He bogeyed his second hole on Sea Island’s Plantation Course, the easier of the two courses used this week, then failed to birdie the par-5 14th hole. His caddie, Paul Tesori, preached patience, and it paid off.
Simpson played his final 13 holes in 8 under to shoot 65 and take the first-round lead.
“He told me, no matter how I started out, to stay patient,” Simpson said. “I think he knew scores would be good over there (on the Plantation Course). He helped me weather the storm.”
It was Simpson’s 14th round of 65 or lower since the start of last season, tied with Sungjae Im for the most on TOUR in that span. Simpson has shot 65 or lower in 17% of his rounds since the start of the 2019 season. That’s also the best on TOUR. Among players with at least 50 rounds played, Rory McIlroy is second at 14.5%.
Simpson is making just his second start of the fall season. He finished seventh at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. It was his 13th consecutive finish in the top 30, a span that includes three runners-up.
Simpson has been a consistent contender at Sea Island, as well. He was runner-up in 2011, losing a playoff to Ben Crane, and finished third last year, a shot out of the playoff won by Charles Howell III. Simpson got stuck on Seaside in the worse side of the draw in the first round, but battled back with a 63-65 weekend.
The year prior, Simpson was in 12th place at the halfway point but withdrew after the second round to be with his ailing father, who died shortly after.
Simpson thrives on classic courses and said he plays well anytime he’s near the ocean in the southeastern United States.
Simpson is seeking his first win since the 2018 PLAYERS. He had three runners-up last season. Rory McIlroy beat him with a final-round 61 at the RBC Canadian Open. J.T. Poston shot 62 on Sunday of the Wyndham Championship. Simpson’s final-round 64 at the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational was the low round of the day, but he started too far back to catch Brooks Koepka.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve won,” Simpson said. “I’ve given myself chances here. Starting this week, all I wanted was a chance Sunday because I do feel comfortable here.”
India’s Anirban Lahiri and Arjun Atwal carded similar one-under-71 to share the spot at T66.
Anirban shot two birdies a bogey to score 71, where as Arjun carded four birdies and three bogeys to match the similar score.