The First Act Curtain Comes Down

Webb Simpson managed to shoot a clean-card 3-under 67 to win his first PGA Tour event, the Wyndham Championship, played at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina. It took him all of three years, but it also gave him the honor of bringing down the curtain of the First Act of the drama that is the PGA Tour: the regular season is over.

He managed this with an average driving distance of just over 305 yards. As a measure of just how well he was controlling his irons, he missed 5 of the 14 fairways and still only missed 3 greens.

But consistent with yesterday’s post, “Can You Keep Believing?” he managed to do that in spite of mounting evidence that it might not have been destined to be his day; he went 9 holes before he finally made a birdie. And then he had to wait another 6 holes for the second one.

Can you imagine how excruciating that must have been? You’re on the brink of winning your first PGA Tour event, the leaderboard is flashing like a pinball machine with all the bursts of other hopefuls running up and down the board, and you can’t make a birdie.

Fortunately, he was playing with Tommy Gainey who was his closest pursuer at the beginning of the round…and he couldn’t get it going either until a birdie on the 5th. But then he gave it back on 7…and another on 9…and hit it out of bounds for a double on 11. The cameras stopped following him. That allowed Simpson to stay above the fray of the burbling group of pursuers who couldn’t quite get close enough.

But Gainey’s no shrinking violet. He mounted a fierce comeback beginning right after his double: he birdied 4 in a row. But through the 15th, that only got him to 14-under while Simpson’s first birdie on the back got him to 16. A bridge too far when Simpson birdied the 16th too.

Gainey will surely be very disappointed again; Tour players always talk about just wanting to be in a position to have an opportunity. And knowing how rare those chances can be, when you finally get a shot at it and blow it, unless you are philosophical enough to see the value in each loss, the recrimination and second-guessing can be ugly.

But everything I’ve seen from Gainey so far leads me to believe that he will take great lessons away from this one too. He hits it OB and charges back with four birdies in a row? He has nothing to be embarrassed about. The guy is tough and as I said yesterday, he will win. And even though he had a tough day, he managed to keep believing all day too. After all of that, finishing 3rd will offer him some solace.

Another real nice story belongs to George McNeill who finished 2nd. This guy won the Q-School in 2006 and won his first year out. He cruised through 2008 and 2009, but lost his card in 2010. After winning his first appearance at Q-School, he had to withdraw from 2010’s after just 3 of the 6 rounds. That gave him only limited status for 2011. Greensboro was only his 15th tournament and it was going to be close if he was going to earn enough to get his full status back. And now, with this win, he has a 2-year exemption once again. He did it with the low round of the day, a 6-under 64. And there’s more treasure waiting for him out there in the playoffs.

Which finally gets us back to the lede story of the week, who was going to make the playoffs and who was not. This is the projected list of the cut survivors clustered around the 125-point cutoff mark from yesterday’s post, adding how they finished Sunday.

114 – Rod Pampling – T30, 115

115 – Joe Olgilvie – 71, 116

116 – Camilo Villegas – T9, 109

117 – Josh Teater – T25, 110

124 – Justin Leonard – T17, 126

125 – William McGirt – T52, 125

126 – Tim Petrovic – T17, 128

130 – Padraig Harrington – T47, 124

133 – Paul Casey – T47, 144

134 – Jason Bohn – T12, 143

William McGirt was outside the number at the beginning of the week and played his way in by landing on exactly 125.

Padraig Harrington was also outside and had scheduled a family vacation in the Bahamas before he knew it was going to be that close. Fortunately, his wife convinced him to play this week. After he fought his way in, he was actually talking about the possibility that he could go all the way to win the Tour Championship. But that’s true, of course, for everyone.

And Hall of Famer, Ernie Els let it all come down to this one last tournament. The playoff would not have been the same without him. He had a good tournament finishing T30 and 118th in points.

And so it’s on to the Barclay’s, the first of the four playoff touraments. Interestingly, not all of the 125 guys who qualified have chosen to play; Masters winner, Charl Schwartzel, is ranked high enough at 21 that he has decided to put all of his efforts into the last three tournaments.

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2 Responses to The First Act Curtain Comes Down

  1. Lee says:

    Did you catch the wonderful play of Couples and Cook in the final senior major too? That was more exciting than the regular tour event I thought.

    • Bill Rand says:

      I wasn’t able to watch it. With everything at stake, I thought Gainey’s back-nine comeback was very compelling and I didn’t want to miss any of his facial expressions. I did follow the Champions online, though.