of sympathy for guys who have gone through injury because I had never gone through an injury and it really messes with you for a while.

“It hinders your workouts and it hinders your practice. I’m really trying to make sure I’m healthy all year. The neck injury was a fluke accident. But my body is strong and healthy now, so I’m ready.”

Especially after a stop in Las Vegas to see swing coach Butch Harmon in the fall.

“After the Shriners tournament, I got a lesson from Butch Harmon, and Paulie (Tesori, his caddie) 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 and it got even better at RSM,” Simpson said. “I took a month off and really worked on it and RSM was my best ball-striking I had had all year (he tied for eighth), and it gave me a lot of hope for this season.”

In addition to eyeing a rebound in 2022, another incentive will push him — the Presidents Club is at Quail Hollow in his hometown of Charlotte. His home is near the seventh tee; he’s played the Wells Fargo Championship 10 times there and the 2017 PGA Championship there. The Presidents Cup would complete the trifecta.

“It would be a dream come true to make that team,” he said.

His quest begins this week at Waialae Country Club. He’s been disappointed to come so close to winning the past three years in the Sony Open, but he has a lot of confidence to call upon.

golfweek.usatoday.com

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