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Tim Simpson corrected a flaw in his putting routine on Saturday and went on to shoot a solid 69 at the Ocean Course. (Photo: Getty Images)
Tim Simpson corrected a flaw in his putting routine on Saturday and went on to shoot a solid 69 at the Ocean Course. (Photo: Getty Images)

Notebook: Simpson 'back' in hunt after gutsy 69

Tim Simpson ignored the nagging pain in his balky back on Saturday and turned in a terrific 3-under 69 that got the former PGA TOUR star onto the leaderboard and into contention at the 68th Senior PGA Championship.

From Staff Reports

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- It hasn't knocked him out of commission yet -- knock on wood -- but Tim Simpson knows his balky back is there and that at any moment it can pop out and send him to the ground in agonizing pain.

"It's nagging me, I know it's there," Simpson said of the rib head injury, where the rib connects to the disc in his spine. "It felt like it went out on No. 2 but I had Mo (Matacki, Simpson's caddie) rub some Biofreeze (pain relief ointment) on it then on 13 I had him press on it to kind of pop it back in. So I know it's there, but I'm gonna go after it and play my game."

On Saturday at the 68th Senior PGA Championship, Simpson's game included a rock-solid driver, crisp iron shots and precision putting, all of which added up to a 3-under-par 69 that got the 51-year-old Simpson to even par and back into contention at the Ocean Course. "I think anybody within 10 shots of the lead has a chance," he said. "Truthfully, you're one swing away from disaster on this course. You can make double or triple like that."

A four-time winner during his once-promising PGA TOUR career, which was cut short in the early 1990s by a variety of injuries, Simpson opened his third round with a birdie from 15 feet on the first hole. He rebounded from back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 3 and 4 with birdies at Nos. 7 and 8. His birdie at the par-5 seventh came after a drive into the bunker and a 9-iron that hit the pin and stopped 2 inches from the hole. On No. 8 he drained a 25-footer from the back of the green.

A bogey-free back nine included a tap-in birdie at the par-5 11th and a 15-footer for birdie at the wickedly difficult par-3 17th.

"I controlled the ball really well today," said Simpson, who is in search of his first Champions Tour win. "I've driven the ball rock solid all week. In the first round I only missed two fairways and I only missed two fairways today. And I'm hitting really good iron shots, so we'll see if we can keep it going."

The only complaint Simpson had was with his putting on Friday, when a bad habit crept into his routine and led to a missed short birdie putt on the par-5 16th and a deflating three-putt bogey on 17.

"Three times yesterday I did something that I never do," he said. "I made my read then when I was over the ball I changed my read and it hurt me. But we got that straightened out."

COSTON'S PRIDE: PGA Professional Jeff Coston has enjoyed a special and successful week at the 68th Senior PGA Championship, and was still in contention for the special award for the low score for competing PGA Professionals.

But regardless of how he finishes on Sunday at the Ocean Course, Coston has had a successful week by virtue of many of his junior students' performances at the Washington State High School Golf Tournament. Several of Coston's students competed in the event and had stellar showings, including outright wins in the Girls 3A division by Brittany Tallman and in the Girls 2A division by Katie Sharpe. His students also had second-place finishes in the Boys 2A and Boys 1B/2B divisions, by Will Holdridge and Craig Crawford, respectively.

Overall, Coston had almost 20 students record a high finish.

"One of the main reasons I've never pursued a career on the Champions Tour is because of the impact and the satisfaction I get out of teaching students at my academy," said Coston, who lives and teaches in Blaine, Wash. "I love to compete in tournament play, but when it's all said and done, I need to know that I've had a good impact on someone's lives. This is what I get the most joy and gratification from."

CHARLES SCHWAB POINTS UPDATE: The winner of Sunday's Senior PGA Championship will earn 720 Charles Schwab Cup points. Points in the season-long Schwab Cup race are awarded based on top-10 finishes and dollar amounts won in events on a per-thousand basis (i.e. $80,000 equals 80 Charles Schwab Cup points). Points are doubled in all five major championships on the Champions Tour and also at the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

Jay Haas currently leads the Schwab Cup competition with 1,038 points. Hale Irwin trails by 247 points and Brad Bryant is 351 points back. Eduardo Romero, the 54-hole leader at the Senior PGA Championship, is currently in 21st position with 267 points. At the end of the official season, the player earning the most points will receive a $1 million annuity from Charles Schwab.

PRECIOUS PAR: Only four players were under par through 54 holes of the 2007 Senior PGA Championship, the fewest number of professionals in red figures since 2002 at Firestone when only Bobby Wadkins (-1) was under par after three rounds. Last year at Oak Tree, eight players were under par through three rounds, and Gil Morgan led with a 54-hole total of 6-under 207.

COMEBACK KIDS: In the last eight years, five players have come from behind in the final round to win the Senior PGA Championship, including the last two champions. Here's a list of the come-from-behind winners since 1999: Jay Haas (2006/four back), Mike Reid (2005/two behind), John Jacobs (2003/two behind), Fuzzy Zoeller (2002/one behind) and Allen Doyle (1999/four back).

CLOSING STRONG: The top-four players on the leaderboard all rank among the top-eight on the Champions Tour this year in Final-Round Scoring Average. Third-round leader Eduardo Romero is T8 (69.50), while Denis Watson is third (68.86), Joe Ozaki is sixth (69.33) and Nick Price is T8 (69.50).

WIND TAKES A BREAK: With constant winds blowing from the southeast at 10-15 mph, the stroke average for the field was lower Saturday (73.369) than either of the first two days -- Friday (75.494) and Thursday (77.278). After just seven players broke par in Round One, there were 19 sub-par rounds Saturday compared with 21 sub-par scores Friday.

NEW TOUGHEST HOLE: The Ocean Course's par-4 fourth hole played as the most difficult in the third round, yielding just five birdies and playing to a stroke average of 4.385. After playing as the hardest hole the first two days, the par-3 17th hole ranked as the second-most difficult (3.308), yielding 13 birdies, three more than the first two days combined. The 17th played to a stroke average of 3.714 in Round One and 3.695 in Round Two.

EAGLES FLY: Through three rounds, there qwere 16 eagles made by 16 different players. A total of eight eagles were made in Round One, five in Round Two and three Saturday. Guillermo Encina of Chile made the only eagle on a par-4, holing his second shot from the fairway at No. 12 in the opening round.

RANDOM STAT LEADERS: Hajime Meshiai leads the field in Driving Distance (289.3) ... Katsuyoshi Tomori has hit 35 of 42 (83percent) fairways off the tee through 54 holes ... Tom Kite leads the field in Greens In Regulation, hitting 41 of 54 (76 percent) ... Mark James, Bobby Heins and Loren Roberts have all averaged 26.67 putts per round (1.48) through 54 holes.

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