Horschel's run ends with Tour Champ. win, FedEx Cup

By Doug FergusonSeptember 14, 2014, 10:09 pm

ATLANTA – Billy Horschel capped off the best three weeks of his career with the biggest payoff in golf.

Horschel pulled away from a self-destructing Rory McIlroy early, and then holed two clutch putts that felt like $10 million to hold off Jim Furyk on the back nine at East Lake. He closed with a 2-under 68 for a three-shot victory in the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup.

Horschel's career earnings were just over $4.5 million coming into the year.

He collected $11.4 million in one day - most of that the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus - with an incomparable run through the playoffs.

The 27-year-old from Florida was runner-up in Boston, a winner in Denver and he cashed in big in Atlanta. Horschel was No. 69 when the playoffs began a month ago. No one had ever won the FedEx Cup starting lower than No. 19.

He epitomized what these playoffs offered - one month for anyone to get a hot hand. Horschel shot in the 60s his last 12 rounds.

''He was clutch when he needed to be,'' McIlroy said. ''He played the best golf this week and I'm happy for him.''


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The only boos Horschel heard all day was doing the Gator chomp walking off the 18th green before a host of Georgia fans.

The timing was great for Horschel - not so much for the American team going over to the Ryder Cup in two weeks. U.S. captain Tom Watson made his three picks after Horschel's runner-up finish in the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Now the hottest hand in golf - he should move up to No. 14 in the world - will be watching from home. Horschel figures to be plenty occupied. His wife is expecting their first child, a girl, in two weeks.

Furyk closed with two bogeys for a 69 and his fourth runner-up finish this year. He has not won since the Tour Championship four years ago. McIlroy never recovered from three straight bogeys around the turn, and three late birdies only helped him pick up some FedEx Cup cash. He closed with a 71 and wound up No. 3 in the FedEx Cup, which is worth an additional $2 million.

Chris Kirk, who started the Tour Championship atop the FedEx Cup standings, closed with a 68 and tied for fourth with Justin Rose (69) and Jason Day (69). Kirk wound up second in the FedEx Cup and earned a $3 million bonus.

Horschel finished at 11-under 269.

McIlroy will have to settle for a season worth more than $10 million - two major championships and the undisputed No. 1 player in golf. Whatever hopes he had of his first FedEx Cup ended early. He hooked his tee shot into the water on the par-3 fifth and made double bogey to fall three shots behind.

Needing to start picking up ground on the 600-yard ninth hole, he blasted his drive so far right that it wound up a foot away from the out-of-bounds fence of the practice range. There was no way out. With his caddie and a rules official ducking in the holly bushes, McIlroy slashed out with a wedge over the bushes and through a gap in the trees that only he saw. Next, he had a mobile TV truck lowered to ground level to get his third into the fairway. But his wedge came up short, and he made bogey.

Two more bogeys later, including another three-putt at the 10th, he was five shots behind and out of the mix.

By then, it was a two-man race between Horschel and Furyk.

Horschel won by not losing. He raced a 50-foot putt nearly 8 feet by the hole on the 13th, and calmly sank the par putt to keep a one-shot lead. Furyk, playing in the group ahead of Horschel, got up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 15th to tie for the lead, only for Horschel to get up-and-down from a bunker to regain it.

The key moment came at the 16th, where Horschel drove into the trees, pitched out to the fairway and came up about 30 feet short on his third shot. Right when it looked as if he might blink first, Horschel drained the par putt to stay in front.

Ahead of him, Furyk came up well short of the 17th green and missed a 12-foot par putt. Horschel was already on the 18th tee when he watched Furyk three-putt the par-3 18th hole for another bogey. He put another shot in the middle of the green, taking away all the drama from the finish.

Not that it mattered to him.

Horschel is young enough - this is only fourth full year on the PGA Tour - that $10 million still matters. He conceded on Saturday that it would be hard not to think about it. Along with the bonus ($9 million in cash), Horschel gets a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour.

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?