(Reuters) - Refreshed after a three-week break, former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson is all set for Thursday’s opening round at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis before he turns his attention to the season’s second major that follows.
Simpson enjoys competing at the TPC Southwind and tied for third at the venue last year as he finished the St. Jude Classic in style with scores of 66, 69 and 66.
“I put together a good weekend and finally got some birdies there on the Sunday,” the 29-year-old American told reporters about his strong finish 12 months ago. “It’s always nice going to a major where you feel like you’re in a good rhythm.”
Simpson will be banking on more of the same this week before he heads off to the June 18-21 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in Washington State.
He has certainly set himself up for a productive fortnight after taking a much-needed break from the U.S. circuit after sharing second place at the Wells Fargo Championship last month.
“It lets me get away from the game and refresh my body and come back hungry for the second half of the season,” Simpson told The Commercial Appeal.
“I think that’s been the hardest thing with the (season-long) FedExCup, pacing yourself throughout the year.”
Winning the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco also helped a great deal, his first major victory earning him a five-year exemption to the Masters, British Open, PGA Championship and Players Championship.
“It was definitely a blessing to know what tournaments I was going to be in as opposed to waiting throughout the year to see how I played,” said Simpson, who won the most recent of his four PGA Tour titles at the 2014 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
“I knew I was going to be in every big tournament for the next five years ... and it gave me confidence to feel I was one of the top players.”
Now firmly established as one of the game’s leading players, Simpson is among the pre-tournament favorites at the TPC Southwind where world number seven Dustin Johnson and 19th-ranked Phil Mickelson head the field.
Also competing is fellow American Ben Crane, who won last year’s title by one shot for his fifth PGA Tour victory.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Larry Fine