The winds still were nonexistent at TPC Summerlin. The greens were holding up just fine, and the putts continued to drop.
Webb Simpson took full advantage of the superb conditions and found himself atop the leaderboard midway through the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Simpson followed his 64 with an 8-under-par 63 Friday to move into first place at 15-under 127 entering today’s third round.
He did it so effortlessly, he admitted he had to concentrate so his mind would not wander.
“There’s no wind, no clouds in the sky, and it’s really quiet, so it’s easy to kind of daydream,” Simpson said. “So you’ve really got to focus on what you’re doing. You’ve still got to place the ball in certain spots to be able to make birdies. Even on the short holes, you have to make sure you get on the correct side of the hole. If you’re doing that, you can be more aggressive.”
Simpson had a four-shot lead over Jason Bohn, John Senden, Jeff Overton, Chesson Hadley and J.J. Henry, all of whom are at 11-under 131.
Defending champion Ryan Moore, a former UNLV All-American, climbed into contention with a 63 after opening with a 69. He is tied for seventh at 132.
“With Webb at 15 under and playing great, I knew I had to do something to get into the mix,” Moore said. “I hit some wedges close and got some putts to drop, so it felt good out there.”
But Simpson has control of the tournament. The 28-year-old from Raleigh, N.C., has been solid through 36 holes. His one hiccup came Friday at the par-5 16th, where he made bogey.
“I hit a couple of loose shots, but I just managed to make putts and take advantage of the holes you have to make birdie on,” Simpson said.
Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, last played in Las Vegas in 2010. He had a share of the lead in the final round until a double bogey at 17 and missed being in a playoff by one shot.
Like so many players who decided to play TPC Summerlin this week, Simpson wanted to get a jump on the 2013-14 PGA Tour season.
“You don’t want to sit for a couple of months way behind, because then you might come out starting the year pressing and trying to jump people,” Simpson said. “I just wanted to get a nice solid start. Plus, I enjoy this golf course, and I was tired of all the weather delays, so I knew Vegas would be a pretty good spot.”
While Simpson didn’t win in the 2013 season, he said he was pleased with his results. He made $2,957,582, took fourth at the Tour Championship last month and finished 20th on the money list.
My goal was to get better, and I felt like I got better,” he said. “I was happy to finish the Tour Championship with a good, solid tournament. I think I’ve driven it better this year, especially the second half of the year, which has enabled me to play a lot better.”
Bohn smartly built on his opening 67 with good putting and had a 6-under 29 at the turn. He got within two shots of Simpson at 13 under before a double bogey at the par-3 17th cost him two strokes.
“I got a little shaky on my back nine, and I started guiding some shots, whereas the first 12 holes I swung the golf club,” Bohn said. “To finish with a double on 17, it’s never fun. But I did a lot of really good things today, so I can move forward on the weekend.”
Henry, the first-round leader who set a course record with his 11-under 60, bogeyed three of his first four holes Friday and quickly found himself six shots behind Simpson. He recovered to shoot 71.
“I got off to a shaky start and put myself behind the 8-ball a little bit,” Henry said. “But I struck the ball well again, and I’m in a pretty good spot with two rounds to go.”
Simpson said if he remains consistent, he likes his chances of winning the $1.08 million first-place prize. He’ll play in today’s final group with Senden, teeing off at 12:55 p.m.
“I think guys are going to keep making birdies, so I’ve got to keep the hammer down,” Simpson said.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.