Local favorite Webb Simpson fired a six-under 64 on Saturday to seize a two-shot lead heading into the final round of the US PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship.
Simpson, a North Carolina native, had a 15-under par total of 195 and a two-shot lead over Tommy Gainey. Gainey, who had led or shared the lead after each of the first two rounds, carded a 69 for 197.
Carl Pettersson, a Swede who now lives in North Carolina, posted a 63 to join American John Mallinger (65) on 198.
Simpson, 26, shrugged off a slow start and finished with four birdies and an eagle as he put himself in position to claim a first career PGA Tour title.
“You’ve got to really stay patient around this golf course, because bogeys are pretty quick to happen out here with the rough and the undulating greens,” Simpson said. “I told myself to be patient and let the birdies come. It took them a while to get there, but finally made a few coming in.”
The tournament is the last before the start of the US tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, with plenty of players jockeying to gain entry into the elite series.
Daniel Summerhays carded a 68 for 199, while a group at 200 included South Africans Ernie Els (69) and Retief Goosen (68).
After a severe weather warning halted play for more than an hour, Simpson made his move.
He had started the round three off the pace and had two early bogeys, but after a birdie at 13, he drained a 32-footer for birdie at 14.
He then landed his second shot at the par-five 15th within 5 feet of the pin and made the putt for eagle.
He had back-to-back birdies at 16 and 17 and just missed capping his round with another.
“Probably one of my top birdie-eagle streaks that I’ve had, and it came at a better time than any other streak I’ve had, just because we’re not getting anything going all day and everybody else is taking it low,” Simpson said. “To finish the round that way was great. I’d much rather finish the round that way than start that way.”
Gainey’s bogey-bogey opening had opened the door for the chasing pack.
“I guess one word sums it up — frustrating,” Gainey said. “That’s the only positive thing that I can take from it right now, is I still have a chance to win the golf tournament. That’s all you can ask for, teeing it up round one to round four.”
Pettersson was quick to capitalize. He started the day seven adrift, but had an eagle at the par-five fifth along with five birdies.