Defending champ Simpson a big fan of Merion

ASSOCIATED PRESS Webb Simpson, his putter firmly planted in his stomach, abhors the intimation that his biggest victory should have an asterisk.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Webb Simpson, his putter firmly planted in his stomach, abhors the intimation that his biggest victory should have an asterisk.
Posted: June 12, 2013

When people approach Webb Simpson to talk about his victory in last year's U.S. Open, there's one thing, he said, that they inevitably ask.

What did he think of the so-called "Bird Man," the fan who interrupted his trophy presentation on live television by stepping onto the green at San Francisco's Olympic and making loud bird calls?

Now a year removed from the title, however, the other questions facing Simpson are getting more serious.

The defending champion comes into Merion this week winless since last year's Open victory. He has missed the cut in three of his last six tournaments.

That hasn't put him on many short lists to repeat.

"All I care about is getting better, and all I care about is the process," Simpson said. "There hasn't been a day that went by that I haven't thought about winning the U.S. Open, being the U.S. Open champion. Being announced as 'the U.S. Open champion' hasn't gotten old. I don't want that to change."

History isn't on his side, either. No player has won back-to-back U.S. Opens since Curtis Strange in 1989.

"It doesn't surprise me. The biggest factor is the courses change every year," Simpson said. "Merion is a totally different type golf course than Olympic."

What Simpson does have going for him is familiarity with Merion.

Simpson first visited Merion with his father in 2004. He sat in the clubhouse with a longtime member, who regaled him about Ben Hogan and the history of the club.

He returned a year later to play the U.S. Amateur. Simpson bowed out in the second round to Anthony Kim. But it was enough to leave a vivid impression.

"I instantly fell in love with this golf course," Simpson said. "I love history. I love to learn about past events."

There's one piece of history, though, that Simpson wouldn't mind skipping if he gets to another trophy presentation on Sunday.

"I don't think we'll be seeing [Bird Man] this week," Simpson said.


Webb's Tee Times

Thursday at 1:36 p.m.

Friday at 8:06 a.m.

With Steven Fox (amateur) and

Ernie Els.


Contact Tim McManus at tmcmanus@philly.com. Follow on Twitter @ByTimMcManus.

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