Simpson heats up, takes lead at Boeing Classic

SNOQUALMIE — Even in his younger years, there was never much “Wow!” factor in Scott Simpson’s golf game. Not so much a big blaster, he generally keeps to the fairway off the tee and is right around the green in regulation.

And if his putter ever gets hot, then look out.

So it was Saturday at the Boeing Classic, as Simpson used a sizzling putter to ease away from a logjam of contenders and snag a two-stroke lead heading into today’s final round at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge.

The 52-year-old-Simpson, a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, including the 1987 United States Open, tied for the low round of the day with a 6-under-par 66 for a two-day total of 11-under 133. Simpson, who is trying for his second Champions Tour victory, has a two-stroke lead on David Edwards and is three shots better than Tom Kite and Mark Wiebe.

On a warm, hazy and humid afternoon at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, Simpson took the sole spot atop the leaderboard with his putter, which he needed just 24 times in Saturday’s round. He was particularly sharp later in the round as he one-putted every one of the last 10 greens except Nos. 15 and 18.

Ironically, Simpson missed one of his shortest attempts for birdie by sliding a 2-footer past the cup on No. 8. But after that miscue “my putter really got hot,” he said, “and I putted great the rest of the way in.”

He finished his round with six birdies and, for the second consecutive day, no bogeys. In fact, Simpson has just two bogeys in his last 104 holes, going back to the first round of last week’s four-round tournament in Sunriver, Ore.

Of course, that kind of steady play means he’s also been terrific off the tees and in the fairways.

“If I’m playing well, I’m pretty consistent,” Simpson said. “I’m driving pretty straight and hitting the irons pretty straight. And usually if I’m playing well, I’m not making too many bogeys.”

Saturday’s round briefly harkened memories of a year ago, when seven players went to a playoff after ending in a 54-hole tie. After several holes Saturday, seven golfers were again knotted — Simpson, Edwards, Wiebe, Kite, Lonnie Nielsen, Bruce Vaughan and John Cook — at 6-under.

But at that point Simpson pulled away, playing the second nine holes in 5-under 31.

Simpson, Kite said, “is a streak player. But when he gets it going, he really plays well. To me, he looks like he ought to play really well all the time because he drives it straight, he hits nice irons and he putts pretty good.”

Edwards, meanwhile, followed his first-round 68 with a 67 on Saturday. Like Simpson, he played 18 bogey-free holes.

“I just played well,” said Edwards, who had to withdraw from last year’s Boeing Classic because of an ailing back. “I hit a lot of fairways and made a few birdies, and I didn’t have too many hiccups out there that I had to overcome. It was just a pretty solid round.”

Simpson, he added, “is a pretty steady player, and I would expect him to go out and play pretty well (today). We’re going to have to make a few putts to try to catch up to him.”

Simpson and Edwards will be in today’s final threesome along with Tom Kite, who had a round of six birdies and one bogey for a 5-under 67 and a two-day total of 136.

“It’s hard to complain with a 67,” said the affable Kite, who won this tournament in 2006. “But it was one of those (rounds) that really could’ve been something special. I had some opportunities on the front nine that I let get away and then I had some opportunities on the back that I didn’t take advantage of.

“But it’s nice to be in the hunt,” he said. “And you’re not going to get them all.”

Today’s final round begins at 9 a.m. with the leaders expected to tee off around 11 a.m. After two days of sunshine, there is a chance of rain in today’s forecast.

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