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Webb Simpson, going nowhere a year ago, rising to top after win at Deutsche Bank Championship
NORTON, Mass. (AP) ' 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.
He went to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings. He was assured a spot on the Presidents Cup team.
"I couldn't expect anything more," Simpson said.
Then again, 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 following 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.
The win moved Simpson to No. 14 in the world. Coming in the second playoff event, it moved him atop the FedEx Cup standings and assured he would be among the top five at the Tour Championship for the FedEx Cup 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."
It was hard on Reavie, too, for a variety of reasons.
He started the season on a medical exemption because of knee surgery a year ago and lost full status by June. Not only did Reavie claw his way into the playoffs, he had a one-shot lead playing the par-5 18th.
His plan all along was to lay up short of the ravine with a one-shot lead. He didn't count on his sand wedge turning with the wind and going over the green, leading to a bogey when he missed a 10-foot putt.
"Unfortunately, my wedge didn't quite work out," Reavie said. "But all in all on the day, I played fantastic."
He immediately found some consolation in his 66 for a runner-up finish. Even though he won't have full status on tour until next year, Reavie moved to No. 9 in the standings and is assured of getting to the FedEx Cup finale at the Tour Championship, putting him in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.
His eyes welled with tears just thinking about how far he has come this year.
"It's unbelievable," Reavie said. "Starting the year on a medical and not knowing what's going to happen, to be able to go to the Tour Championship is a goal. It's what I wanted to do."
On a day filled with big crowds and big moments ' appropriate to golf's version of the postseason ' the pressure was felt by more than just the leaders.
The top 70 advance to the third playoff event in two weeks outside Chicago. Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy and Chris Stroud made it by one shot with clutch play on the 18th hole ' birdies for Els and Ogilvy, an eagle for Stroud.
"You screw up on the 18th leading and now you're going to finish second and you're going to have a $600,000 check," Els said. "Here, I'm going home. It's a bad place to be, but it's a good place to come back from."
No one was sure what to expect from a wild final round on Labor Day. It was so scrambled that seven players ' including world No. 1 Luke Donald ' had a share of the lead at some point. It started with Bubba Watson, who had a one-shot lead that didn't last long. Watson chipped in for eagle on the last hole to limit the damage to a 74.
Despite so many in the hunt, Simpson and Reavie separated themselves over the final hour.
Simpson one-putted seven of his last eight greens, mostly for par on the back nine in regulation to stay in the hunt, then received just enough help from Reavie.
Reavie came roaring up the leaderboard on the back nine. He made four birdies in a six-hole stretch ' including on the toughest par 3 at No. 11 and the toughest hole at No. 14 ' and was poised to capture his second PGA Tour title until one wedge cost him.
"It's definitely difficult to think about it," Reavie said. "It's not hard to make a 5. I mean, I'm going to make a 5 there nine times out of 10. Unfortunately it was the only bogey I had all day."
Brandt Snedeker, who closed with a 61 last week to tie for third, went out in 30 to take the lead until getting wild off the tee on the back nine. He had to settle for a 66 and another tie for third.
Donald, who matched birdies and eagles with Simpson in regulation, fell apart with a double bogey on No. 12 and a tee shot over the 16th green that led to bogey. He closed with a 67 and tied for third, along with Jason Day, who had a 68.
The PGA Tour now takes a week off before resuming these playoffs at the BMW Championship.