Former US Open champ Simpson seizes RBC Heritage lead

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Webb Simpson fired nine birdies in fashioning a six-under par 65 yesterday for a one-stroke lead midway through the US PGA Tour RBC Heritage.

Simpson said distance control was the key to his second straight six-under effort at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where his 12-under total of 130 put him one clear of American Bryson DeChambeau and Canadian Corey Conners.

Simpson and DeChambeau were a study in contrasts playing in the same group.

DeChambeau is cutting an impressive figure after using the coronavirus hiatus to add about 20 pounds in a quest for more strength and speed that he launched late last year.

He said the narrow Harbour Town layout didn’t allow him to make the most of his newfound power, but he still grabbed eight birdies in a seven-under par 64 for 131.

“It’s just this golf course, it’s so difficult to try to fit into these tight areas where, if you miss it offline, like I did last week a couple times on a couple holes, I’ll be blocked out,” DeChambeau said.

Six of DeChambeau’s birdies came in his last nine holes, but he missed a five-foot birdie putt at his final hole, the ninth, where Simpson rolled in a six-footer to cap a birdie-birdie finish. “It’s very satisfying knowing I’m not near as long as some of these guys and I’m able to kind of use my skills of distance control and shot shape to pick me back up when I’m 40 yards or 30 yards behind these guys,” said Simpson, the 2012 US Open champion.

“I would like to hit it further,” added Simpson, who has taken a long, methodical approach to gaining strength and distance without compromising any aspect of his game.

“I set out on a journey three years ago to get stronger, hit it further, but do it a lot slower than Bryson,” he noted. “But he’s made it look easy and seamless.”