5 Things: Simpson (15 under) takes control in Vegas
LAS VEGAS – Though it’s been a few years since he was at TPC Summerlin, Webb Simpson clearly hasn’t forgotten what nearly won him the golf tournament that year.
It was 2010 and he was rolling along, in good position to win, when he hit into the water at the par-3 17th, made double, and settled for a share of fourth place.
That's the tournament was eventually won by his good friend, Jonathan Byrd, perhaps making the experience easy to stomach, but certainly Simpson isn’t haunted by things here in the outskirts of Sin City. Backing up a 64 with a 63, Simpson has raced to 15-under 127 through 36 holes of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, good for a four-stroke lead over a fivesome of players – John Senden, Jeff Overton, Chasson Hadley, J.J. Henry and Jason Bohn.
Still, the weather is forecast to remain perfect for the weekend, which means no one is on defense. It’s a game of offense this week “and you better keep on making birdies,” said Bohn, who made nine of them in his round of 64.
Simpson in his last six rounds at TPC Summerlin is a whopping 35-under par, shooting 66-66-64-68 in 2010 and the 64-63 trips this time around. Notable stuff, of course, but hardly the only thing of interest. Here are 5 Things to know from the second round of this shoot-out:
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1. TURNAROUNDS, GOOD & BAD: While consistently good play is the ultimate goal, players do realize that the game is defined by the ups and downs, sometimes from one day to the other.
But what Andres Romero did in Round 2 was beyond belief. Unthinkable, you might say. Might even be historic.
One day after needing just 61 strokes to play all 18 holes at TPC Summerlin, in Round 2 he required 42 just to play nine. Bogey-free Thursday, the Argentine made five of them on the outward nine, one of them of the triple flavor.
Indeed, it was hard to believe this was the same guy, but the numbers don’t lie. And when Romero played his front nine in 39 to shoot 81 and finish at level-par 142, he had missed the cut by three.
To his credit, though, Romero faced the music.
“How about that?” he said in broken English, “61 one day, 81 the next.”
Believed to be the first in PGA Tour history to open with 61 and miss the cut, Romero offered a few smiles and explained that “I started hitting it bad, I did not feel very good, and my swing wasn’t there.”
He started with a bogey at the 10th, but got it back with a birdie at the par-5 13th. Then, it got ugly, a bogey, triple-bogey, bogey, bogey stretch of holes that had him 7 over on his round and suddenly on the cutline. The triple-bogey at the par-5 16th included two balls in the water, but it was the bogey at the fourth, his 13th hole, that dropped him to 2 under, one below the cut.
And the double at the par-4 sixth? It sealed the deal and was hard to fathom. It came despite a perfect drive and just a 132-yard approach. But Romero’s ball hit the front right side of the green and rolled down a deep swale, from where he had a difficult third shot. He hit it long, pitched to 3 feet, then missed.
“I had trouble all day,” he said. “I cannot find the reasons.”
Though he certainly was at the extreme end, Romero wasn’t alone. Others missed the cut despite opening well. Among the notables, with their scores in parentheses: Kyle Stanley (67-73), Heath Slocum (65-75), Charlie Beljan (67-73), Ryan Palmer (66-74) and Scott Brown (65-77).
As for the positive turnarounds, a few made the cut with spirited runs: former UNLV star Kevin Penner (71-65), Chad Campbell (71-65), William McGirt (71-65), Ken Duke (73-65), John Merrick (71-67), Geoff Ogilvy (71-67) and Ben Curtis (71-68).
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2. WE'VE MADE ENOUGH BIRDIES, HOW 'BOUT A MOVIE? We’re pretty sure Vijay Singh never ended a torrid round by joining Tiger Woods at the local cinema complex. Then again, Singh and Woods didn’t grow up in the same town and share a warm friendship like Simpson and Chesson Hadley.
Though he never took his focus off the job at hand, Hadley – a PGA Tour rookie at 26 and playing in just his ninth PGA Tour round – did wonder if one more birdie would provide the chance to play in the final pairing Saturday alongside Simpson, his friend from Raleigh, N.C.
Alas, Hadley couldn’t birdie either the par-3 eighth or par-5 ninth, so he had to settle for a round of 5-under 66, a 36-hole total of 11-under 131, and spot alongside Jeff Overton for the third round.
But, no worries. Hadley in no way was dismissing his second-round effort. “It’s all about a learning experience. The No. 1 goal is to keep your card,” said Hadley, who won the Web.com Tour Championship in late September and finally made it onto the PGA Tour. It’s not like he won’t have his chances to hang with Simpson; in fact, they had talked of grabbing a movie sometime later Friday afternoon and if that materialized, Hadley knew he was going to benefit from it.
“The more I can hang around and benefit from it, the better it is for me,” Hadley said. “He’s been as much of a friend and role model as you could have.”
Two years older than Hadley, Simpson played out of Carolina CC. Hadley, who lived on the north side of Raleigh, played out of Northridge CC. But they crossed paths frequently in junior college tournaments and brought their talents to the ACC – Simpson to Wake Forest, Hadley to Georgia Tech.
“Just to get out here and play with him and learn from him would be great.”
As well as Hadley has played (16 birdies, five bogeys, 65-66), Simpson has stayed just a few steps ahead (16 birdies, one bogey, 64-63), so it appears as if the older friend has a few lessons to share.
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3. HEY, WATCH THIS SHOT: When there have been more than a thousand birdies made in two days, it’s hard to get excited any single one. But Luke Guthrie wasn’t ashamed to do just that. He was giving himself credit for the birdie the closed out his round of 7-under 64.
It got him to the halfway point at 9 under, six off the lead, but anytime you make birdie from a precarious position, it feels great.
Having driven into the bunkers left of the fairway at his 18th hole, the 549-yard, par-5 ninth, Guthrie laid it up in a tough spot – in the left rough, among trees. “I had about 71 yards, didn’t have any problem with my swing, but I had a few limbs in front. Decent lie, but the fairway slopes to the right and there are two mounds right in front of the green.”
Thinking if he landed the ball in front it could run up between the mounds and roll toward the hole, Guthrie pulled the shot off brilliantly. “A little chip 8-iron,” said the onetime standout at the University of Illinois. He hit it about 30 yards and watched his ball run the remaining 40 until it came to rest a mere 4 feet from the hole.
With that putt, Guthrie had his ninth birdie of the day, and a round that vaulted him into contention.
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4. HOMETOWN HERO: Actually, Ryan Moore hails from the state of Washington. But having played golf at UNLV and settled in this town, this is home. So winning this PGA Tour stop a year ago was a huge thrill and he looked forward to trying to defend.
The thing is, he opened with 2-under 69 and bogeyed his third hole in the second round, so just making the cut seemed to be the first order of business.
“Then I made four (birdies) in a row and said to myself, ‘All right, let’s see what we can do with this.”
Out in 32, Moore gave his loyal following quite a thrill – five birdies on the homeward nine, a 31, a crisp 8-under 63, and at 10-under 132 at the halfway mark, the defending champ is in the thick of things. True, he’s T-7 and five off Webb Simpson’s lead, but he likes where he is.
Playing well. At home.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: There have been 30 eagles made through two rounds. Matt Jones had one at the par-4 sixth, holing his second shot from 157 yards . . . . . At about the same time Will Claxton was making a birdie at the par-5 ninth, his 18th hole, Billy Hurley was saving par from 10 feet at the ninth, his 18th hole, and those sequence of strokes mean that 71 players made the cut at 3-under 139. Had Claxton not made birdie and Hurley not made par, they would have each finished at 2 under and opened the floodgates (87 would have made the cut) . . . . . The field average for two days is 69.601 . . . . . Ryo Ishikawa has played 36 holes with just one bogey. He chipped in for birdie at his 18th hole, the par-4 18th, to shoot a bogey-free 66, push to 9 under, and get into a tie for ninth . . . . . Robert Allenby bogeyed the easiest hole on the course, the par-5 ninth, to miss the cut by one . . . . . . There have been 23 rounds of 65 or better.