week, PGATOUR.COM's Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton offers his Power
Rankings for the weekly TOUR event as well as his Sleeper picks. But
what about the players who don't make the Power Rankings but who can't
really be considered Sleepers? Bolton will make one "wild card"
selection from the large group of players who fall into that middle
range but might rise up to claim the title. This week's pick is ...
After a so-so start to the West Coast Swing, he tied for sixth in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera, and then went 3-1 at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. Faded to a T35 with a closing 77 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in his debut last year. Ranked T6 for the week in par breakers (1 eagle, 19 birdies). Currently ninth on the PGA TOUR in greens in regulation, sixth in scrambling and 25th in adjusted scoring.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
MARANA, Ariz. -- Hunter Mahan played the 18th hole on Saturday afternoon for the first time in four matches this week as he beat the reigning U.S. Open champion.
In fact, the last time Mahan played the 18th hole was in his opening match last year as he embarked on a successful march to the championship. The sixth hole of that match against Zach Johnson last year also was the last time Mahan trailed -- which is an impressive streak of 151 holes.
Mahan and Simpson both played well. They halved the first four holes before Mahan drew first blood with a 17-footer for birdie at the fifth hole.
Simpson birdied the par-5 eighth to square the match but Mahan's 26-footer at No. 10 put him 1 up again. Simpson then got up-and-down from the greenside bunker at the par-5 13th for another birdie to square the match.
Mahan got the final edge, though, when he drove the 15th green and two-putted for birdie from 56 feet. The next three holes were halved with pars and Mahan's record improved to 14-4.
"Difficult match against Webb," Mahan said. "Great competitor, great player. I knew it was going to be a tough one, and it was. It was really a seesaw battle. I don't think either one of us really gained too much momentum, it was so back and forth.
"I made a couple nice up and downs and made some nice putts today. In the afternoon that's kind of what led me to victory, obviously making the par on 16 gave me the 1 up lead and I was able to finish it down the stretch. But tight match and really could have gone either way."
SCORECARD STATS: Mahan made five birdies and didn't drop a shot to par. Simpson made five birdies and one bogey.
HOLES WON: Mahan won three holes. Simpson won two holes.
NEXT OPPONENT: Mahan plays Ian Poulter, who beat Steve Stricker 3 and 2 in the quarterfinals.
MARANA, Ariz. -- Webb Simpson needed 18 holes to finally put away Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who nearly erased a 4-down deficit on the back nine.
Simpson was already 4 up after 11 holes in this match that started on the back nine. But the Spaniard launched a comeback -- winning the third hole when Simpson made bogey and the fifth and eighth with birdies to send the match to one last hole.
Simpson needed to halve to win, and he two-putted for par as Fernandez-Castano took three on the way to a bogey. This is just Simpson's second apperance at Dove Mountain, and it's the first time he's advanced past the first round.
"I played great for the most part," Simpson said. "I just kind of played super sloppy coming in. I made a couple birdies, but I just played sloppy.
"So for me I'm going to really dwell on my first nine holes and just try to keep playing well. Can't make those mistakes out here."
SCORECARD STATS: Simpson made five birdies, 11 pars and three bogeys and a double-bgoey. Fernandez-Castano made five birdies, 10 pars and three bogeys.
HOLES WON: Simpson won six holes. Fernandez-Castano won four holes.
NEXT UP: Simpson plays Hunter Mahan, who beat Martin Kaymer 5 and 4.
MARANA, Ariz. -- Peter Hanson came into his match with Webb Simpson having won four of his last five matches at the Accenture Match Play Championship and reaching the quarterfinals last year.
The American hung tough on the back nine Friday, though, and eeked out a win when he made a 17-footer for birdie on the 18th hole. That 1-up advantage marked the only time Simpson had led in the match.
Hanson won two of the first three holes to take a 1-up advantage. Simpson then squared the match with a par at the seventh but Hanson responded by winning the eighth and 10th to carve out a 2-up advantage.
The Swede had take a drop in the desert on the par-5 11th hole and ended up conceding to Simpson there. When the reigning U.S. Open made a 14-footer for birdie at the 12th the match was square again.
Simpson had his troubles on the next par 5 and made bogey to give Hanson back the 1-up lead. But the former Wake Forest All-American squared the match with a par at the 14th hole and halved the next four with three pars and a birdie to set the stage for his heroics at No. 18.
"We went back and forth, it was almost like a boxing match, exchanging punches," said Simpson, who noted he has been sick all week. "But I had a feeling coming down the last couple holes, and we were able to hit some good shots coming in."
SCORECARD STATS: Simpson made four birdies and three bogeys. Hanson made four birdies and three bogeys. There were two other conceded holes, both resulting in Hanson wins.
HOLES WON: Simpson won six holes. Hanson won five holes.
NEXT OPPONENT: Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who beat Charles Howell III 6 and 5
MARANA, Ariz. -- Webb Simpson birdied two of his first four holes on Thursday and never looked back as he beat England's David Lynn 5 and 4.
Simpson, who is playing in his second World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, never trailed in the match and only lost one hole. He was 3 up at the turn and padded his lead with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 11th.
Simpson made a bogey at the 12th hole that allowed Lynn, who was making his debut at Dove Mountain, to briefly cut into his lead. But Simpson answered with a 4-footer for birdie at the 13th and then won with a concession after Lynn had an adventure in a fairway bunker and took four shots to reach the 14th green.
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Bill Haas' lead is now just two after he made his first bogey in 42 holes at the second hole on Sunday.
Haas drove into the tree-lined right rough and then put his his second shot into the right greenside bunker. He blasted out to 8 feet but missed the putt for par to drop back to 12 under, which is where he started the day.
Haas, who had two-putted from 37 feet for birdie at No. 1, bounced back quickly, though, when he drained a 30-footer at the third hole. His playing partner, Webb Simpson, answered with a 5-footer for his second birdie of the day to move to 11 under.
The other member of the final group, Charl Schwartzel, missed an 11-foot birdie putt at the first hole, which is playing the easiest on the course, and then lipped out a 7-footer for par at the second to fall back to 8 under.
Fredrik Jacobson is the only other player in double figures at 10 under after making birdie on two of his first three holes.
Bill Haas has a three-shot lead going into the final round at Riviera. (How/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Bill Haas will have a familiar face alongside him in the final group: fellow Wake Forest alum Webb Simpson, who arrived on the Winston Salem, N.C., campus the year after Haas graduated.
But part of the reason Haas is playing in the final group goes back to some work he did on his swing with coach Billy Harmon and dad and Champions Tour player Jay Haas after the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
"My swing looked lazy and I was getting ahead of it," Haas told Golf Channel Sunday morning. "I'm basically trying to hit it really high and a little harder. It's helped me stay behind it. Having a little more speed is key for me."
A third-round 64 certainly helped.
As for playing with Simpson, whom he leads by three? "It'll be an easy walk," Haas said. "I have to beat the golf course. We'll be grinding out there."
Haas and Simpson will tee off, along with Charl Schwartzel (also three back), at 1:30 p.m. ET.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Both Webb Simpson and Bill Haas played at Wake Forest but they missed being teammates by a year.
Once Simpson got out on the PGA TOUR, though, Haas became quite an ally and a good friend. They've played practice rounds together and talked strategy on the course. He's given Simpson the skinny on hotels, airports and restaurants. too.
"All those things that a rookie needs to figure out, he was there for me," Simpson said. "He's one of those guys that I feel like when I do play well, he's really happy for me. It's pretty competitive out here. (He) just compliments me a lot, so I think just shows what kind of person he is."
On Sunday at Riviera, the two play together once again -- only this time Haas and Simpson will tee it up in the final group with the Northern Trust Open title on the line.
Haas has the edge after building a three-stroke lead with a third-round 64 that Simpson deemed "incredible" given the firm and fast conditions. Simpson is tied for second with Charl Schwartzel and John Merrick at 9 under after shooting a 68.
"How will it affect me?" Simpson said. "I mean, I play with my friends all the time out here so I don't think it will affect me one way or the other. I love playing with guys that I can have conversations with and have a good time. So it will be fun."
Simpson likened the conditions on the back nine Saturday to a U.S. Open, and he knows better than most after winning last year's national championship at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. He says Riviera's undulating greens are particularly challenging and the key Sunday will be leaving the ball on the right spots on the putting surfaces.
"Certain courses, you have a 20-footer, you're trying to make it," Simpson said. "Out here, it's more I'm trying to leave it around the hole and if it goes in, it goes in. This poa annua, it gets a little bumpy late in the day. You have to do a good job of putting it in the fairway and your approach shots of keeping it under the hole."
Simpson says the man he calls his "big brother" is certainly in the driver's seat as the final round begins under what's expected to be sunny skies and cooler temperatures falling about 15 degrees back in the mid-60s. But Haas showed everyone a low round is out there so Simpson knows there's hope.
"Whoever is going to win the golf tournament tomorrow is going to go out and play a really good, solid round," he said. "It is going to be a little more difficult for the guys behind Bill to make a charge and try to play aggressively with how firm everything is. ...
"I think Bill is in a position, if he keeps a three-shot lead and goes and plays well again, it's going to be hard to catch him. But with the golf course this tricky, and you get a guy that has a good front nine, I mean, he could be tied or even in the lead with nine to go. So I think anything can happen tomorrow."
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Webb Simpson and Charl Schwartzel are applying pressure on Saturday during the third round of the Northern Trust Open.
Playing in successive groups, the reigning U.S. Open champion and the 2011 Masters winner have made two birdies in their first six holes to get to 8 under and pull within a stroke of Sang-moon Bae.
Fredrik Jacobson, who was tied with Bae, had his problems on the fifth hole when his drive landed on the side of a hill in deep rough. He took one swipe at the ball and didn't advance it, eventually reaching the green in four and lipping out a 34-footer for bogey.
Defending champion Bill Haas is on the move, as well. He's made two birdies in his first eight holes and is tied at 7 under.
Webb Simpson switched to the new Titleist 913 driver for the season opener. (Petersen/Getty Images)
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider
Webb Simpson rarely messes with the equipment in his bag. Going back to his win last year at the U.S. Open, Simpson was still gaming Titleist’s 909 woods -- a model that came out in 2008 -- and 680 muscleback irons. But after years of using the same woods and irons, Simpson decided it was time to overhaul his bag.
Titleist representatives traveled to Charlotte in early December to work with Simpson for a day to dial in new equipment for the upcoming season. When Simpson arrived at Kapalua for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, he had a completely new setup that included a Titleist 913D3 (10.5 degrees) driver, 913Fd (15.0/18.0) fairway woods, a 913H (20.0) hybrid, and AP2 irons (4-PW). Simpson also put Titleist’s new ProV1x prototype ball in play.
Gainey switches to Callaway’s X Hot: Tommy Gainey, the only Callaway staffer in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions field, put the company’s new metal woods in the bag at Kapalua. Gainey opted for a 10.5 degree X Hot driver and X Hot 3-wood with an Aldila RIP NV65 shaft.
Cobra’s colors shine at Tournament of Champions: Cobra’s new AMP Cell and ZL Encore drivers, which come in a number of distinct colors, were on display at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Rickie Fowler used an orange-headed AMP Cell Pro driver (8.5 degrees) and AMP Cell fairway wood and hybrid for the week. Jonas Blixt opted for a blue-headed ZL Encore driver (8.5 degrees), while Ian Poulter used an 8.5 degree white ZL Encore driver and silver AMP Cell fairway wood.
Notables: Of the 20 players in the field at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions using a Titleist golf ball, 11 chose to play the 2013 Pro V1 or Pro V1x prototype ... Scott Piercy went back to his Scotty Cameron Newport 2.7 putter from the GoLo he used at the end of 2012.