Published Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013 | 4:46 p.m.
Updated Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013 | 6:13 p.m.
Webb Simpson enjoyed a comfortable four-stroke advantage entering the final round today at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin, but the North Carolina golfer knew holding that lead wouldn’t be easy.
He had been in this position before, squandering a two-shot lead at the Greenbrier Classic in July 2012 after bogeying four of five holes on the back nine in finishing in a seventh-place tie.
There would be no squandering on this near-perfect Las Vegas afternoon.
Simpson’s round of 5-under-par on the 7,243-yard, par-71 layout gave him a six-stroke victory over Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and Jason Bohn, making the 28-year-old a four-time winner on the PGA Tour. He birdied six holes in the final round to tie the tournament record with a total of 260, earning $1,080,000 in prize money and 500 FedEx Cup points. UNLV product Charley Hoffman had the best finish of locals, carding a 7-under today to take fourth at 17-under for the tournament.
“I definitely used those experiences in the sense of knowing when to go at the flags and knowing when to play it safe,” Simpson said. “When you are playing with the lead, you are in control. When you are in control, you try to control your golf shots and your ball a little better than randomly trying to make birdies and force the issue.”
Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, made things interesting on the back nine.
Simpson bogeyed No. 12 to lead Bohn by just three strokes. Then, after Simpson settled for par on the 14th after missing a 3-foot birdie attempt, Bohn was in striking distance at four shots back and Ishikawa lurked at five strokes back.
But Simpson wouldn’t be denied.
On the 15th, his approach shot from about 50 yards out landed just feet from the hole, giving him a tap-in for birdie and a convincing lead with three holes remaining. He also birdied the 16th in extending the lead over Bohn to five strokes.
“My one thought and goal for today was I wanted to come out and play aggressive. Keep making birdies, but play smart,” Simpson said.
Ishikawa birdied 17 to get to 19-under but bogeyed the last hole in finishing the round at 65. Bohn finished with seven birdies in the final round to climb the leaderboard, but he also bogeyed the last hole. Both earned $528,000 for second place.
Turns out, neither had a legitimate chance of catching Simpson. He led after the second and third rounds, winning for the first time since the U.S. Open victory and moving into second place of the FedEx Cup standings.
Simpson didn't track the others in contention all day. Rather, he turned to caddy Paul Tesori at the 17th hole and asked how they fared. It was at that same hole — the par-3 17th — in 2010 where Simpson double-bogeyed to drop out of the lead and miss a three-golfer playoff by one stroke.
This time, Simpson had nothing to worry about. Unlike the event here in 2010, or the Greenbrier Classic in 2012, Simpson's game has progressed where he was more comfortable managing the last holes in a final round.
"I asked my caddie Paul where we stood," Simpson said. "I asked him, 'Do I need to know anything?' He knew what that meant. He said we were in control. I was just thankful that I was able to kind of manage my golf ball the last couple of holes."
When he walked off the green at 18 to the applause of the crowd, he was greeted by his wife, Dowd — she flew in this morning from Charlotte, arriving when her husband was on the 14th hole. Her flight, just like his inaugural win in Las Vegas, was direct — her long day of travel include changing plans in Atlanta, arriving just in time for her husband's victory
"She does this a few times a year. If I'm in contention, she comes out," Simpson said. "I was so happy to see her on the 18th."
J.J. Henry, who on Thursday made a 50-foot eagle putt on his final hole for a tournament-record 11-under-par 60, closed with rounds of 71, 70 and 70 in taking 15th. Ryan Moore, arguably the best golfer in UNLV history and the 2012 Shriners Open champ, finished ninth after shooting 3-under Sunday. Last year, it was Moore who set the tourney record with a four-day 260.