For someone playing so close to his house, Webb Simpson has been on edge all week.
The home crowd in Charlotte, N.C. Two rounds with Tiger Woods. His name atop the leaderboard at Quail Hollow alongside Rory McIlroy and so many others late Saturday afternoon. It has caused him to try extra hard to block everything out except the shot in front of him.
So far, it has worked better than he imagined.
Simpson broke out of a five-way tie for the lead with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, and a 3-under 69 gave him a one-shot lead over Ryan Moore and D.A. Points going into the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship.
“It seems like when guys on this level do get nervous, it seems like every time they focus a little better, they just tighten up their thoughts a lot better,” said Simpson, who has a three-round total of 14-under 202.
“Seems like when I’m more nervous, for the most part, I play better. It’s not a good thing when we get comfortable out there because you start getting lazy and losing focus on your target.”
Meanwhile, Puyallup’s Moore – who was penalized one shot Friday when his ball moved right before tapping in a 10-inch putt – had his first bogey-free round in 14 months. in shooting a 4-under 68.
“I like how I’m playing right now,” Moore said, “and I’m just going to keep trying to do exactly what I’m doing.
“I felt good overall today. I liked how I controlled my ball, and I’m going to rest up and hopefully be 100 percent by tomorrow afternoon.”
But he still wasn’t completely over Friday’s penalty.
“Yeah, I mean, there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. “It’s obviously frustrating, especially when you think that they’ve dealt with that.”
Ten players were separated by four shots going into today on a course where anything can happen. Two years ago, McIlroy made the cut on the number, closed with a course-record 62 and won.
This time, McIlroy goes into the final round only two shots behind and playing better each day. He can go back to No. 1 in the world by finishing seventh, although what matters more is that trophy. He was among seven players who had a share of the lead at some point during the warm afternoon before he fell back with a three-putt bogey on the 16th and had to settle for a 66.
“I definitely feel like I’ve left a couple out there,” McIlroy said. “A 66 is a good score out there, and I feel like I’ve got another one of those scores in me, and looking forward to doing that tomorrow.”
Points, whose lone win came with Bill Murray as his partner at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am last year, shot a 69.
“I really didn’t do a whole lot wrong other than miss a couple very makeable putts,” Points said.
McIlroy was joined at 204 by Nick Watney, the 36-hole leader who missed three birdie chances inside 15 feet on the back nine and finished his day by driving into the creek left of the 18th fairway and working hard for a bogey and a 72.
Rickie Fowler (67) and Stewart Cink, who took four putts from the front of the 18th green for a double bogey and a 71, were three shots behind.
Fred Funk shot a 3-under 69 in sweltering heat for a share of the second-round lead with Tom Lehman in the Champions Tour’s Insperity Championship in The Woodlands, Texas. Lehman followed his opening 65 with a 70 to match Funk at 9-under 135 on The Tournament Course. … Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum and France’s Karine Icher each shot 7-under 66 to share the first-round lead in the LPGA Tour’s 36-hole Brazil Cup exhibition event in Rio de Janeiro. … England’s Simon Dyson closed with a double bogey for a 1-under 71, leaving him with a one-stroke lead after the third round of the 100th Spanish Open in Seville, Spain.