PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) - Webb Simpson jumped from 41st to 20th in the world rankings with his victory at the Players Championship on Sunday, still far from superstar territory in a sport with room for only a handful of household names.
Tiger Woods, at 42, will no doubt dominate the golf landscape until he retire while 20-somethings Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have all occupied top spot at a young age.
U.S. Masters champion Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson, world number one before Thomas deposed him on Sunday, were all but ignored by fans, media and the television cameras alike at TPC Sawgrass, so Simpson would seem to have little chance of being more than a 24-hour story.
If capturing a U.S. Open at age 26 did not earn Simpson fame, a Players Championship six years later is unlikely to do so either.
But the man who sat unrecognised in a local coffee shop on Saturday morning is among a group of players fractionally below the top echelon, capable of winning when they put all facets of the game together at the same time.
That is just the nature of golf.
Simpson probably would have won more than five times on the PGA Tour but for the rule change about two years ago that banned players from anchoring long putters against their chests.
Having enjoyed success with the long stick, he floundered around until finding his comfort zone with a 40.5-inch putter that he rests against his left arm, but not his chest.
“I’ve never putted this well in my life,” Simpson said after cruising to a four-stroke victory in the Players with an 18-under 270 total.
“This is probably the first time I can say I’m glad they banned it (anchoring), because I probably wouldn’t have ever swayed away from the belly putter,” he added.
“I had used this putter for 11 years, so it’s a learned skill. And to unlearn a skill in the middle of your career was the biggest challenge.
“I made the Ryder Cup team in 2014 and my game was pretty solid for a few years ... but I had the resolve to take my focus off those who enforce our rules and put my focus on trying to get better.”
Whether Sunday’s victory leads to a sustained level of excellence is an open question.
“I want to build on it and be in contention more in big tournaments,” Simpson said. “I haven’t been able to do that as much as I want, so I think this will help.”
Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond