Horschel wins BMW Championship by 2

By Associated PressSeptember 7, 2014, 10:27 pm

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. - The bad swing a week ago is a distant memory. The blown lead Sunday - that wasn't enough to derail Billy Horschel, either.

Horschel let a three-shot lead drop to nothing early in the final round of the BMW Championship before rebounding for a two-stroke victory over Bubba Watson. Horschel shot a 1-under 69 and finished at 14-under 266 to put himself in prime position for the FedEx Cup title and its $10 million bonus at the Tour Championship next week.

''If I were a betting man, I'd put some money on me,'' said Horschel, who made $1.44 million for his second career PGA Tour victory.

Horschel heads into the final week of the playoff chase in second place in the points standings thanks to the victory and his tie for second a week ago - when he chunked a 6-iron well short on the final hole at TPC Boston, squandering a chance to win or force extra holes with playoff leader Chris Kirk.

This time, nursing a two-shot lead, the 27-year-old from Grant, Florida, smoothed a 9-iron into the middle of the 18th green and the only drama was whether he'd have time for a quick pit stop before he had to putt. Horschel sprinted up the fairway, ducked under the ropes and was back in plenty of time to two-putt and close out the victory.

''Obviously, after last week, a lot of people on Twitter were calling me a choker,'' Horschel said. ''I didn't choke. I made one bad swing at a bad time. To start with a three-shot lead today and hold on means a lot.''


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About an hour earlier, it was another chunked shot that drastically altered the course of the tournament.

Ryan Palmer erased his opening three-shot deficit to Horschel and was tied after six holes, then again after 11.

Palmer was one behind as the final threesome walked down the 13th fairway, with Horschel buried in the right rough and Palmer buried in the left. Horschel hit his second shot safely on the green. Palmer shanked his into a small creek that runs in front of the green. He made double bogey to fall three behind.

''A shank? (Doesn't happen) very often,'' Palmer said. ''But I'm doing with the downhill, down in the rough, I'm blaming it on that. But it happens. It's a fickle game.''

That left Sergio Garcia, who cut a seven-shot deficit to two, as the last true threat, but his chance imploded on the par-5 17th - when he laid up, cooked his third shot over the green, then chipped into the water. He made a triple-bogey 8 - sullying a round of 67. He finished at 9 under, tied for fourth with Palmer (71), Rickie Fowler (68) and Jim Furyk (66).

''It's what happens when you're not mentally sharp,'' Garcia said about the decision not to go for the green in two. ''Then, just a mistake after another mistake.''

Horschel said losing the lead early didn't bother him much.

''That's why you have a three-shot lead. To have a little wiggle room,'' he said.

Unlike Palmer and Garcia, Watson, who shot 66, never truly threatened to take the lead, but he didn't blow up, either. He missed a 25-foot birdie putt on 18 that would've drawn him within one of Horschel, who was behind him in the fairway.

But Watson didn't make much all week. He finished 42nd in putting over four rounds. Still, he'll go to Atlanta third in the standings, joining Kirk, Horschel, Rory McIlroy and Hunter Mahan among the top five, all of whom control their destiny - meaning a win will give them the playoff title, as well.

''Maybe that's when I make my putts,'' Watson said.

Palmer's fourth-place finish moved him from 37th to 23rd in the standings.

But outside of Horschel, Sunday's biggest winner was third-place finisher Morgan Hoffman, who turned the old-school, mile-high layout at Cherry Hills into his personal pitch and putt over the weekend. He shot 7-under 63 on Sunday to go with his course-record 62 on Saturday and vaulted from 68th to 21st in the standings. He started the playoffs 124th, matching the worst starting ranking to make the 30-player Tour Championship in the eight-year history of the playoffs.

''That's the perfect way of putting it - 'nothing to lose,''' Hoffman said. ''Carefree and just go out and fire at pins.''

McIlroy finished tied for eighth after a 66 that included a replay of the worst kind - a four-putt on the 12th green for the second straight day. Still, he's comfortably in the mix for next week.

Not so for Stuart Appleby, who missed an 18-foot birdie try on his last hole to end up in 31st. And Keegan Bradley's decision to withdraw Saturday because of a question over a drop he took in the opening round left him in 33rd, a five-spot drop.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.