Horschel sticks it to his critics with BMW win

By Randall MellSeptember 8, 2014, 12:01 am

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. – There was no demon memory to slay coming down the stretch.

There was no residual fear to conquer going to the 18th tee.

Billy Horschel didn’t require a therapist to mend a scarred psyche before winning the BMW Championship on Sunday at Cherry Hills Country Club.

Horschel, 27, told us all week that the nervy, chunky 6-iron that ruined his chance to win at the end of Deutsche Bank Championship Monday wasn’t haunting him here, and he meant it.

“It was just a bad swing at the wrong time,” Horschel kept saying almost as a mantra. “I’m a guy who doesn’t dwell on stuff. I let things roll off my shoulders.”

Horschel’s hot putter might have been a formidable tool in helping him rebound from last week’s disappointment and win the third leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs, but his considerable belief in himself is what won his second PGA Tour title. He bulldozed away any doubt, fear or uncertainty that lay in his path coming home this time.

He won in the face of all the critics who blasted him for “choking” in Boston.

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“That doesn't affect me, but I just like to stick it to them,” Horschel said. “It was nice to get that victory and stick it to some of those people that had some negative comments for me on Twitter. I don't mind it. You want to keep saying negative things to me, that just adds fuel to my fire. I'm just going to stick it to you every time.”

The only uncertainty looming over Horschel coming up the 18th fairway on this Sunday was whether he was going to make it back to the course after inexplicably sprinting outside the ropes and disappearing into the gallery after he hit his final approach shot onto the 18th green.

“I had to go to the bathroom,” Horschel said. “I had been holding it for way too many holes, and I just felt like, I can sort of relax now. Let’s just go ahead and go to the bathroom before I can't go.”

With a 1-under-par 69, Horschel held off stunted charges from Sergio Garcia and Ryan Palmer to take home $1,444,000. The big check will come in handy with he and his wife, Brittany, expecting their first child later this month.

At 14-under 266, Horschel finished two shots in front of Bubba Watson (66) and three ahead of Morgan Hoffmann (63).

Horschel says he thrives as a momentum player. He’ll be looking to take the momentum of this victory beyond Atlanta and the FedEx Cup playoff finale.

“Hopefully, this win will give me some more added confidence, and shoot me up there into an upper-echelon player, where I want to be,” Horschel said. “I want to be where the Rory McIlroys are, the Tigers are, the Phil Mickelsons, the Bubba Watsons, the guys that are winning majors. I want to be there. I want to compete with them on a Sunday at a major, go head to head with them.”

Horschel closed out at the BMW Championship with no remnant of his failed shot in Boston visible. He made a cool, sure pass with his 9-iron at the 18th, setting up his two-putt for the biggest win of his career. He said he was proud that he held off his challengers despite less than his best ball striking. He won playing mistake-free when it mattered most, closing with 11 consecutive pars.

“I didn't have my great stuff,” Horschel said. “I was able to grind something out.”

With this title and last week’s T-2 finish, Horschel heads to Atlanta in prime position to take home the $10 million FedEx Cup jackpot. Just two weeks ago, he was wallowing at 82nd in the playoff points standing, but he will tee it up at East Lake No. 2 in the standings, trailing only Chris Kirk.

The top five in FedEx Cup points are the only players among the 29 headed to Atlanta who are assured they’ll win the FedEx Cup by winning the Tour Championship.

Horschel took a three-shot lead into the final round at Cherry Hills, but it was gone over the first six holes. Palmer came out bombing big drives into position to help him attack flagsticks with three birdies over the first six holes.

Coming down the stretch this time, it was Horschel who watched his challengers fade.

After failing to get up and down at the 12th, Palmer’s bogey there dropped him a shot back of Horschel. At the 13th hole, Palmer hit an uncharacteristic shank out of the rough and into a hazard to make double bogey.

“Probably the worst swing of the day,” Palmer said. “I don’t know what happened. I thought I had a decent lie.”

Palmer’s consolation is his tie for fourth helped him crack the top 30 in FedEx Cup points, earning him a spot in next week’s Tour Championship. He and Hoffman were the only players who cracked the top 30 this week, with Keegan Bradley and Stuart Appleby getting bumped out.

Seven shots back at day’s start, Garcia charged spectacularly, holing a pitch from 35 yards for eagle at the seventh, getting within two shots of Horschel before making triple bogey at the 17th. After hitting a wedge to the back of that green, Garcia hit a chip too hard, through the green and into the hazard in front of the green.

“It’s really disappointing,” Garcia said. “It’s what happens when you’re not mentally sharp.”

Though Watson was mounting a run of his own, he never got closer than two shots. He missed a birdie chance from 24 feet at the last that might have put some pressure on Horschel behind him.

“I hit a pretty good iron in there and had a chance to scare him,” Watson said.

Hoffmann is becoming one of the intriguing stories of these playoffs. He started the playoffs No. 124 in points. With a course-record 62 on Saturday and his 63 Sunday, he is going to Atlanta for the first time, ranking 21st in FedEx Cup points.

“It means the world to me,” Hoffmann said. “Since the beginning of the season, I’ve had a goal of going to Atlanta. Coming into the weekend, I knew I had to go low.”

Horschel prevailed with a hot putter and guts. He was 100th in strokes gained putting for the season coming to Cherry Hills, but he was first this week. He tied for second in hitting greens in regulation and was fifth in scrambling.

“It means a lot to win in the FedEx Cup playoffs, because it’s amplified 10 times,” Horschel said.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.