Simpson, with heavy heart, in 3-way tie for lead
Dustin Johnson watches his putt on the second green during the third round of the Tournament of Champions golf tournament, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Webb Simpson might have pulled out of the Tournament of Champions to be with his caddie if he were not on an island in the middle of the Pacific.
Reassurance came from Paul Tesori, his caddie and close friend whose newborn son is in intensive care in a Florida hospital.
"Paul sent me a text this morning, just told me he loved me and wanted to go out and fight as hard as I would any other day," Simpson said Sunday after doing just that.
Simpson made four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine at Kapalua for a 5-under 68, giving him a share of the lead with defending champion Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth going into the final round Monday on the Plantation Course.
On a glorious day of sun and surf, Simpson played with a heavy heart.
His caddie and friend, Paul Tesori, was in a hospital in Florida with newborn son Isaiah in intensive care. Simpson said the child suffered a seizure shortly after he was born with indications of an infection in his brain. One of Tesori's best friends in the business is Ted Scott, the caddie for Bubba Watson, who is filling in this week as Simpson's caddie. Tesori tweeted that he tuned into the telecast at Kapalua in time to see his son's name on Scott's hat.
"I felt like we were out there playing for Isaiah," Simpson said. "Paul needs something to watch there in the hospital. It's been a long few days, so hopefully, we gave him something good to see on TV. But it was tough. I was thinking about him a lot out there."
Winning on Monday won't be easy.
As Webb Simpson watches, right, Michael Thompson drives off the first tee during the third round of the Tournament of Champions golf tournament, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
Simpson was the first to reach 14-under 205, thanks to a terrific par save on the 17th and a long two-putt par on the 18th hole, a par 5 with a front hole location that made it difficult to get close because the green and the grain move sharply away.
Spieth, the 20-year-old Texan who looks just as good as he did during a sensational rookie season, got back into the mix with a tough birdie on the par-3 eighth and capped off a 69 with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th and a long two-putt for par on the 18th.
Spieth won the John Deere Classic last year. This is his first time with at least a share of the 54-hole lead.
"This is a new position for me," Spieth said. "I've never slept on a 54-hole lead. I'm excited about it and it's going to be a fun time tomorrow to get to play with Webb for the third time this week."