PITTSFORD — Webb Simpson wanted to throw his golf clubs on Thursday.
He said it took a pep talk to refocus. Apparently, it was one heck of a pep talk.
Simpson shot an astonishing round of 6-under-par 64 and would’ve been the headline of the day if it weren’t for Jason Dufner turning in his scorecard with a course-record 63 several hours later.
“Yesterday, I said: ‘If I have any chance in this golf tournament, any chance at all just to contend, I have to be patient the rest of the day,’ ” Simpson said Friday. “I wanted to get mad, wanted to throw clubs and do all that, but it wasn’t going to help anything.”
Prior to Friday’s second round, Ben Hogan (in 1942) and Curtis Strange (in 1989) were the only golfers to ever shoot 64 on Oak Hill’s famed East Course.
Who could have seen Simpson firing a 64 after his miserable round of 72 on Thursday?
“It was a great day,” said Simpson, who started his second round with two consecutive birdies after bogeying or double-bogeying six of his first eight holes Thursday. “I thank the Lord for giving me patience yesterday; at 5-over through eight holes, it was a pretty low moment for me. But I kind of had a pep talk with myself on the seventh green, and you know, 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.”
Simpson matched what was at the time the East Course record and came one stroke short of matching the all-time lowest round in a major of 63, which Dufner, of course, attained later in the day. Simpson couldn’t deny that chasing the mark was on his mind, but he said it didn’t affect his play.
“It’s so hard, because on one hand, you want to go for it. You want to go for the record,” Simpson said. “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 … I tried to continue just my same routine and my same thoughts.”
Simpson didn’t have his best round Thursday, but he did birdie No. 18, and that final shot gave him a jolt of confidence.
Simpson started his day with two birdies and stayed hot.
“Extremely happy with my game today,” he said. “All around, it was really solid. I made some great putts, made some good par putts to kind of keep the momentum going. You know, special feeling to have tied the course record here at Oak Hill.”
In total, he finished his day with seven birdies and one bogey. The bogey came on the par-4, 461-yard seventh hole – and even that one, in Simpson’s mind, was easy.
“I drove it in the fairway, but that’s such a tough hole, and I was trying to cut it around the tree and just cut it too much,” Simpson said. “Hit the tree and made an easy bogey.”
Simpson, ranked No. 22 in the world, won the 2012 U.S. Open but has not won a PGA Tour event since. He has four top-10 finishes this year and one second-place (April’s RBC Heritage).
“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,” Simpson said, “even though the results really haven’t been showing it this year.
“Somebody 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. Every day I’ve thought about it, and winning the U.S. Open has made me want to get back into contention in golf tournaments and majors all the more. It’s hard to believe it was over a year ago.”