Friday, March 30, 2012

Simpson on Masters: 'I'm hoping to win'

Webb Simpson of Charlotte plays in his first Masters next week, and he spent this past Monday at Augusta National, prepping for the tournament with his caddie Paul Tesori.

Simpson first played Augusta National as a 12-year old in 1998 -- you can read about his pre-teen visit there in my Sunday story about it in the Observer -- and he's been back a handful of times since. It's different, though, when it's Masters week. Tesori, who has caddied in 10 Masters, is a perfect partner for Simpson, focusing on what they need to do on each shot rather than letting their minds wander.

The first challenge next week, Tesori said, is understanding the nerves that will be dancing. "He's going to be more nervous than he has been," Tesori said this week. "It's Augusta and we've all been watching it since we were five." Tesori related a story from when he caddied for Sean O'Hair in the 2010 Masters and they played a practice round with Phil Mickelson.

In explaining his approach to playing Augusta National, Mickelson told O'Hair to fight the urge to try to be perfect. Just play. Know where not to miss it but don't get upset if you miss a shot. It's going to happen.

"I have to fight trying to be too perfect," Simpson said.

With three top-10 finishes already this year, Simpson has kept his momentum from 2011 going. He had a disappointing 78 in the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational last Sunday, but a recent swing tweak has solved some inconsistency that had crept into his driver.

Simpson said he'll go into the Masters expecting good things. "I'm definitely showing up hoping to win," Simpson said.

(We'll have full coverage from Ron Green Sr., Tom Sorensen, Taylor Zarzour and myself starting on Monday).