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.
“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.