Simpson, Watson share 54-hole lead at minus-12AVONDALE, La. – Webb Simpson ran off five straight birdies, Nos. 3-7, and posted a bogey-free round of 67 on Saturday, good enough for a share of the 54-hole lead with Bubba Watson at the Zurich Classic New Orleans. Simpson and Watson stand at 12 under 204, one shot clear of John Rollins and two better than George McNeill, who posted the best third-round score with a 65.
“Like you said, I got off to a great start,” Simpson said of his birdie string, which included a chip-in at the sixth. “So it just kick-started the round for me.
I've been playing well I feel like as of late. The last Thursday and Friday were just real solid kind of boring rounds. Today was a little more exciting. I don't think I hit quite as many fairways, but all in all it was a good day.
“No bogeys on a windy day and the ground was drying out, I was very pleased,” he added. “I'm excited for the challenge tomorrow.”
Simpson has been consistent all year. This week represents his 10th start of the season and he has made the cut in seven, recorded six top-25s including two top-10s pending his final result here. Last month in Tampa, he had a chance to win on the 72nd hole, but instead finished second to winner Gary Woodland.
“I can't say I learned a whole lot except for the fact that I proved to myself that I can win,” Simpson said of the runner-up finish. “I was in contention right there until the last hole. You know, I was able to execute shots under pressure. It just gave me a lot of confidence and peace that, hey, if I put myself in the position, I can do it.”
While Simpson is trying to win his first event on tour, Watson is seeking his second of the year and third overall. He knocked in a birdie putt at the last to tie for the lead and punch a ticket into the final pairing with Simpson for the last round.
“Today was tougher,” Watson said following his 70. “The wind picked up a little bit compared to the last two days. Made it difficult to hit shots, hit good shots, for me. Maybe not for everybody else, but for me it was.”
The greens are baking out in the heat and turning brown. The firm conditions makes the greens tougher, particularly when trying to gauge speeds. That was part of the challenge for Watson.
“Hard to make a lot of putts for me,” he said. Other guys on the board were making some putts, but for me it was a tough day. It was a grind-out day and somehow I ended up with a 2 under.”
The weather is supposed to be much the same as the first three days, and that could mean the player with the hottest flatstick on Sunday will emerge the winner. Just like almost every other week on tour.
Six players share fourth-place at 10 under, just to off the lead. That group includes McNeill, Steve Stricker, Charles Howell III, Tommy Gainey, Matt Jones and K.J. Choi, a winner of this event in 2002, his first of seven tour victories, when it was held at different venue.
Joe Durant rounds out the top-10 as he is alone in 10th at minus-9 after a third-round 68.
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