Matt Cooper

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The Roundup: Simpson strikes

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Recap of the day
Morning wave: A cavalry charge as no fewer than ten players shot 4-under-par 66, a total that was only fourth best of the early starters. Joaquin Niemann led the way with a stunning 7-under 63, Kelly Kraft got to within a one of that and Keegan Bradley added a 5-under 65.
Afternoon wave: Webb Simpson got it to 7-under-par through 12 holes, and Whee Kim to 6-under through 13, before inclement weather called a halt to play at 3:51 p.m.  Played resumed at 5:45 p.m. whereupon Kim completed an 8-under 62 which included ten birdies and then Simpson reached the clubhouse in only 61 blows. Jason Kokrak and Chad Campbell joined the group at 5-under.
Revised outright betting: Simpson 12/5, Niemann 9/1, Finau 12/1, Mickelson 16/1, Bradley 20/1, Schauffele 20/1, Moore 22/1
Friday weather forecast
Temperatures in the mid 80s with a 70% chance of rain throughout the heart of the day, from late morning to mid afternoon. A breeze that is likely to peak at about 9mph.
Leaders after at 18 holes
Webb Simpson (61) - Missed only one green all day whereupon he hacked it into thick grass, leaving himself 123-yards to the hole on the par-4 13th. His response? A superb shot to 5'10" which he holed.
Whee Kim (62) - A dazzling display, the low round of his career, which opened with par and didn't see another one until the turn! Four of his six front nine birdies were from inside 6'3", another was from off the green. In all three of his ten par breakers were from 16 to 17 feet.
Joaquin Niemann (63) - Missed just two fairways and two greens in regulation, not one dropped shot and all his birdie conversions were from inside 19 feet.
Kelly Kraft (64) - Gained 3.712 strokes on the greens as he landed four birdie putts from outside 15 feet.
Fate of the favorites
Tony Finau (67) - Missed just the three greens in regulation, but made bogey every time he did so. 
Bubba Watson (68) - Found only half the fairways, but still landed 14 of the 18 greens in regulation. 4-under through 16, but made double bgoey-5 at the par-3 eighth, needing three swings just to find the putting surface.
Phil Mickelson ( 66) - Recovered from being 1-over through eight. Highlight of the day was sitting on a 5'0" eagle putt at the 12th for two hours with the weather break. Didn't seem to faze him one bit.
Webb Simpson (61) - Holed from 18'1" for an eagle-3 at the 12th but otherwise none of his birdie conversions (all seven of them) was over 14 feet. A third lap of 63 or lower for the year.
Webb Simpson (61 but on the words stamped on his wedges) - "It's from the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, their company mantra is "Step By Step, Ferociously," it just means that every little detail of my game, whether it's working out, mental training, eating, I want to do every step as good as I can, because ultimately it will lead me where I want to go. And the little things always take care of the big things, it seems. So that's just kind of a reminder. Take care of the little things and do the little things really well."
Joaquin Niemann (63): "This was my first event on the PGA TOUR and I feel great to be back here. I played good last year as an amateur, and also being able to play this course before gives me a lot of confidence. Playing on the PGA Tour with these guys is awesome."
Kelly Kraft (64): "I just feel like coming into the greens I have a lot of clubs that are kind of good for my game. A lot of shorter irons and wedges, and I've been working on those. I remember coming in here last year and hit a lot of good ones, a lot of really close shots. I love the way it looks off the tee too. It's just one of those courses that everybody's got a few of them throughout the year, and this just happens to be one of mine."
Bubba Watson (68): "I feel miserable. It was a terrible round of golf. No confidence off the tee. I played scared golf. My score shows a couple under par, but it was really bad. I mean, I was out there and I was just fighting anything just trying to make a score. I was getting lucky, kept getting lucky, and I finally made a double bogey on my 17th hole."
Keegan Bradley (65): "We love The Greenbrier, it's one of our favorite places, one of our favorite stops. There is so much stuff to do. The golf is great, the people are great. I love playing here. I have a little son and over the next couple years I'm sure he's going to grow and love this place. This is an automatic for me for the start of the year."
Phil Mickelson (66): "The challenge for me here is that it's at altitude, so the irons go quite a bit farther, and I had a difficult time judging our iron distances. But starting last year with that Trackman device, we're able to get much more precise yardages. So my distance control with my irons has been a lot better last year and this year. So I expect to have a good next few days."
Road to victory at The Old White TPC
2017 Xander SchauffeleR1: 3rd, R2: 7th, R3: 3rd 
2015 Danny LeeR1: 2nd, R2: 3rd, R3: 5th 
2014 Angel CabreraR1: 31st, R2: 13th, R3: 2nd 
2013 Jonas BlixtR1: 9th, R2: 7th, R3: 3rd 
2012 Ted Potter Jr – R1: 41st, R2: 23rd, R3: 6th 
Notes: In all there have been seven renewals of the event at this track and Cabrera and Potter are not the only winners to have been off the pace after 18 holes. Scott Stallings in 2011 was 42nd and Stuart Appleby in 2010 was 11th. In all six of the seven winners were three shots or more back of the lead at this stage. (Also note there was no event in 2016.)
Fate of the halfway leaders at The Old White TPC - where did they finish?
2017 Sebastian Munoz - 3rd
2015 Scott Langley - 13th
2014 Jonas Blixt - 35th
2013 Johnson Wagner - 2nd, Tommy Gainey - 41st
2012 Vijay Singh - 33rd
Notes: There was no success for the early pace setters in 2011 and 2010 either. Moreover the habit of the fast starters really tailing off was maintained. In all nine men have held or shared the lead on the course after 18 holes and only two have ended the week in the top ten.
Focus on - Joaquin Niemann
Just an eighth start as a professional for the 19-year-old from Chile who was Amateur World No. 1 when he made the flip. His pro debut reaped T6th at the Texas Open, a result he repeated in the Memorial a week after he was T8th in the Fort Worth Invitational, and he was T17th last week in the Quicken Loans National. Every other result has been a missed cut, but take note of how often he goes low. This was his 23rd lap as a pro and the 13th time he has broken 70, but the eighth time he has gone lower than 68. It has not been the toughest schedule, but it's telling. This is not a golfer who is scared.
Focus on - Robert Streb
Since he was T10 at The Northern Trust last August the 31-year-old is 8-for-25 with nothing better than T40 in that stretch and he's even 4-for-21 more recently. Pretty bleak stuff and yet he was possibly quite confident of breaking that run on this course. Why so? Well, his 4-under-par 66 was his ninth consecutive sub-70 round on the course and 12th in 17 laps. Moreover he is 5-for-5 at breaking 70 in the first round at The Old White TPC. A good spot for him to transform his season, but can he add to his run of back-to-back second places (in 2015 and 2017)?

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