Armour, Simpson move into Allianz lead
BOCA RATON, Fla. – If anybody could use a victory at the Allianz Championship this weekend, it would be Tim Simpson.
Simpson, who had brain surgery nearly five years ago to alleviate a hereditary tremor in his left hand, shot 7-under 65 and was tied with Tommy Armour III for the lead at 13 under after the second round of the Champions Tour event on Saturday at Broken Sound.
After posting his sixth birdie of the day on the 17th to reach 11 under, Simpson eagled the par-5 18th to move into a tie with Armour, moving him closer to a big payday that would help defray the costs of mounting medical bills.
Two months ago, Simpson had to have out-patient surgery to install a new battery in the neurostimulator that connects to an electrode in his brain to help alleviate the shaking.
“To change a battery is $53,000 and climbing,” Simpson said.
Winning the Allianz Championship sure would help with that. The champion takes home a $255,500 paycheck.
He’ll have to overcome Armour, and hold off an accomplished group right on his heels, to do it.
Armour put together a stretch of five straight birdies on the back side to finish with an 8-under 64.
Bernhard Langer shot 65 and John Cook shot 66 on Saturday and were a stroke back entering the final round. Nick Price and Joey Sindelar both shot 65, and Loren Roberts and Tom Lehman both shot 67 to finish at 11 under.
The burly Simpson started to notice the hand tremor after contracting Lyme disease on a hunting trip in 1991.
Debilitated by the condition and the narcotics prescribed to try to control the tremor, a depressed Simpson walked away from golf in 2000.
That’s when his second wife, Leigh Anne, an MRI technician who worked for neurosurgeons, set about finding a medical answer that would allow him to play golf again.
Simpson was awake while he had the surgery, which implanted an electrode in his brain that is connected to a neurostimulator in his upper chest to control the tremors.
Despite being told the surgery could cause a stroke or kill him, Simpson eventually decided it was worth taking the chance.
“Sure, I’ve had successful brain surgery but I still shake, so it’s not an even playing field out here,” Simpson said.
Armour, who finished second behind Fred Couples at his first Champions Tour event last week in Naples, birdied six holes on the back nine to shoot a 30. Armour had five straight birdies from Nos. 12-16 and ended the day with a 64.
Armour plans to play a couple of PGA events, but said he already feels at home on the senior tour.
“I know everybody here,” Armour said. “Out there, (on the PGA Tour), I go, ‘Hi, how are you?’
“Out here, I know the wives’ names, the kids’ names. I’ve seen their kids grow up.”
Even though Simpson will be looking for his first Champions Tour title on Sunday, he didn’t sound intimidated.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” Simpson said. “Win, lose or draw, I’m going to go down swinging. Nobody can ever say they saw me giving up.”