Webb Simpson couldn’t believe how quickly his fortunes changed at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
He was standing in the scoring area off from the 18th green after making a 30-foot birdie putt that gave him a 6-under 65, which looked to be worth only second place until Chez Reavie hit a wedge over the green and made bogey. Two playoff holes later, Simpson had his second PGA Tour win in the last three weeks.
OFFICIAL WORLD GOLF RANKING
Luke Donald is now in his 15th week atop the rankings. David Duval also led for 15 weeks in 1999, while Fred Couples led for 16 weeks in 1992.
1. Luke Donald
2. Lee Westwood
3. Martin Kaymer
4. Rory McIlroy
5. Steve Stricker
6. Dustin Johnson
7. Jason Day
8. Phil Mickelson
9. Matt Luchar
10. Adam Scott
He went to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings. He was assured a spot on the Presidents Cup team. And he climbed from 27th up to 14th in the world ranking, while Tiger Woods dropped another six spots down to 44th. Also this week, Thomas Bjorn's victory in the Omega European Masters lifted him from 59th to 28th.
No. 1 Luke Donald and No. 2 Lee Westwood retained their spots atop the ranking, but there was much movement below them. Martin Kaymer rose from fifth to rhied, while rory McIlroy rose from sixth to fourth thanks to their strong finishes at the European Masters. As a result, Steve Stricker dropped from third to fifthm and Dustin Johnson fell from fourth to sixth.
Jason Day climbed from 10th up to seventh, while Phil Mickelson rose from ninth to eighth place. Matt Kuchar dropped from seventh to ninth, and Adam Scott slipped from eighth down to 10th place as so many of the top players remain alive in the FedExCup playoffs.
The second 10 includes No. 11 Nick Watney, No. 12 Charl Schwartzel, No. 13 Graeme McDowell, No. 14. Simpson, No. 15 Bubba Watson, No. 16 K.J. Choi, No. 17 David Toms, No. 18 Ian Poulter, No. 19 Paul Casey and No. 20 Robert Karlsson.
Simpson should be used to big turnarounds.
A year ago, he missed the cut at the Deutsche Bank and headed home to an uncertain future. He still didn’t have enough money to secure his card for the 2011 season. Simpson played the next four weeks in the Fall Series, and only a tie for fourth in Las Vegas gave him enough money to make him feel safe.
He was No. 213 in the world. There was a changing of generations in golf, and no one had reason to believe Simpson would be part of it.
It was a different story when he drove off Monday night from the TPC Boston.
With one improbable escape after another, Simpson twice made birdie putts on the par-5 18th hole -- once in regulation, once in a playoff -- then made a third straight birdie from 8 feet on the 17th to beat Reavie on the second extra hole.
Coming in the second playoff event, Simpson’s victory moved him atop the FedExCup standings and assured he would be among the top five at the Tour Championship for the FedExCup finale at the end of the month. That’s important because the top five only have to win at East Lake to capture the $10 million prize.
Simpson, who along with Reavie finished at 15-under 269, earned $1.44 million. That put him over $5.3 million for the year and No. 1 on the PGA Tour money list.
“The joy I get from what I do is not in the money, it’s getting in the playoffs, just making big putts when I need to,” Simpson said. “So I don’t really think about it that much. It’s certainly an added bonus. But you know, I think I speak for the tour that we do it for the thrill of trying to win and trying to become better players.”
This was a thrill, all right.
Three weeks ago, Simpson won by three shots in Greensboro, N.C., and felt a huge relief to get that first win. He figured the next time he had a chance to win he would have more experience in handling the nerves. It would be easier.
“And it wasn’t that way at all. It was just as hard,” Simpson said. “The shots and the putts were just as hard. I think it helped calm me down a little, but it was like I had never won a golf tournament before.”