Simpson takes 1-shot lead in Wells Fargo

By Doug FergusonMay 5, 2012, 10:38 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The cheers Webb Simpson heard Saturday at Quail Hollow were all for him.

Simpson, who lives about a mile away from the golf course, emerged from a crowded leaderboard with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. He finished with a 3-under 69 for a one-shot lead in the Wells Fargo Championship.

Simpson, who played the opening two rounds with crowd favorite Tiger Woods, was among seven players who had a share of the lead at some point in the third round. One of them was Rory McIlroy, who can return to No. 1 in the world this week. McIlroy was slowed by a three-putt late in his round but still had a 66 and was among those two shots behind.

Five players were tied until Simpson made his birdie and finished with a solid par to reach 14-under 202.

Ryan Moore (68) and D.A. Points (69) were one shot behind, though nothing was settled on a steamy afternoon except for Simpson atop the leaderboard and a lot of his neighbors loving it.

Ten players were separated by four shots going into the final round, with McIlroy and another 23-year-old sure to command a lot of the attention. Rickie Fowler, trying to win for the first time on the PGA Tour, played in the group ahead of McIlroy, and they matched birdies for much of the round. Fowler had a 67 and was three shots back.

Nick Watney, the 36-hole leader, missed three birdie chances inside 15 feet over the last seven holes and then took bogey on the 18th when his drive tumbled into the creek. Watney had to settle for a 72 and joined McIlroy at 12-under 204.

Stewart Cink, another player in that five-way tie, took four putts from the front of the 18th green for a double bogey and shot a 71. Even so, he was only three shots back as he tries to win for the first time since the 2009 British Open at Turnberry.

Geoff Ogilvy finished right after the leaders teed off, and despite a bogey from the creek on the 18th, he shot a 65. Ogilvy figured it would at least get him within range, but as the wind picked up and the course became much tougher late in the day, the former U.S. Open champion wound up only four shots behind.

Phil Mickelson ran off four straight birdies late in his round. He and Lee Westwood had 68s and were nine shots back.

Simpson has the crowd on his side, and it wasn't hard to figure out. Watney blasted a beautiful drive on the par-5 15th, followed by a fairway metal into the wind to the fringe for a two-putt birdie and a share of the lead. Walking off the green, he looked back at the crowd clapping wildly for Simpson making birdie to join him atop the leader board.

''It's like playing with Phil,'' Watney said. ''Visiting team.''

Watney wasn't at all bitter about this. After all, he is staying with Simpson this week. They have a deal that high score takes out the garbage, a chore that falls to Watney.

McIlroy won the Wells Fargo two years ago when he made the cut on the number, then had a 66-62 weekend to win. He was only six back going into the third round and said his task would be easier. He was joking, but he might have been right.

It already was going to be a good weekend. McIlroy went to dinner Friday night to celebrate his 23rd birthday, and he got quite a surprise when his parents, Gerry and Rose, flew up from Florida to join him. Then, McIlroy birdied his opening three holes and kept right on going.

He was particularly strong at the end of his round, ripping a drive 344 yards into the wind on the 15th that left him a 4-iron to the green.

McIlroy didn't care how far his drive went. He was more concerned with the leaderboard, and he liked what he saw.

The question is whether anyone else was paying attention.

''I hope so,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm not so sure. The guys that are at the top of the leaderboard are really accomplished players, and I'm just one of a bunch of guys that can go out and win there tomorrow. But maybe. Maybe if they see my name on the leaderboard, they might start to think about it a little bit more.''

Fowler didn't look intimidated. There was a backup on the tee at the par-3 17th. Fowler hit a tight draw to a tough pin and walking off the tee, looked back at McIlroy and nodded to him with a smile.

The only time Fowler won as a pro was in the Korean Open, and it came at McIlroy's expense. More key for Fowler was the third round. It was only the third time in nine tries this year that he broke 70 in the third round, and those were his best finishes of the year.

''All in all, it was what we needed to do - Moving Day, moving in the right direction and put myself into a position where we can go out and have a little bit of fun tomorrow,'' Fowler said.

Even so, the edge might go to McIlroy. He looks primed to go back to No. 1 for the third time this year. His game has looked sharper each day. And of the top 22 players going into the final round, he is the only player to have won this year.

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Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 10:55 pm

While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):

7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.


8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.


8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.


12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.


12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.

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Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?

By Randall MellAugust 20, 2018, 10:00 pm

We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.

Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.

I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.

That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.

In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.

My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.

Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.

It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.

So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?

We hope it isn’t his back.

Or his neck.

Or his knees.

Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.

Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.

Competitively, it’s all that matters.

Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.

We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?

The game soars to yet another level with that.

A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.

So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.

The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.

They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.

They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.

Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.

And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.

The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.

Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.

For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.

There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.

Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.

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Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work

By Grill Room TeamAugust 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.

"Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.

Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.

Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.

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Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 5:41 pm

Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.

Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.

A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.

The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.

"It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."

The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.

Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.

Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.