Consistency keeps Simpson near top of leaderboard

By Will GrayNovember 8, 2013, 11:16 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Gusty winds. Ballooning scores, with par becoming a highly prized goal. A largely frustrated field, featuring as many rounds of 78 and higher as 67 and lower.

At first glance, Friday’s second round of the McGladrey Classic felt more like a day at the U.S. Open than one at a PGA Tour stop that yielded a 10-under 60 to its winner a year ago.

It’s not surprising, then, that Webb Simpson finds his name near the top of the leaderboard.

A winner of the season’s second major a year ago, Simpson displayed the tee-to-green consistency that earned him the trophy last year at Olympic Club, carding a 2-under 68 Friday despite the taxing conditions. At 7-under 133, he sits just one shot off the overnight lead of Chris Kirk, who reached 8 under following a second 66.


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“I knew before I played I would take anything under par,” Simpson explained after a round that included three birdies and just one bogey. “As the day wore on, the wind started to decrease, but it was great to get a couple under and still be right there in the tournament.”

Faced with swirling winds that at times blew in excess of 30 miles per hour, Simpson produced a second round that was borderline clinical. As many players fell off the pace, including overnight leader George McNeill who followed up a 62 with a 76, Simpson wore down the Seaside Course one green in regulation at a time.

For the four-time PGA Tour winner, the key to second-round success was formulating a plan of attack before the first shot was struck.

“We had a good game plan, and it really didn’t change much,” explained Simpson, who reached 14 of 18 greens in regulation and didn’t drop a shot until a bogey on the penultimate hole. “You have to game-plan before the round on club selection, so you don’t get to a hole where you’re shocked or don’t know what to do.”

Having spent the last two weeks at home with his family, Simpson shows no signs of lingering rust as he looks to string together a third straight high finish. After closing his 2013 season with a fourth-place showing at the Tour Championship, the 28-year-old broke a 16-month winless drought in his most recent start at last month’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Now aiming for two wins in a row, Simpson is no stranger to capitalizing on a lengthy stretch of good form. His most recent start in this event came during his rookie year in 2011, when he came to the Seaside Course having captured his first two PGA Tour titles at the Wyndham Championship and Deutsche Bank Championship in the preceding months.

That week nearly saw the then-26-year-old hoist his third trophy of the year, as Simpson ultimately fell in a playoff to Ben Crane.

Now on the precipice of another break from competition as the calendar year winds to a close, Simpson admitted Friday that he plans to take advantage of the scheduling flexibility created by his win at TPC Summerlin as the Tour embarks on its first wraparound season.

“I like the venues we’ve played,” he joked when asked his thoughts of the 2013-14 cross-calendar slate. “Playing well in Vegas is going to let me play a little bit of a lighter schedule once we get to the West Coast.”

Before that, though, there’s unfinished business at Sea Island. Simpson was able to grind to within a shot of Kirk’s lead through 36 holes, but he sits there alongside three other players, including John Senden, who completed his second-round 67 in near darkness after the horn blew at 5:38 p.m. ET to suspend play for the day.

In total, 21 players will wake up within four shots of the lead on a course that is likely to return to yielding birdies once the wind abates.

“We’ve got a lot of golf to play, with a lot of good players right there,” said Simpson. “The leaderboard seems bunched, so I’ve got to continue to go out and play good golf.”

Though the benign conditions of Thursday are likely a thing of the past, the winds along the Georgia coast this weekend are not expected to mirror those seen for much of the day Friday.

Having survived the toughest conditions the Seaside Course had to offer, Simpson now finds himself halfway home to a second victory in as many starts, with the new season still in just its second month. Should his tee-to-green accuracy remain intact this weekend, it could prove to be his title to lose.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.