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Simpson's not just along for the ride

Chip Ellis
Reigning U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson follows through on a shot from the rough on the No. 9 hole Thursday during the opening round of the Greenbrier Classic.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - If you wish to keep an eye on a Greenbrier Classic contender other than Tiger Woods, you might want pull out a Webb cam.And one doesn't have to point it far from Tiger. U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson is playing in the same group with Woods."I think most of those people showed up [Thursday] to watch Steve [Stricker] and I," Simpson joked. "But it was fun."Indeed it was for Simpson, who shot a 5-under-par 65 Thursday to trail first-round leader Vijay Singh by two strokes, while Woods was at 1 over.Much, however, has been going well of late for Simpson. Drama certainly unfolded nicely for the 26-year-old at the Olympic Club in San Francisco after he shot a 2-under 68 in the final round for a total of 1 over in the Open.Graeme McDowell missed a 25-foot birdie putt on 18 and Simpson held off McDowell and Michael Thompson to grab the major. Shots of Simpson and his pregnant wife watching the final pair made for nice TV.Now Simpson, who will skip the British Open to be with his wife and the birth, is gunning for Mountain State gold."It was a good start," Simpson said. "The whole group got off to a great start the first six, seven holes and we just had a good time out there."It was windy early, but it kind of died down on the front nine. But I'm pleased and happy with the way I played all around. Chipping, ball striking, putting was all kind of solid."
Playing with the tournament's star, Woods, didn't hurt Simpson, a Wake Forest grad."I like playing with both of those guys, Tiger and Steve [Stricker]," Simpson said. "And it was great to see a lot of fans out there supporting this tournament. I know what this tournament means to the area. It's just fun to get into that atmosphere and try to make some birdies."Simpson also dished credit to the Greenbrier staff and area volunteers for the cleanup after last Friday's storm."It looked unbelievable," Simpson said of the Old White course. "I mean, the ball was rolling in the fairways. The greens were firm. They did a fantastic job of cleaning the debris. I didn't even see a stick in the fairway. So they did a great job."Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, or follow him at 
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