Only one person was going to beat Webb Simpson on Sunday in the final round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
And with a six-stroke lead with nine holes to play at TPC Summerlin, Simpson wasn’t about to let that happen. The 28-year-old native of Raleigh, N.C., played the back nine smart and safe and posted a final-round 5-under-par 66 for a 24-under 260 total.
That was good for a six-stroke victory over Jason Bohn and Ryo Ishikawa for Simpson, who won for the first time since the 2012 U.S. Open. In the process, he tied the tournament record for scoring over 72 holes set by Ryan Moore in 2012 and made $1,080,00.
“I feel like I’ve gotten better; I just haven’t gotten a win,” Simpson said. “My one thought and goal for (Sunday) was I wanted to come out and play aggressive and keep making birdies, but play smart and somehow try to gauge how the golf course was playing to determine whether guys were shooting low or not.”
Simpson began the final round with a four-shot lead. He quickly increased it to six with birdies at the par-4 No. 2 and the par-4 No. 3. Then he played the next five holes to par before draining a 14-foot putt for birdie at the par-5 ninth to make the turn at 22 under and maintain his six-shot lead.
“That was the start I wanted to get,” Simpson said. “Getting 2 under felt like a huge difference. It really let me slow down and pace myself and try to let the guys come after me.”
He ran into a little trouble with a bogey at the par-4 12th. But as had been the case all week, he answered the mishap by making birdie at the next hole, taking a 4 at the par-5 13th to get back to 22 under. He then avoided major trouble the rest of the way.
“That was big for me,” Simpson said. “I had a couple of moments where I swung poorly, but we were always able to bounce back.”
Simpson’s challengers were simply too far back. Bohn, who trailed Simpson by six strokes after the third round, came the closest, pulling within three with four holes to play.
But Simpson made birdies at the par-4 15th and par-5 16th to extend his lead back to five. And when Bohn and Ishikawa both made bogey at 18 and Simpson parred the final hole, that six-shot advantage at the turn ended up being the final tally.
Chasson Hadley, Simpson’s playing partner and fellow Raleigh native who is a good friend of Simpson, trailed by four after the third round. But Hadley was 2 over at the turn and never threatened, finishing tied for fifth after a 70.
It was the same story for Jeff Overton, who began the day five back of Simpson only to play himself out of contention with an early bogey and double bogey and making the turn at 2 over. He did rally for a 70 but finished tied for ninth with Moore, the defending champion from UNLV who shot 68.
The reality was Simpson wouldn’t let anyone get close enough to make him sweat. He didn’t gamble on the course and trusted his swing and his game. He knew the greens had dried out and were somewhat bumpy from a week’s worth of activity. But he putted well and never allowed the conditions to become a negative factor.
He also learned from his past. Before Sunday, he had led after 54 holes four times, but only once did he pull out a victory (2011 Zurich Classic).
“I definitely drew on those experiences in the sense of knowing when to go at flags, knowing when to play safe,” he said. “And it always helps when you’re playing with a lead. You’re in control. And when you’re in control, you kind of control your golf shots and your ball a little better.”
And ultimately control the tournament.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.