Posted by Will Brinson
GREENSBORO, NC -- There were plenty of opportunities available for players to make a move at the Wyndham Championship and put themselves in contention to win in Greensboro on Saturday. But when it came down to it, no one took as much advantage as Webb Simpson, who rode a scorching 6-under on the back nine to a two-stroke lead at Sedgefield.
In a tournament where the third-round leader has emerged victorious 10 of the last 12 years (although only two of the last four) and where -- without overstating the obvious too much -- birdies are critical to winning, it was a stretch of birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie (!) for Simpson from the 13th to the 17th that put him in a position to win his first career tournament.
"It's right up there with probably one of my top birdie-eagle streaks that I've had," Simpson said of the run on the back nine. "You know, it came at a better time than any other streak I've had just because we're not getting anything going all day and everybody else is taking it low and to finish the round that way was great.
"I'd much rather finish the round that way than start that way."
That cold stretch at the start for Webb appeared to push him out of contention, as he stumbled to 2-over through four holes before recovering for birdies at the par-5 fifth and the par-4 eighth.
"It was a tough start again," Simpson said. "That's kind of been common for me this week and even lately but, like I said all week, you got to really stay patient around this golf course because bogies are pretty quick to happen out here wtih the rough and the undulating greens if you short-side yourself.
"I told myself to be patient and let the birdies to come. And it took them a while to get there but finally made a few coming in."
The crazy thing for Webb is that his big day could have been bigger, and that doesn't even count the fact that his par on 18 probably should have been a birdie. But that's neither here nor there, and Simpson certainly did enough to give himself a shot at the Wyndham title, not to mention messing up his competitors.
"It is a little tough, you have to kind of step back every once in a while and just let the roars die down," Daniel Summerhays, another youngster in contention at 11-under, said of being directly in front of Webb during his big run. "It's fun to hear those roars, though, being in those later groups on Sunday."
Summerhays will likely find himself in position to hear -- and make -- some roars again this Sunday too. He flew up the leaderboard on the front nine Saturday (even grabbing a share of the lead as he rounded the turn) but struggled to a 36 on the back nine.
Tommy Gainey, the two-gloved leader heading into Saturday's action, struggled through the entire round, posting an up-and-down 69 that leaves him two back of his playing partner Simpson.
"Yeah, I guess one word sums it up: 'frustrating,'" Gainey said. "I hit it terrible to start with. That little delay we had, I think it helped me out a bit. I got the driver straightened out coming back out."
In the end, moving day remained mostly in the box. Carl Pettersson obviously made a big jump up the leaderboard when he posted a 63, the low score of the day. Charles Howell, III, worked his way up onto the leaderboard. And Jeff Mallinger beefed up his chances at making the Fed Ex Cup with a 5-under 65.
But none of the bigger names near the top of the leaderboard -- Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Paul Casey -- were able to capitalize on scoring conditions that favored the players.
That's not to say a low score isn't lurking out there though.
"I got to have that round I've been talking about," Els said following Saturday's round. "I need that low one, you know -- 61, 62. I think we'll have tougher flags tomorrow. I got a round of 18 holes tomorrow where I can go low. I'm looking forward to it."
A low round would absolutely put Ernie back in contention and there's no question that a seriously red number like he mentioned is out there. In fact, he might not even need the full 18 to find it.
Just ask Webb how that works.
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