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Simpson stumbles on back nine for second year in a row

Chip Ellis
U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson began the final round in the lead, but shot 4 over on the back nine to fall out of contention.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - The back nine at Old White TPC reached out and snagged Webb Simpson for the second year in a row.

After the U.S. Open champion saw his Greenbrier Classic hopes go down in a blaze of four bogeys in five holes, he had another top-10 finish that felt almost like a missed cut.

He finished with a 3-over 73, including a painful 4 over on the back. That allowed Troy Kelly, who was in his twosome, PGA Tour rookie Ted Potter Jr. and a few others to charge past him.

In the 2011 Classic, Simpson took the lead with nine holes left, and promptly bogeyed the 10th and 13th. He finished with a 2-over 38 on that back nine, putting him two shots out of a playoff.

On Sunday, he fell to 11 over, five shots out.

"I think it's a funny game," Simpson said. "I mean, you go from not making any mistakes at all to making them all on the back nine. I felt good out there, I felt in control of my game, and I don't know.

"It's hard to say now, but I'm sure in a couple days I'll look back and kind of see probably some similar things that happened to me."

Simpson entered the day with a two-shot lead over Kelly, but that lead was gone in five holes. Kelly scored birdies on Nos. 2, 4 and 5, and Simpson tied it back up with a birdie on No. 7.

But by then, his putter was betraying him. He missed an 81/2-footer for birdie on the fifth and a 71/2-footer on the ninth, and then the disasters really hit.

On the par-5 12th, the easiest hole this week, he three-putted on a tricky uphill track, missing the 6-foot par putt.

On the next hole, his tournament hopes went up the creek. Not literally, but close - he pulled his tee shot into the brush lining the creek on the left. He took a stroke penalty from the lateral hazard and had 43 feet to save a par. He was close, but it still hurt.

And it hurt even more when he flew the green on his approach to the par-4 14th. He also missed a 4-foot putt to bogey the 16th.

At the turn, he had gone 50 consecutive holes without a bogey.

"I don't think it was a mental thing," he said. "I felt really comfortable. I just made a couple of bad swings and judged the wind wrong a bunch of times, it seemed like.

"So it was just one of those unfortunate nine holes where all week everything had been going right, and in nine holes everything couldn't have gone worse."

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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