Simpson one of four leaders with RBC Heritage set for frantic finish, Koepka three back

By Sports Desk June 20, 2020

Webb Simpson is one of four players in a tie for the lead at the RBC Heritage after the third round on Hilton Head Island.

Former U.S. Open champion Simpson is level at 15 under par through 54 holes alongside Tyrrell Hatton, Abraham Ancer and Ryan Palmer.

Simpson, the 2013 RBC Heritage runner-up, held the outright lead overnight but could only manage a three-under 68 in a round that contained four birdies and one bogey.

His fellow American Palmer shot 66, while Mexican Ancer posted a third-round 65 to join Simpson at the front of the PGA Tour event.

Englishman Hatton also surged into contention and shares the lead after following up a disappointing opening round of 71 with scores of 64 and 63.

His eight-under effort on Saturday was tied for the best of the day along with five other players.

Similarly to last week's Charles Schwab Challenge, the top of the leaderboard is hugely congested going into the final day.

There are 17 players sitting within three strokes of the four leaders.

Daniel Berger (63) – the winner at Colonial – matched Hatton's total and is one of three men one shot behind on 14 under along with Joel Dahmen (63) and Carlos Ortiz (63).

Ian Poulter (67) – who held a share of the lead after round one – is two strokes off the pace along with Sergio Garcia (65) and a further six competitors.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka (68) and former world number one Dustin Johnson (67) remain in contention at 12 under, as does Bryson DeChambeau despite struggling in a third round of 70.

Despite a five-under-par 66, world number one Rory McIlroy has work to do at 10 under heading into the final round.

McIlroy sits five shots behind Simpson, Hatton, Ancer and Palmer in a tie for 28th after holing six birdies and a bogey – eight strokes better off than Jordan Spieth, who struggled in a four-over-par 75.

Meanwhile, the field was a combined 223-under par, the most of any round in this tournament's history, surpassing 178 under in 2015.

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    It may not be quite what we are used to but major golf is finally back as Brooks Koepka defends his US PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in California this week.

    The global coronavirus pandemic completely wiped out The Open Championship for 2020, while each of the other three majors had to be rescheduled.

    A three-month enforced break of the PGA Tour perhaps came at an opportune moment for some, while halting the momentum of others.

    As golf gears up for its first major of 2020, behind closed doors of course, we take a look at the players we expect to be competing in California.


    WEBB SIMPSON

    It has been some return to form over the past couple of years for 2012 U.S. Open victor Webb Simpson, who slipped as low as 90th in the rankings following the 2016 Wells Fargo Championship before his triumph at the Players Championship a couple of years ago kick-started a career that looked in danger of stagnating. Even more promisingly, Simpson has wins either side of lockdown at the Phoenix Open and RBC Heritage. Throw in top-10s at the Sony Open and Rocket Mortgage Classic and he certainly has the form to contend.

    JUSTIN THOMAS

    Since winning the 2017 PGA Championship, it has not quite happened in the majors for Justin Thomas, whose only other top-10 in golf's big four since came at the same tournament a year later. But this guy is a serial contender on Tour and has four wins to his name in the past year, the most recent of course coming at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational on Sunday. Thomas is now back at world number one thanks to his triumph in Memphis and has three other top-10s since golf's hiatus was lifted so do not be surprised to see him in contention come Sunday.

    BRYSON DECHAMBEAU

    He is a man who splits opinion but one thing that cannot be argued is how supremely talented Bryson DeChambeau is. After bulking up during lockdown, he now appears to have even more weapons to his arsenal. Prior to missing the cut at the Memorial, DeChambeau made eight top-10s in nine starts, which included a win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He has the game to win a major.

    COLLIN MORIKAWA

    A name perhaps not too familiar with the casual golf fan, but since turning pro in 2019 Collin Morikawa has climbed from 1039th in the world to 12th. After finishing second at the season-restarting Charles Schwab, he won the Workday Charity Open by beating Thomas in a play-off. His other results have admittedly been mixed but for those who like an outside bet the 23-year-old may take your fancy.

    JON RAHM

    Admittedly, tipping the man who was world number one until Thomas' win at the weekend to be a contender does not exactly scream imagination. But the talented Spaniard was not exactly in peak form prior to winning the Memorial last month, which crowned his ascension to the top of the rankings. Prior to that he had gone CUT, T33, T37, T27 at his four previous events post-lockdown. But surely Jon Rahm will eventually break his major duck and this weekend can be the time.

    KOEPKA, RORY, WOODS AND THE USUAL SUSPECTS

    Some players you just expect to see involved at the majors. Koepka is aiming to be the first man in 64 years to win the same major three years running and showed plenty of promise in Memphis over the weekend, where he finished runner-up to Thomas. Rory McIlroy has lost his number one status after struggling to rediscover his excellent form prior to golf's suspension but the Northern Irishman has previous at Harding Park, where he won the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play. Tiger Woods really has not played enough golf in 2020 to judge where his form and fitness is at – he has played just once since the season restarted – but never, ever write off the 15-time major winner. Dustin Johnson's form has been a little erratic, though he did win the Travelers Championship at the end of June.

  • Koepka nearing peak form ahead of US PGA Championship Koepka nearing peak form ahead of US PGA Championship

    Brooks Koepka said his game was just where he wanted it to be ahead of the US PGA Championship.

    Koepka fell short in his title defence at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, finishing in a four-way tie for second three shots behind champion Justin Thomas.

    It marked the American's best result of the year and just his second top-10 finish in 11 events.

    That has left Koepka optimistic ahead of the US PGA Championship, where he will be aiming for a third straight success starting on Thursday.

    "I feel good. I feel like my game is right there, this is where we wanted to be, peaking for the PGA," he told Golf Channel.

    "I feel like my game is right there, everything's solid, I hit a lot of good putts today, just didn't go in. I'm pleased with it."

    Koepka said he was pleased with his improvement ahead of the first major of the year.

    "I feel like I'm playing good so I'm excited to tee it up," he said.

    "Everything's moving in the right direction so, once you know you lose, it doesn't matter if you lose by one or 10, it doesn't matter so, pleased with it, moving in the right direction and looking forward to next week."

  • Thomas learns from mistakes to win WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational Thomas learns from mistakes to win WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational

    Justin Thomas said learning from his mistakes was key to his WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational victory.

    Thomas carded a five-under 65 to earn a three-stroke win in Memphis on Sunday, securing his third PGA Tour success of the season.

    The American also moved top of the world rankings as he continued his strong form in 2020.

    Thomas said he learnt plenty ahead of his victory, particularly at the Workday Charity Open, where he gave up a three-stroke lead before losing to Collin Morikawa in a play-off last month.

    "It was a hard-fought day, but it meant a lot," he told the Golf Channel.

    "I felt like how we did it, being four behind to start the day, I haven't exactly played well coming from behind in the past. I felt like I learnt a lot from that, especially Colonial.

    "I just didn't handle it well and I pressed way too hard and I definitely learnt a lot from Workday in Columbus, just how I handled that lead and that situation the last couple of holes. I did obviously a very poor job, but because of that I felt a lot more calm and stayed more in the moment today."

    Top of the world rankings, Thomas is also on top of the FedEx Cup standings.

    The 27-year-old said he still had room for improvement ahead of the US PGA Championship starting on Thursday.

    "It was really important, but at the end of the day if you don't play well in the play-offs, it's hard to win a FedEx Cup, especially in Atlanta," Thomas said.

    "Right now, I'm obviously very happy and elated that we got it done today but I need to work on some things and get ready for the PGA next week and try and win another major."

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