By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Webb Simpson started the third round of the Greenbrier Classic tied for the lead.
By the time he'd played 13 holes and waited out a 13-minute weather delay, though, the former Wake Forest All-American found himself four strokes off the pace. Simpson didn't give up, though, and a pair of 5-footers for birdie on the last two holes gave him a momentum boost for the final round.
"It was huge," Simpson acknowledged. "It was a struggle all day. Really didn't feel like I played that bad, just was a really tricky day for us in the last group with the wind. So to finish birdie-birdie was huge heading into tomorrow."
Simpson, who has already finished second twice this season -- including a playoff loss in New Orleans, will play in the penultimate group on Sunday with Gary Woodland. The two trail Anthony Kim by two strokes and Scott Stallings by one.
Interestingly, Woodland beat Simpson by a stroke at the Transitions Championship when Simpson bogeyed the final hole. The victory was the first of Woodland's career. Simpson hopes his own breakthrough comes Sunday, and he worked hard to stay within striking distance after the third round.
"I just kept telling my caddie, We got to stay patient," Simpson said. "Can't get ahead of ourselves. If we just kind of hang around, we'll have a shot to win. I know 10 under was leading pretty much all day. We knew it was getting away from us. Just had to stay patient and understand that I have a good shot tomorrow."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHER SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Gary Woodland plays a game with which few of us are familiar.
Take that 8-iron he launched 240 yards over the 17th green -- after a 362-yard drive, no less. He then used a 3-wood to delicately bump the ball within 3 feet at the 610-yard par 5 on the way to one of his two birdies on Friday.
"I don't know how that happened," said Woodland, who actually opted for the 8-iron because he thought the 7-iron definitely would have flown the green. "We were shocked. We were trying to hit it short and somehow it got over the green."
Small wonder, then, that Woodland says he and his caddy still struggle with club selection. He tries to play a cut because "when I start drawing it (the ball) just takes off." He uses a softer ball, too -- the Pro V1 rather than the Pro V1x.
"I lose a little distance with the driver but i control it so much better with the irons," Woodland said.
Woodland, who picked up his first PGA TOUR victory earlier this year in Tampa, is in the hunt for another this weekend at The Greenbrier Classic. The 27-year-old shot a second-round 70 and was two strokes off the lead when he finished just after noon.
Even so, Woodland called the day "frustrating." He only hit eight fairways and 13 greens, and his 30 putts were two more than he took in shooting a first-round 65.
"I just never hit it close," Woodland said. "I didn't give myself hardly any birdie opportunities. I just had bad numbers out there. Yesterday I had a lot of good numbers and I was able to hit it close. Today I didn't. It seemed like I was lag-putting all day trying to make pars."
Woodland said the greens were softer on Friday and he never got the hang of it. "That was the big deal," he said. "Yesterday you were really bouncing the ball in there and today they were really coming back. I never adjusted. I was spinning it back all day today. it was very frustrating."
Woodland planned to relax at "The Black-Eyed Peas" concert on Friday night, then work hard to see if he can become the fourth multiple PGA TOUR winner of 2011. Woodland, who currently ranks 11th in the FedExCup, will be trying to join Nick Watney, Mark Wilson and Bubba Watson with two wins.
"I know if I take care of my business, everything will be all right," he said. "So I'm out here trying to take care of me, and hopefully I play well this weekend."
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – Trevor Immelman doesn’t tee off until 12:30 p.m. ET but there’s already been a change at the top of the leaderboard.
Brendon de Jonge, who went to school at nearby Virginia Tech, has just birdied the fourth and fifth holes to move to 7 under. The big man from Zimbabwe made a a 10-footer at No. 4 and a 4-footer at the next to take sole possession of the lead.
The former Hokies standout started on the back nine and recovered from an early bogey with consecutive birdies at Nos. 16 and 17 to turn 1 under for the day. He finished third in last year’s Greenbrier Classic.
Meanwhile, Gary Woodland has moved into a tie with Immelman at 6 under. The big-hitting Woodland bogeyed No. 10, which was his first hole, but two-putted the par-5 17th for birdie and added another birdie at the first hole.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Gary Woodland has always been known for his prodigious length.
He ranks fifth on the PGA TOUR in driving distance with an average of 307.8 yards. But after Woodland made his first visit to Augusta National in April, the Transition Championship winner decided he needed to shore up his short game.
"I realized the way I was doing the wedge game, short game, certain things I needed to change to compete at that level," Woodland had said Wednesday. "So it's been a struggle trying to get everything back. I focused on the short game for a while and kind of lost the driver, now we're getting the driver back.
“Kind of just got to put it all together."
That's exactly what Woodland did on Thursday during the first round of The Greenbrier Classic. He averaged 296.9 yards off the tee, hit 10 of 14 fairways and all but three greens and used just 28 putts.
Oh, and did we mention he holed a sand wedge from 105 yards for an eagle on the way to a 65 that left him one shot off Trevor Immelman's lead?
"I hit the wedges beautiful today," Woodland said. "I had one there on 16 that was a little frustrating, but other than that, I mean, every time I had a wedge in my hand seemed like I gave myself inside ten feet."
Woodland said he had a "perfect" number at the fourth hole. "It was nice to see," he said. "I hadn't made one in a while."
Woodland, who ranks 11th in the FedExCup and has five top-10s this season, said he found something at Royal St. George's two weeks ago where he tied for 30th. A 68 on Friday was the catalyst.
"My whole golf swing depends on my setup," Woodland said. "... I just got all messed up with setup, and it's been a struggle to get it back. But like I said, something clicked Friday morning at the British and just carried it over since."
It’s been three months since Gary Woodland has won -- is the rookie about to add to that total this week?
Woodland is certainly off to a good enough start, playing his first 15 holes in 5 under with four birdies, an eagle and just one bogey so far.
Here’s why Woodland is near the top of the leaderboard: Not only is he hitting his driver straight, but his irons have been crisp as well. Through those first 15 holes, Woodland has hit 75 percent of his fairways and 87 percent of his greens in regulation.
Those, by the way, are two things Woodland has, for the most part, done well all season. Putting has typically been his Achilles heel. Not this week, though. He’s currently in the top 15 in the field in putting.
We’re well into the afternoon wave at The Old White TPC, and no one has been able to catch Trevor Immelman, who leads after a 6-under 64.
Brendon de Jonge has a chance to at 4 under through 12 holes, but he’s been stuck on that number for about an hour.
Meanwhile, Kenny Perry, Gary Woodland, Ryuji Imada and Kyle Stanley are all sitting another stroke back at 3 under.
Speaking of Woodland and Stanley, they, along with J.B. Holmes and Steven Bowditch, are among the four players in the field this week with the best driving distance average.
Coincidence that three of those four are near the top of the leaderboard? Probably not, especially since 200 yards was added to the course for this year’s tournament. And the only one of that group who didn’t play well Thursday was Holmes, who shot 76.
Trevor Immelman’s 6-under 64 was good for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was that The Old White TPC has undergone some changes to play more difficult this year. Whether it stands up in the afternoon, we’re about to find out.
Gary Woodland and Brendon de Jonge are both already 4 under through seven and nine holes, respectively.
In Woodland we also may have the shot of the day with the rookie having holed out for eagle from 102 yards on the par-4 fourth. He also sandwiched a couple of birdies around that on Nos. 1 and 7.
DeJonge, on the other hand, has reached 4 under the old fashioned way -- with four birdies (Nos. 1, 3, 7 and 8). Only one of those birdies, however, has come from inside 10 feet.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- Last year at the Greenbrier, Gary Woodland and Brad Faxon made for interesting practice partners. Woodland of course hits it as long as anybody in the game, while Faxon has long been considered one of the great putters of all time.
“He came up to me on the 15th hole and said, ‘Do you always hit it like this? Why haven’t you won?’,” Woodland said Tuesday at the AT&T National.
The two have practiced together ever since and over Christmas Woodland went down to Florida to work on his short game with Faxon, who is a longtime friend of Woodland’s coach Randy Smith.
It wasn’t long before Woodland got that win with his victory at this year’s Transitions Championship. Woodland was fifth in the field in putting that week.
Faxon didn’t do much with Woodland’s stroke -- it was more his mental approach that he focused on -- but he clearly had an impact. The two play together whenever possible and last week teamed at the CVS Caremark Charity Classic in Rhode Island before spending Monday at nearby Pine Valley.
“There's nobody as good as he is at putting,” said Woodland, who has five top-10s in his rookie season. “It’s just phenomenal to see. His mental approach to it is second to none. I think that's really where he's helped me out.”
Faxon, meanwhile, was happy to oblige.
“One of problems with golf instructors sometimes is they don’t ask players what they feel like or what they like to feel like when they play well,” Faxon said. “I’m big believer in that guys out here have to be pretty good to be out here. He didn’t get out here just because he could hit it a long way. Sometimes just having a conversation helps them get that feel back or that thought back.
“I’m not a guy who has a method; I’m more about the complete picture. There are certain things I like to see in a guy’s stroke, and he has a lot of those things.”
DUBLIN, Ohio – Rory McIlroy closed with a 62 to make up a four-stroke deficit when he won the Wells Fargo Championship just over a year ago.
Will history repeat itself on Sunday at the Memorial Tournament? McIlroy is making another charge at Muirfield Village right now.
The 22-year-old Northern Irishman has just birdied his fourth straight hole to move to 11 under. Trouble is, Steve Stricker is making birdies, too – and he’s gotten to 15 under with his third in his first five holes.
McIlroy is currently tied for second with Matt Kuchar, who tapped in for his third birdie at No. 6. Dustin Johnson, Gary Woodland, Brandt Jobe and Jonathan Byrd are tied for fourth at 10 under.
McIlroy’s birdie binge began at the par-5 fifth where he two-putted from 22 feet for birdie. He added 5-footer at No. 6, two-putted from 39 feet at the seventh and made a 20-footer at No. 8.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
IRVING, Texas -- Having grown up playing golf in windy conditions in Kansas, Gary Woodland doesn't expect to be fazed by the 35 mph gusts that are forecast for Sunday's final round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
"For sure, I feel very comfortable out here," Woodland said. "The ball-striking part is easy. I grew up hitting like this. You've just got to stay stable."
Woodland had one of the eight sub-par rounds in Saturday's third round, shooting a 2-under 68 to move him into a tie for fifth going into the final 18 holes, three shots off the lead held by Ryan Palmer.
Woodland is looking for his second win this year; he won the Transitions Championship in March.
He welcomes the wind, as well as the hot conditions. In fact, he wore black shirt and pants on Saturday, although he plans a lighter color for Sunday.
"I've done this my whole life, in weather like this," Woodland said. "This is another Kansas day for me."
Woodland has just teed off in Sunday’s final round with playing partner Matt Kuchar.