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GREENSBORO, N.C. — For one day at least, even the Wyndham Championship couldn’t provide refuge for Webb Simpson.
The former Wake Forest star and perhaps this tournament’s preeminent fan favorite found himself 10 shots off the tournament lead after struggling to 1-over-par 71 during Thursday’s first round at Sedgefield Country Club.
“The pins were tough, the rough is up this year,” he said, before alluding to John Huh’s career-low 61, “but it was still gettable, somebody shot 9 under. Very frustrating, but I can’t get too frustrated yet.”
Simpson won the 2011 Wyndham and nearly automatically contends here with nine finishes among the top 10 in 13 starts, including top-three finishes across three of the last four years.
But his bumpy season took another unwanted turn with Thursday’s issues, which mired him tied for 106th place in the depths of the leaderboard, and in danger of Friday’s cut line.
Simpson shot a final-round 74 and tied for 69th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic the last time he played an event. He missed the cut at the British Open and John Deere Classic prior to that, and also missed the cut at the U.S. Open in June.
He had bogeys on Nos. 11 and 15 and a double bogey on the par-4 17th hole — “ball out of bounds,” he said of No. 17 — while making three birdies during Thursday’s first round. He used “a killer” to qualify the disappointment in three-putting for bogey on the par-5 15th hole.
“I’m in the midst of playing some frustrating golf, but I really feel like I’m very close,” Simpson said. “I know you guys hear us say that a lot, a lot of times I think people, myself included, we say it and we don’t really mean it, but I really do mean it.
“I’m just trying to work through a couple more things that I’m working on. It’s getting better, (Wednesday) in the pro-am it was better. It’s just not quite getting into tournament golf yet.”