Simpson on track at Sea Island

Webb Simpson has put himself firmly on track to nudge World No 1 Like Donald off the top spot on the US money list.

Webb Simpson has put himself firmly on track to nudge Like Donald off the top spot on the US money list and prevent the World No 1 from winning the Money List titles on both sides of the Atlantic this year.

Simpson wasn’t the lone leader after Thursday’s first round of the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island in Georgia, but he did have a share of it with a lesser-known, fellow-American Zack Miller after opening with a sparkling 7-under par 63.

The duo were a shot ahead of three more Americans, Scott McCarron, Billy Horschel and Martin Piller and two clear of a 10-strong logjam that included Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, South Africa’s 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, notable Americans Ben Crane and DJ Trahan and Swede Richard S Johnson, the highest placed European in the field.

Simpson one of the US’s new, late-season, broomstick putter-wielding stars after winning two tournaments in his last six starts at the Wyndham and Deutsche Bank Championships, has entered this Fall Series tournament with the express purpose of earning the $70,000 (£44,500) in prize money he needs to overtake World No 1 Donald on the US Money list, and he has certainly had a strong start.

He was close to flawless as he swept around a seemingly defenceless Sea Island, gathering eight birdies while giving only one shot away and said afterwards when question about his target this week: “There is no way I can go play this golf tournament without thinking about the money title.

“I’m thinking about it every day,” he went on. “But I’m not over every shot am I thinking this is for the money title. I am just trying my best to get focused on winning the tournament, as opposed to the money list.”

On his day’s play, Simpson, whose poor performance in the Tour Championship last month cost him the chance of winning the $10m FedEx Cup, said: “Yes, It was a good day.

“I’m just rested and my body is in better shape than it was at Atlanta where I was pretty tired,” said

“I had a fresh mind and played well, kept the ball in front of me, and I think more than anything, I just kind of took advantage of the holes where I hit it close and birdied the par-5s.

“I didn’t quite realise I made eight birdies until the end, but overall it was a pretty easy, breezy day.

“I love the layout, a lot of the holes fit my eye, and I like when the wind blows. You’ve just got to think your way a little bit more around the golf course.”

Simpson’s sparkling form may prompt Donald to consider playing in the final event of the Fall Series next week in Lake Buena Vista, Florida to try and secure his top spot, but the Englishman must decide by Friday if he intends to compete in Florida.

Miller, a one-time PGA Tour winner, who came into the tournament in a vastly different mood, having missed his last seven cuts, found his form in time to card five birdies and an eagle in a bogey-free round.

“I don’t really know where this came from … I really had no expectations,” Miller told the media afterwards.

“Travelling to seven different cities and missing seven cuts in a row, I mean, that’s hard. It has been a challenge for me just to stay happy and keep going.”

He should be happy right now for he co-leads a field that besides Cabrera and Oosthuizen, also includes a good few other former major winners, among them Graeme McDowell, Jim Furyk and Lucas Glover (all former US Open champions), Trevor Immelman (The Masters) and Ben Curtis (The Open).

Johnson, in the meantime, is in a different position. At 185th on the Money list he is battling to secure his Tour card.

“I drove it fantastic,” said the Swede, who hit 13 fairways out of 14. “The course is not the longest one we play on Tour and that gives you a lot of short irons into soft greens. It was an easy day for me.”

Still fighting to find his A game, Graeme McDowell had some highs and lows in shooting a lever par 70.

A double bogey six at the fourth dropped him to three over before he holed out from the fairway for an eagle two at the fifth.

Three more birdies took him to two-under, but his second double bogey of the round at the final hole sent him sliding back down to level par.

Paul Casey played the back nine in three-under to return a one-under 69.

(USA unless stated; Par 70)

63 Zack Miller, Webb Simpson
64 Scott McCarron, Martin Piller, Billy Horschel
65 David Hearn (Can), Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Angel Cabrera (Arg), Nick O’Hern (Aus), Matthew Jones (Aus), Ben Crane, Richard S Johnson (Swe), Michael Thompson, D.J. Trahan, Cameron Tringale.