Simpson ties Oak Hill record on 'great day'
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Webb Simpson tied the course record at Oak Hill Country Club with a 6-under 64 in the second round of the 95th PGA Championship on Friday.
The 64, along with Thursday’s opening round of 2-over 72, had Simpson at 4-under 136 through 36 holes and well within the top 10 after the second round’s morning wave.
“It was a great day,” said Simpson, who joined Ben Hogan and Curtis Strange as the only other players to shoot 64 at Oak Hill. “At 5 over through eight holes (on Thursday) it was a pretty low moment for me. But I had a pep talk with myself on the seventh green and just told myself, ‘one hole at a time,’ and tried to get a birdie here, a birdie there and somehow played the last 10 or 11 holes under par. I was able to do that and I birdied 18 yesterday, which was huge for my confidence. Two over felt like a 64 yesterday after being 5 over.
“So, I was extremely happy with my game today. All around, it was really solid. I made some great putts, made some good par putts to keep the momentum going. It’s a special feeling to have tied the course record at Oak Hill.”
Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champ, really got things started on the right foot with back-to-back birdies out of the gate on Friday, while playing through a steady rain for much of the round.
Playing the back nine first, Simpson hit his approach shot on the 10th hole to within 10 feet to set up a short birdie putt. At the next hole, he drained a 15-footer for birdie.
Another birdie at the short, par-4 14th hole brought Simpson to 3 under through five holes.
Things really started cooking on the front nine. He birdied Nos. 2, 3 and 6 on putts inside of 12 feet and made a 35-footer at No. 5 for another birdie.
For some time, Simpson thought he might be able to shoot a 62, which would have been a new record score for a major championship.
“I was thinking about it once I birdied No. 6,” Simpson admitted. “I was thinking about the all-tie major record, and I was about 99 percent sure it was 63. It’s so hard because on one hand, you want to go for it. You want to go for the record. But you can’t do that on a golf course this hard and I wasn’t doing that at any point today. I was trying to be patient and trying to be conservative.”
Simpson’s only bogey Friday came at the par-4 seventh hole. Though he hit the fairway with his tee shot, Simpson clipped a tree with his approach that led to the bogey.
Since winning the U.S. Open at Olympic Club last June, Simpson has yet to win again. He came close in April, losing to Graeme McDowell in a playoff at the Heritage. Even still, he’s had a consistent 2013 season, having compiled four top-10 finishes in 19 starts.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but I feel like the transition to being a major champion was smooth,” he said. “I felt like I kept playing well the rest of the summer. Yeah, I wish I could have had a victory since then, but you know, we’ve been working hard all year trying to get better, and I feel like I’m better.
“Someone told me that the older you get, the more special you’ll realize what the U.S. Open meant and that’s what it’s been like,” Simpson added. “Every day I’ve thought about it, and winning the U.S. Open has made me want to get back in contention in golf tournaments and majors all the more. It’s hard to believe that was over a year ago.”
So how does Simpson plan on backing up the 64 in Saturday’s third round?
"Well, I think if you give the course you're playing proper respect, you know and I go out tomorrow not expecting to shoot 64 again, I think I'll be in a good spot," he said. "Tomorrow is a brand new day. It's probably going to dry out a bit. I think I'll be okay with that. Not saying I'll play well, but I don't think that will affect me necessarily.
“I think it's harder when you're playing somewhere where all the scores are very low and you go out and shoot a low number. In that situation, you're trying to press and make birdies. Here, you don't really have to make birdies, as long as you're kind of hanging around par."