JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- If this were a team sport, it might be said that the wildcards were having a good run.
Midway through The Barclays, the first tournament of the PGA Tour Playoffs, Webb Simpson, who was 85th in FedEx Cup points standings entering the playoffs, shot a 68 Friday to take the 36-hole lead at Liberty National GC.
Simpson is at eight-under 134 and two strokes in front of Paul Goydos (49th in FedEx points) and Steve Marino (30th), with Fredrik Jacobson (107th) and Heath Slocum (124th) tied for fourth at four-under. Tiger Woods, No. 1 in FedEx points, shot a 72 on the wet, dreary day and is T-17 at even-par 142
Simpson, a 24-year-old North Carolinian in his first full year on tour, is hoping that the end of his season will have the tone of its beginning, when he had top-10s in his first two tournaments. This is the first time he has slept on the lead on tour, and he'll count it a learning experience in a year full of them.
Pressing after poor play during the Florida swing, Simpson intensified his post-round practice sessions to the point where it wasn't helping and in fact was causing him to dread coming to the course. "My fiancee [Dowd Keith] and I were talking about when I was in amateur golf, I would leave the course, usually right after the round," Simpson said, "and so we started doing that--taking a step back from practicing and trying to get most of my practicing done when I was at home on my weeks off."
Simpson was going to try to take his new position in stride a week after a disappointing missed cut at the Wyndham Championship in his home state. "I couldn't have picked a better time to be playing well," Simpson said. "But you know, I'm sure a lot of emotions will be going through my head tomorrow. I'm a big believer in prayer, and so I'll go to bed saying a few prayers tonight and come out tomorrow just like I did today."
- -- Bill Fields*