Cannon/Getty ImagesWebb Simpson’s 67 moved him into contention at The Olympic Club on Saturday.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO — There were a lot of grim faces after players signed their scorecards and walked into The Olympic Club’s Spanish-style clubhouse on Saturday afternoon.
Not Webb Simpson’s, though. Not after that 68 he posted that moved him well inside the top-10 on the leaderboard at 3 under and in contention for his first major championship.
"Any time you’re playing good you feel comfortable and in control of your ball it’s going to be a little more at ease out there," Simpson said. "When you’re not hitting it good, when you’re kind of having a question of where it’s going to go at a U.S. Open it’s going to be a tough day.
"But fortunately today I had a good feel for what I was doing and I really didn’t hit any shots that really cost me."
Many others wish they could say the same. Simpson, who is playing in his second U.S. Open, made five birdies and dropped just two shots to par on Saturday after shooting 72-73 in the first two rounds. He tied for 14th in his U.S. Open debut last year at Congressional Country Club.
"It was a good day all around," Simpson said. "I made a bunch of putts early, really hit it good on the back nine. Our first bogey on No. 9 I thought I hit a pretty flawless shot and the front of that green is just a little softer and it spun back off and I dropped a shot there.
"Overall, it was satisfying just in terms of finally kind of hitting it where we’re looking. The last couple of days or first couple of days were a little tougher, we scraped it around a little more. But I kept the ball in front of me today and was able to make some putts."
Simpson, who won twice on the PGA TOUR last year, has four top-10s in 2012, most recently a fourth-place finish at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, where the former Wake Forest All-American now lives. Simpson says he plans to wait until Saturday evening to formulate a strategy for the final round.
"I’ll come up with a game plan tonight a little more after I see the scores, see what the guys are doing," Simpson said. "If they make a run and I’m five back the game plan the might change a little. But if I’m only a couple back going into tomorrow we’ll come out and try to do the same thing.
"And the USGA’s done a fabulous job of setting up the golf course. Plenty of birdie opportunities but some holes are just so hard. I think you’ll see more of that tomorrow."
Simpson says there are holes like the par-3 seventh and the driveable eighth that a player can cautiously attack. At the same time, though, those birdie opportunities have a certain characteristic that brings bogey into play "which is the genius of the U.S. Open, Simpson said. He felt like he made the right choices on Saturday.
"A day like today, couple bad bounces, but a couple bounces that were fortunately my way," Simpson said. "And at a U.S. Open, to shoot under par, you have to have things go your way. And that’s what happened today and I made the par putts and made a couple birdie putts, which I feel like I shot 10 under today and I shot 2. So just a good feeling to shoot under par in the U.S. Open."