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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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.