Posted on: August 21, 2011 1:44 pm

Harrington cancels vaca, to miss Fed Ex anyway?

Posted by Will Brinson

GREENSBORO, NC -- Padraig Harrington was scheduled to be sipping a piña colada right now, not exhausted after toiling through his fourth round at the Wyndham Championship.

That's because three-time major winner, sitting on the outside edge of the Fed Ex Cup, canceled his family's vacation to the Atlantis in the Bahamas in order to make a run at golf's postseason.

"I knew I was on the bubble," Harrington said at the start of the tournament. "My wife actually made the decision. She says, 'I think you've got to go and play.' She was the one."

Word on the street is that his son wasn't quite as happy.

And, following a 2-under Sunday showing, it's likely that Harrington regrets the decision as well, even though he's currently (as of 1:30 p.m.) projected to finish 123rd in the Fed Ex Cup standings, which would sneak him into the postseason.

However, there's a large number of golfers still on the course -- and plenty that have yet to tee off -- who also hold their postseason fate in their respective hands.

Justin Leonard, Aron Price, Daniel Summerhays, Tim Petrovic and Paul Casey are all names out there that can screw up Paddy's chances with a hot streak. Conversely, a cold streak from someone ranked above Harrington could have the same effect.

William McGirt, a Wofford grad and local player, finds himself in a similar spot. He's currently the last man on the cut line (one behind Paddy) for the postseason, and should probably be watching the rest of the golfers pretty closely.

"Right now I don't know what I'm going to do," McGirt said after his round of 70 Sunday. "I want to get some food. I'm starving. I'll probably take a peak."

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Posted on: August 20, 2011 8:33 pm

Webb Simpson a humble star in the making

Posted by Will Brinson

GREENSBORO, NC -- Webb Simpson has an insane amount of talent. He showed that Saturday when he carved up the back nine en route to taking a two-stroke lead at the Wyndham Championship.

You could forgive him if he was confident, cocky or even arrogant. But the most amazing thing about Webb? As he chases a somewhat elusive first win on the PGA Tour, he remains one of the most humble athletes you'll ever meet.

"You know, the way I look at it, if God wants me to win, then I will," Simpson said following Saturday's round. "If not, I'll have plenty more opportunities. I'm just going to rely on my faith and if it's my time, great we're going to go out there and win by 10 shots.

"If we come up short, then it's just the way it's going to happen."

And don't bother painting him as Tim Tebow 2.0, even if Webb's caddie may or may not read him scripture on the course. He's a down-to-Earth kid who understands that while golf might be looking around for it's "next Tiger Woods" every time a youngster's career starts to take off, that it's not up to him to force himself into a role like that.

"I don't put any pressure on myself to be a superstar or anybody else," Webb said Saturday. "I think that kind of stuff just happens depending on how good you become and how early you become good."

Well, Webb is really good. And he's really good early in his career -- despite having never won on Tour, his résumé is shaping up pretty nicely. Two second-place finishes, six top-10's, 14 top-25's into the season, he's 12th in the Fed Ex Cup standings (before the Wyndham) and 14th on the Tour's money list.

Not too shabby for a guy who celebrated his 26th birthday just 12 days ago. But despite that crazy success, he remains as level-headed as a 10-year veteran of the Tour.

"I think I'm just learning how to be a better player, a more consistent player," Simpson said. "I think the biggest difference in me this year is that my bad days are around par when last year it was a totally different story. My good rounds aren't any different from last year."

Alright then. How about the stress that comes with waking up Sunday with a lead?

"The few times I've been in this position I've slept great," Webb said. "It's been a long day. I'm pretty tired. So hopefully I'll go to bed and sleep great. Our baby gets up at 7 [a.m.] so thats's kind of my alarm clock."

This is how he thinks. Practical, even-keeled and yet uber-talented -- all the things America thought they had in Tiger Woods for so long. That's not to say Webb's the "next Tiger." It's stupid to think like that and it's why, in nearly every sport, talented young players fall short of what we want them to be.

But he is a superstar in the making. It's just that no one's noticed yet because he goes about his business so quietly and doesn't let expectations from the outside affect his game, mental or physical.

"I look at it more of this is what I do, how can I get better, how can I improve, what's going to make me be out on Tour and be one of the best players in the world for 15 years?" Webb said. "I kind of keep it day-by-day and the only thing I'm worried about right now is the first tee shot tomorrow.

"That's kind of the way I look at it."

That's why Webb Simpson isn't a household name yet -- he's got bigger things to worry about than being famous. But if he can carry the momentum over from Saturday into the final day here in Greensboro, he might not end up with much of a choice in that matter.

Because once he gets the experience of protecting a lead on the final day, you can expect the wins to come as quickly as the birdies on the back nine did Saturday.

For more Wyndham Championship news, follow @WillBrinson on Twitter and subscribe to the Eye on Sports feed.
Posted on: August 20, 2011 7:54 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 8:33 pm

Webb Simpson scorches back nine for Wyndham lead

Posted by Will Brinson

GREENSBORO, NC -- There were plenty of opportunities available for players to make a move at the Wyndham Championship and put themselves in contention to win in Greensboro on Saturday. But when it came down to it, no one took as much advantage as Webb Simpson, who rode a scorching 6-under on the back nine to a two-stroke lead at Sedgefield.

In a tournament where the third-round leader has emerged victorious 10 of the last 12 years (although only two of the last four) and where -- without overstating the obvious too much -- birdies are critical to winning, it was a stretch of birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie (!) for Simpson from the 13th to the 17th that put him in a position to win his first career tournament.

"It's right up there with probably one of my top birdie-eagle streaks that I've had," Simpson said of the run on the back nine. "You know, 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 and to finish the round that way was great.

"I'd much rather finish the round that way than start that way."

That cold stretch at the start for Webb appeared to push him out of contention, as he stumbled to 2-over through four holes before recovering for birdies at the par-5 fifth and the par-4 eighth.

"It was a tough start again," Simpson said. "That's kind of been common for me this week and even lately but, like I said all week, you got to really stay patient around this golf course because bogies are pretty quick to happen out here wtih the rough and the undulating greens if you short-side yourself.

"I told myself to be patient and let the birdies to come. And it took them a while to get there but finally made a few coming in."

The crazy thing for Webb is that his big day could have been bigger, and that doesn't even count the fact that his par on 18 probably should have been a birdie. But that's neither here nor there, and Simpson certainly did enough to give himself a shot at the Wyndham title, not to mention messing up his competitors.

"It is a little tough, you have to kind of step back every once in a while and just let the roars die down," Daniel Summerhays, another youngster in contention at 11-under, said of being directly in front of Webb during his big run. "It's fun to hear those roars, though, being in those later groups on Sunday."

Summerhays will likely find himself in position to hear -- and make -- some roars again this Sunday too. He flew up the leaderboard on the front nine Saturday (even grabbing a share of the lead as he rounded the turn) but struggled to a 36 on the back nine.

Tommy Gainey, the two-gloved leader heading into Saturday's action, struggled through the entire round, posting an up-and-down 69 that leaves him two back of his playing partner Simpson.

"Yeah, I guess one word sums it up: 'frustrating,'" Gainey said. "I hit it terrible to start with. That little delay we had, I think it helped me out a bit. I got the driver straightened out coming back out."

In the end, moving day remained mostly in the box. Carl Pettersson obviously made a big jump up the leaderboard when he posted a 63, the low score of the day. Charles Howell, III, worked his way up onto the leaderboard. And Jeff Mallinger beefed up his chances at making the Fed Ex Cup with a 5-under 65.

But none of the bigger names near the top of the leaderboard -- Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Paul Casey -- were able to capitalize on scoring conditions that favored the players.

That's not to say a low score isn't lurking out there though.

"I got to have that round I've been talking about," Els said following Saturday's round. "I need that low one, you know -- 61, 62. I think we'll have tougher flags tomorrow. I got a round of 18 holes tomorrow where I can go low. I'm looking forward to it."

A low round would absolutely put Ernie back in contention and there's no question that a seriously red number like he mentioned is out there. In fact, he might not even need the full 18 to find it.

Just ask Webb how that works.

For more Wyndham Championship news, follow @WillBrinson on Twitter and subscribe to the Eye on Sports feed.
Posted on: August 20, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 4:36 pm

Light rain causes Wyndham weather delay

Posted by Will Brinson

GREENSBORO, NC -- UPDATED (4:30 p.m. EST): The range has been opened in Greensboro, and players will be in position at 5:10 p.m. EST to begin playing again, which means fairly minimal warm-up time for the guys still out on the course.

All day Saturday, it's been pouring birdies. Late in the afternooon, the non-metaphorical weather picked up, though, and we got a classic quick-afternoon, North Carolina thuderstorm in Greensboro on Saturday that led to a weather delay. 

Some light rain, coupled with a quick thunder boom and lightning north of the course, sent players and fans scrambling for shelter as the Wyndham Championship went on a weather delay as of 4:01 p.m. EST.

The weird thing about such weather is that it's really quick -- the rain literally hit spots that were simultaneously being pelted by sunshine. And based on the bright spots behind the storm, the weather delay won't last long. The wonderful thing about such an afternoon storm is that it cools things down for fans and the players.

For golf purposes, it'll be interesting to see how the players respond. Obviously such a delay could take guys like Tommy Gainey, Webb Simpson, Daniel Summerhays, Jeff Mallinger and Ernie Els -- the leaders still on the course -- out of the rhythm they'd established on the course thus far.

And soaking the fairways means that the ball won't roll quite as long now. And the putts will be slower. But it also means the ball will straight-up stick on the greens.

When we're talking about a short course like Sedgefield, that means the rain could end up being advantageous for the guys still on the course. If they're striking their irons well, there's an opportunity to get some really good birdie looks out there.

Whether or not they can set themselves up for such chances will go a long way towards determining how the Wyndham's Sunday leaderboard shakes out.

For more Wyndham Championship news, follow @WillBrinson on Twitter and subscribe to the Eye on Sports feed.
Posted on: August 20, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 4:37 pm

Birdies raining during hot Wyndham third round

Posted by Will Brinson

GREENSBORO, NC -- Carl Pettersson's in a pretty familiar position right now, leading the Wyndham Championship after his third round. The last time he was in such a spot, things ended up pretty well for him, as he kiss the trophy in Greensboro.

But unlike 2008, Pettersson isn't guaranteed to have the lead when he tees off on Sunday. And he knows it too.

"I looked at it a little bit, but it's a little lopsided since the leaders just teed off," Pettersson said after his 7-under 63.

Among those leaders is Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey, who's scorecard looked as sloppy as his sunscreen application in the early going (three bogeys, three birdies and a mess of white on his face through seven holes). Gainey's playing partner, Webb Simpson, struggled early as well, dropping a pair of shots in the first few holes.

But losing shots early doesn't necessarily mean, well, anything. As Pettersson pointed out following his round, there's plenty of red numbers available for anyone striking the ball well.

"Yeah, if you put it in play, there's a ton of birdies," Pettersson said. "The golf course is in great shape, the greens are good. It's hot, so the ball's going a million miles."

Though he may not be used to the weather like Pettersson, Gainey and Simpson (all of who live within a couple hours of Sedgefield), Ernie Els looks right at home in Greensboro.

Els, who started the week looking for Fed Ex Cup points and finds himself working on his first win in here, making the turn at XXXXX and in prime position to make a run at the outright lead if he can light up the back nine.

Which he could. Or maybe he won't -- that's the beauty of the Donald Ross-designed course here at Sedgefield. It's a difficult course with devastating rough, but it offers tons of birdies and promises a shootout for patrons.

With vets like Retief Goosen, Charles Howell III and Els mixing with youngsters like Daniel Summerhays and Simpson, as well as popular locals like Petterson and Gainey, it's making for one of the most interesting non-major leaderboards of the season thus far.

For more Wyndham Championship news, follow @WillBrinson on Twitter and subscribe to the Eye on Sports feed.
Posted on: August 20, 2011 12:46 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 2:19 pm

Pettersson pushes into position early on Saturday

Posted by Will Brinson

GREENSBORO, NC -- For the most part, the Wyndham Championship's Saturday leaderboard is untouched as of noon -- per PGA custom, the leaders aren't teeing off until later. But Sweden's Carl Pettersson is 9-under at the turn after a strong showing on the front nine and pushing into himself into a tie for second.

What makes this interesting is that Pettersson got a fairly early start, teeing off at 10:54 a.m., which means he was able to take advantage of scoring conditions when the greens were soft in the morning.

Perhaps even more interesting: Petterson isn't just a former champ at Sedgefield (he won the 2008 Wyndham champ here), but he also played golf at NC State and actually lives in Greensboro. Needless to say, he's fairly familiar with the course and has a pretty strong local following.

Pettersson's 31 front-nine score was aided by an eagle at the par-5 fifth hole and birdies at the first and eighth holes.

Brendon de Jonge, another foreigner (Zimbabwe) who played at an ACC school (Virginia Tech), torched the front nine as well, shooting five under, but double-bogeyed the 13th after hitting in a greenside bunker and failing to even get up up-up-and down. (Yes, I just created the phrase; he needed two chips and two putts to finish the hole.)

He recovered to birdie 15, but given that a score of 20-under or thereabouts is likely to take the title here in Greensboro, the deceptively difficult 15th may have cost him any real shot at making a run on Sunday.

Pettersson, meanwhile, simply has to avoid making anything over par (easy enough, right?) and sneak out a few birdies on the back nine to put himself right back into contention in his hometown.

For more Wyndham Championship news, follow @WillBrinson on Twitter and subscribe to the Eye on Sports feed.
Posted on: August 20, 2011 11:32 am

Wyndham has largest CBS Sports sandcastle ever

Posted by Will Brinson

GREENSBORO, NC -- Honestly, I have no clue how big the world's biggest sandcastle is. A quick trip around Google just returns a bunch of pictures of Myrtle Beach, which is kind of spectacular.

But I do have a clue on this: the largest CBS Sports sandcastle in the world is right here in Greensboro at the Wyndham Championship. And so, for that matter is the world's largest Golf Channel sandcastle.

Now, certainly the brand-building sand sculpture isn't going to land in the Guinness Book of World Records. And it's not as big a story as either the star-studded leaderboard at the Wyndham or Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey sitting on top of the pile heading into the weekend.

But it is drawing plenty of attention from patrons attending the golf tournament at Greensboro. And with good reason -- it's right next to the putting and practice green, it's being hand-carved as we speak (see above/below) and it's a bizarre attraction amid a buzzing crowd.

For more Wyndham Championship news, follow @WillBrinson on Twitter and subscribe to the Eye on Sports feed.
Posted on: August 19, 2011 6:32 pm
Edited on: August 19, 2011 6:50 pm

Wyndham leaderboard littered with big names

Posted by Will Brinson

GREENSBORO, NC -- Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey, after firing a 5-under 65 to lead the field at 12-under, is the unquestioned top story at the Wyndham Championship as the cut comes down on Friday evening. But an impressive littering of talent will provide a very pleasant surprise for golf fans and patrons in Greensboro alike, thanks to some serious name value populating the leaderboard.

Ernie Els is the unquestioned top draw for fans -- he's also highly motivated to finish strong at Wyndham, given his current standing in the FedEx Cup rankings. Els entered the Wyndham ranked 126 (the top 125 get into golf's postseason) but his performance through the first two days at Greensboro have him projected to leap 38 spots to 88th overall.

"I'm feeling like finally my game's turning around a little bit and I like the course," Els said after his round on Friday. "Obviously you have to make a lot of birdies to keep up with the pace but I feel I'm up for it and, you know, enjoying North Carolina."

Weekend at Wyndham

Paul Casey, finds himself in a similar boat with respect to the Fed Ex standings, as he entered the week 147th in the Fed Ex Cup standings. Casey fired a three-under 67 to put himself in a tie for sixth heading into the weekend, but he felt like he left plenty of strokes on the course.

"I'm kicking myself a bit, especially on the eagle putt on 15 and another birdie putt on 17," Casey said. "It's really unforgiveable to leave those short but I'm still in decent position."

Decent position defines the spot that Webb Simpson finds himself heading into the weekend -- Simpson's currently ninth in the Fed Ex, so he doesn't have to sweat out his final score. But he's also second on the Wyndham leaderboard at nine-under and currently gunning for his first career win on the PGA Tour.

Making things (potentially) sweeter for Webb? Greensboro's just an hour from his hometown of Raleigh, and there's bound to be a big crowd following him over the weekend.

"It would be awesome," Simpson said when asked if he'd like to pick up his first win near where he grew up. "I never won out here obviously and to get my first win in front of the home crowd would be truly awesome. At this point tomorrow is my only concern and I've just got to go out there and hit that first tee shot."

Simpson's tied with Stuart Appleby, Els and Danel Summerhays at 9-under, but the name value at the Wyndham doesn't quit there.

Casey, Jim Furyk and Retief Goosen are all 8-under and well within striking range of Two Gloves' lead.

Former major winner Justin Leonard's sitting nice at 7-under following a 67 Friday, which also puts him in decent position to make a run.

"Five back with two days to play, I'm not going to say it's nothing, but it's very attainable," Leonard said. "But again, I just want to build on the things I've done the last couple of days. I don't feel like I've had a great round. I've had a couple solid rounds and I got some nice momentum going into the weekend."

Tied with Leonard at 10th overall is Will MacKenzie, a relatively obscure bomber from Greenville, NC, who has a fabulous story about returning to golf, sits tied for 10th at 7-under; his success here in the past and the fact that he's relatively local will bring people in for the weekend as well.

And Vijay Singh, showing some surprising life, is at 6-under after struggling through his second day, along with Camilo Villegas, who began the week at 125th in the Fed Ex standings.

Villegas' performance so far projects him to leapfrog seven other players and secure his ranking. Leonard's another guy on the bubble -- right now he's projected to finish 127th and just miss the postseason. A big weekend from him and suddenly he's extended his season.

So there's plenty of motivation for the golfers in Greensboro this weekend; the Wyndham's been building this tournament as a bridge to the postseason for several years now and it's paying off with any number of big names and interesting storylines dotting the top of the leaderboard.

For more Wyndham Championship news, follow @WillBrinson on Twitter and subscribe to the Eye on Sports feed.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or