Third time lucky for Simpson

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Webb Simpson has triumphed at the Wyndham Championship to capture his first US title after twice going close this season.

Former US College star Webb Simpson triumphed by three shots at the Wyndham Championship on Sunday to capture his first US PGA Tour title after twice going close earlier this season.

The 26-year-old North Carolina native kept a cool head at the Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro to post a final-round 3-under-par 67 and take his tournament total to an 18-under 262, holding off George McNeil, another of the young Americans who has been making his mark this season, and unheralded compatriot Tommy Gainey.

McNeil, already with one US PGA Tour title under his belt this season, climbed up the leaderboard on Sundayu with a sizzling 64 to claim second place at 15 under while the unconventional swinging Gainey was a further shot back at 14 under.

Fiji’s former world number one Vijay Singh was among a group of five players who tied for fourth at 13 under. And so too was best of the Europeans, Carl Pettersson of Sweden, who slipped a little with a disappointing 69 on a day when most of the front runners shot 67s and better.

Simpson is the 12th first-time winner on the US Tour this season but his victory was the least surprising after his heroics and previous close-misses earlier this year.

In March, Simpson finished runner-up by one stroke to first-time winner Gary Woodland at the Transition Championship in Florida when he bogeyed the final hole.

In May, he was beaten by Bubba Watson in a playoff at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans.

“I never thought that winning on the PGA Tour would be this hard with all the pressure and everything that goes with it,” Simpson said. “But I’m extremely pleased and I really love the way I finished today.”

Simpson led by two shots heading into the final round after brilliant finish to his third round on moving Saturday, where he made four birdies and an eagle on the last six holes of the closing stretch.

Then, rock solid all of Sunday, he stayed patient and free of bogeys all the way, before, with victory in sight, he engineered two late birdies to march clear to a title that lifted him into third place in the FedEx Cup playoff standings.

“I’ve never won (on the PGA Tour) so I don’t know what it’s like playing the week after a win,” he said. “I heard it’s tough, but hopefully I can put this behind me and focus on the golf course next week.”

McNeill started the day in a sixth-place tie and six shots off the pace and he admitted he was surprised to finish outright second, despite shooting the day’s best score.

“I thought it (the winning score) was going to be a lot lower,” McNeill said.

“(But) I can only control myself. I can’t control what everybody else does. I’m very happy with the way I hit it, the way I played, the way I putted.”

The tournament gave FedEx borderliners a last chance to climb into the top 125 list of players who’ll qualify for the playoffs and two former three-time major winners squeaked in.

Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, who called off a family holiday to try and qualify, finished at six under par to move from 130th to 124 while South Africa’s Ernie Els moved up eight places to 118th after finishing at eight-under.

“You don’t know about these playoffs,” Els said. “I’m going to have to play good golf though. I played really good the first two days here. I’d like to get that back.”

Luckless American Justin Leonard was among those who missed out, despite finishing at 10 under.

The former Open champion narrowly missed a 13-foot putt on the 18th that would have got him into the field if he’d sunk it. Instead, he finished 126th on the standings.

TOP 10 LEADERBOARD

262 Webb Simpson (USA) 66 65 64 67
265 George McNeill (USA) 65 70 66 64
266 Tommy Gainey (USA) 63 65 69 69
267 Vijay Singh (Fiji) 65 69 68 65, Jerry Kelly (USA) 67 66 69 65, Kim Kyung-tae (South Korea) 69 67 65 66, Charles Howell III (USA) 69 65 66 67, Carl Pettersson (Sweden) 65 70 63 69
268 Chez Reavie (USA) 66 69 68 65, Camilo Villegas (Colombia) 70 64 68 66, Jim Furyk (USA) 65 67 69 67

FOOTNOTE: Betting tipster David Tindall had it spot on when he tipped Simpson to win the Wyndham Championship on Golf365 last Wednesday. He said “Simpson’s name leaps off the page,” when looking for the tournament winner.

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