Latest News

Webb Simpson focuses on the $10 million big picture

Now that it's down to 18 holes with both the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup on the line, Webb Simpson knows 10 million things can happen Sunday at East Lake Golf Club.

Considering Simpson has spent the first three days of the tournament fighting tee shots that are playing peekaboo with East Lake's fairways, still being within tap-in distance of the points lead - it's a computer generated projection based of how the standings would look if the tournament had ended Saturday - he's almost like a man playing with house money.

That's $10 million in house - rather FedEx Cup - money.

Through three days, the Tour Championship has been about anyone but Simpson. It's been about Luke Donald and Aaron Baddeley, Bill Haas and Adam Scott, Jason Day and Hunter Mahan.

Simpson has been lurking in the bottom half of the 30-player field, offsetting bogeys with birdies, not making much noise nor progress.

But when everything paused Saturday evening, a brilliant day ending with a brilliant sunset, Simpson still was second in the projected points. He had a glimmer of hope that a new swing he discovered midway through the third round might produce the low number Sunday that has evaded him for three days.

Officially, Simpson is tied for 15th, eight behind leaders Baddeley and Mahan, but that's in the Tour Championship. It's the other scoreboard - the FedEx Cup race - that matters most to him now. In fact, Simpson was the projected leader until Mahan slam-dunked a 25-foot birdie putt on the closing hole Saturday afternoon to leapfrog him.

It was just a reminder that the points race is as stable as the San Andreas fault.

Should Simpson post a low round Sunday - maybe 65 - it's possible he could lock down the points title before the tournament ends.

If Simpson is stressed, it doesn't show.

He has been smiling through this week, regularly seeking out his wife, Dowd, in the gallery to make eye contact. They have signals for when things are going well, for when they're not and, perhaps, for whether they're going out or staying in for dinner. They have a steady, silent dialogue.

"It's been easier than I thought it would," Simpson said of the stress that came with bringing the points lead to this wooded corner of Atlanta, within sight of the city's skyscrapers.

"There's so much that can happen with so many guys and so many variables that it's not like if I shoot 70 (Sunday) then I win. There's so much going on that I think it actually helps me."

How volatile are the standings?

At one point on the back nine Saturday, Simpson made a birdie and actually dropped from second to third in the projected points because of what was happening ahead of him on the leader board. Then he made a birdie at the par-3 18th hole - a little slice of heaven on his scorecard - and Simpson had the points lead again.

Then Mahan made a birdie and Simpson was in second again.

Paul Tesori, Simpson's caddie, sensed a little edge creeping into his man's demeanor during the round and he liked it.

"He needs a little of that right now. He said it's the first day he felt a little nerves, which is good. You need that to play well," Tesori said.

Golf's a funny game. Fighting the dreaded two-way miss off the tee, Simpson made a minor swing change - pulling the club more inside on the takeaway - and suddenly found his form. The best shot Simpson hit Saturday was a 7-iron that missed the 17th green long because he hit it so pure, leading to a bogey.

"Kind of summed up our week," said Simpson, the only player in yellow pants Saturday.

One day - and 10 million possibilities - remain.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

  Comments