Featured Group: Webb Simpson, Luke DonaldOctober 19, 2011
Webb SIMPSON, Luke Donald RD. 1 tee time (No. 10): 8:20 a.m. ET, Palm Course
RD. 2 tee time (No. 1): 12:20 p.m. ET, Magnolia
At each PGA TOUR event this season, a featured pairing will be highlighted prior to the first round. Here is the featured group for Thursday and Friday at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.
MORE | CHILDREN'S MIRACLE COVERAGE: TOUR Report | Power Rankings | Inside the Courses | Inside the Field | Expert picks | Sleeper picks | Youth vs. Establishment
Most years, the Children's Miracle Network Classic is a battle of survival as players have one last chance to secure their PGA TOUR cards.
This week, though, supremacy is on the line, too, as Webb Simpson and Luke Donald come to Walt Disney World Resort ranked Nos. 1-2 on the PGA TOUR money list. The last time the money title changed hands in the final week of the season was in 1996 when Tom Lehman overtook Phil Mickelson at THE TOUR Championship so this is, indeed, a rare scenario.
And as things have turned out, the Arnold Palmer Trophy and the five-year exemption that goes with it, aren't all that's on the line, either.
Past money leaders Year Player Total 2010 Kuchar $4,910,477 2009 Woods $10,508,163 2008 Singh $6,601,094 2007 Woods $10,867,052 2006 Woods $9,941,563 2005 Woods $10,628,024 *2004 Singh $10,905,166
While hardly the only candidates in a season of parity that saw six players post two victories each, Simpson and Donald are the favorites in a tight race for the PGA TOUR's Player of the Year honors. So the money title could sway their peers who will be casting ballots over the next month.
Small wonder the two opted to add the Fall Series finale to their schedules. And you'll get to watch the drama first-hand since the two are paired together in the first two rounds -- teeing off No. 10 on the Palm Course at 8:20 on Thursday and 11:50 on No. 1 at the Magnolia on Friday.
Donald, who had not played Disney since 2003, announced his decision via Twitter early Friday afternoon: There was never really a decision to be made, I have a chance of making history. See you all at Disney next week #bringiton
"Everyone knows why I'm here," said Donald, adding the last part of the tweet after the hashtag was to motivate himself. "Looking forward to try and win possibly both money lists. I wanted to make a concerted effort to do that.
"Obviously Webb playing as well as he has, seemed like the right thing to do: Come here and give it my best shot."
Donald first grabbed the No. 1 spot when he lost in a playoff at The Heritage and held it for the next 10 weeks. He regained the top spot two more times -- and held it for a total of 17 weeks -- before Simpson leapt over Donald when he lost in a playoff at The McGladrey Classic on Sunday.
As the playoff in Sea Island was ending Sunday afternoon, Donald had just touched down in the United States after a quick trip to England to attend his caddy's wedding. "He's played well and made it tough on me," Donald said.
Simpson, who has only been No. 1 in earnings for four weeks this year, leads by $363,029 right now. Donald's only chance to overtake the American is to finish no worse than a two-way tie for second -- and even then he'll be waiting to see where Simpson finishes on Sunday.
"(It) feels a little bit like the FedExCup and the TOUR Championship," Donald said. "Third place isn't going to get it done."
The Englishman, who is hoping to be the first to win the money titles on both sides of the Atlantic, has a more comfortable lead of more than 1.3 million Euros in the Race to Dubai. He's been phenomenally consistent this season, winning once and posting a total of 13 top-10s on TOUR -- ascending to world No. 1 in the process.
Simpson, for one, has been impressed by Donald's success -- particularly as the new father is learning to balance life on the road like the steady Brit has.
"I think, playing with him a few times now, what makes him such a great player is the way he's able to get the ball in the hole," Simpson said. "He's got such a great short game. He make sbig putts when he needs to. I think all year he's played just so consistentlet. He's been great to see and watch.
"(I'm going to), honestly, just try to come after him and try to bring him a little competition just because he has been the best player in the world now for a while."
Simpson has risen into prominence a little more quietly in 2011 but his record is equally impressive. He had two runner-up finishes, including a playoff loss in New Orleans, before finally getting his first victory before friends and family in the regular season finale at the Wyndham Championship.
The former Wake Forest All-American wasted little time in getting his second win, too. He beat Chez Reavie in a playoff at the Deutsche Bank Championship two weeks later, picked up two other top-10s in the Playoffs and went on to finish second in the FedExCup while Donald was third.
"He played well again last week," Donald said. "Had a great chance to win and has had a great season. He's obviously gotten ahead of me, and I know what I need to do. It's not going to be easy but it would be great to go out there and try to win this event. Hopefully that would be good enough to win the money title."
Simpson says he will have to make a concerted effort to focus on his game rather than on Donald at Disney this week. He calls it his No. 1 challenge.
"I think the way Tiger Woods was -- and still can be -- is a lot of guys can get involved, too involved, in watching him play and how he's playing," Simpson said. "I'll take that kind of mindset into the first couple days and try and focus extra hard on what I'm doing and how I want to play the Palm and Magnolia courses.
"The more I can focus on myself the less I'll think about Luke and the rest of the guys in the field."
Here are the scenarios that need to happen for Donald to have a chance to overtake Simpson:
If Donald wins: Should Donald win at Disney, he will claim the first-place check of $846,000. If that happens, Simpson would need to finish solo second (worth $507,600) to stay atop the money list.
If Donald finishes solo second: Should Donald win the $507,600 that goes with a solo second, Simpson would need to finish solo eighth or better to stay atop the money list. Solo eighth is worth $145,700.
PGA TOUR Season Summary Webb Simpson Luke Donald 2011 wins 2 1 2011 Top-10s 11 13 Finish most recent start 2 (The McGladrey Classic) T3 (TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola) Last year at Disney T40 DNP Fantasy Video: 2011 CMN Hospitals ClassicJohn Swantek is joined by Bob Stevens and Doug Bell with SiriusXM to discuss Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic fantasy picks Luke Donald, Tommy Gainey, Scott Stallings and Gary Woodland. Watch Preview: 2011 CMN Hospitals ClassicRobert Garrigus looks to defend his title at the final Fall Series event of the year -- and the focus shifts to the head-to-head money list title at Disney. Watch
If Donald finishes tied for second: A two-way tie for second is worth the aforementioned $413,600. If Donald accomplishes that, Simpson would need to finish in at least a four-way tie for 21st (worth $50,760) to stay atop the the money list. A three-way tie for second (worth $350,933.33) will not be good enough for Donald. .