By Ron Green Jr.
Among the many benefits that come with earning one of the 30 spots in the Tour Championship this week at East Lake in Atlanta – that includes exemptions into the four major championships and the WGC events next season – the one Webb Simpson may value the most can’t be found on any list.
It’s the feeling that comes with having survived three cuts from a starting field of 125 to qualify for the season’s final event.
Defending champion Rory McIlroy didn’t make it to Atlanta. Neither did Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson or Louis Oosthuizen, who lost the final spot to Jason Dufner by less than one point. Charlotte resident Mackenzie Hughes was inside the top 30 entering the final round at the BMW Championship on Sunday but finished outside the cutoff.
“It’s amazing. It’s a goal of mine. It’s at the top of the list every year along with winning,” Simpson said.
“If I can get there, no matter how the year has gone, I’ve done well. I’m excited. I love that place.”
Simpson was a regular at East Lake for several seasons, but this will be his first trip back since 2014. While he is a long shot to win the $10 million FedEx Cup – Simpson starts in 16th place – he has a mathematical chance.
The spot at East Lake caps a resurgent season for Simpson. He didn’t win – Hideki Matsuyama beat him in a playoff at the Waste Management Open early in the year – but Simpson was more consistent this year and had more high finishes than in recent seasons.
It’s been two full seasons since Simpson abandoned his anchored putting stroke and he’s settled on a method that feels natural to him now. He has remained resolute in his conviction that he is on the right path to winning again.
“I just stayed patient. In the times when I was frustrated, I had to keep going instead of giving in to it,” Simpson said.
“I knew I had good people around me. (Wife) Dowd, (caddie) Paul (Tesori), everybody around me. I knew I had the team together. We just had a good plan. I just had to put it in place.”
It has taken Simpson back to where he wants to be – the Tour Championship at East Lake.
“Man, I love that place,” Simpson said.