Horschel cashes in with Tour Championship win

By Rex HoggardSeptember 15, 2014, 12:10 am

ATLANTA – Remember that 6-iron?

You know, the one that laid sod over Billy Horschel’s second shot on the 72nd hole at the Deutsche Bank Championship three weeks ago and sent social media into a frenzy?

Well, on Sunday at the Tour Championship that same maligned 6-iron, along with the 13 other more non-descript implements in his bag, helped lift the outspoken Horschel to the Tour Championship title, the FedEx Cup crown and an $11.4 million payday that just a month ago seemed unlikely for anyone outside of his inner circle.

Horschel has now lost a U.S. Open wearing octopus pants and won the PGA Tour’s season-long race wearing your grandmother’s drapes.

Call it “Billy Ho Golf,” complete with a clutch 30 footer on East Lake’s 16th hole for par under gloomy skies to turn the final march, and the mathematical madness that normally defines the season finale, into a Sunday stroll.

There were the occasional awkward moments like when officials explained to Chris Kirk, the points leader coming into the Tour Championship who finished second in the season-long race, that he needed Horschel to finish in a tie for second place to claim the FedEx Cup, but when the eventual champion arrived at the 18th tee with a three-stroke lead the checks were already being printed.

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Not bad for a guy who slipped to 82nd on the point list after missing the cut in the post-season opener in New Jersey. From there, however, he was nearly unstoppable, finishing tied for second to Kirk at TPC Boston after that infamous 6-iron found the hazard at the last, and then swept the rest of his starts with victories at the BMW Championship and East Lake.

It was a signature victory for Horschel, who has struggled to contain his emotions in the past. Particularly considering that he set out on Sunday tied with McIlroy for the lead and the GDP of a small nation hanging in the balance.

But with each round the normally excitable Horschel played the role of a flat-liner, oblivious to the ubiquitous leaderboards and the endless collection of FedEx Cup scenarios that dotted East Lake as well as the mounting pressure of playing for a $1.4 million winner’s check and $10 million FedEx Cup bonus cash.

“I woke up this morning and had this sense of calm over me, which is unusual,” said Horschel, who closed with a 68 for a three-stroke victory over Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy.

That sense of self likely built when he birdied Nos. 4 and 5 to maintain his advantage, but a bogey at the 10th hole dropped him to 10 under, and when Furyk birdied the 15th hole the two were tied atop the year’s final leaderboard.

The lone moment of suspense came when Horschel fanned his drive right of the 16th hole, and he was forced to punch out. The traditional buzz that grips the finale each year on Sunday ignited.

Among the litany of potential outcomes the most surreal involved Rickie Fowler, who would have created a nuclear scenario of a playoff for the title and a separate overtime for the FedEx Cup, when he pulled to within a stroke of the lead early, but he rinsed his tee shot at the sixth and finished his top-5 year with a rare eighth-place finish.

Less than 10 minutes later McIlroy’s magical season essentially ended when his 5-iron found the depths on the same hole to drop the Northern Irishman three strokes out of the lead, and his pursuit of the one thing in professional golf, other than a Masters’ title, that has eluded him.

“I really wanted to win. I really wanted to cap this year off well, even though it's still been a great year,” said McIlroy, who closed with a 71 and finished the year third on the FedEx Cup point list. “You know, I was coming in here with really high hopes and expectations, and I haven't quite been able to play the golf to live up to those.”

Maybe the U.S. team does have a chance later this month at the Ryder Cup if McIlroy drives the ball at Gleneagles like he did on Sunday at East Lake, but don’t count on it.

Of course, Tom Watson may also be wishing he’d have saved one of those captain’s exemptions for Horschel. Over the course of the playoffs “Billy Ho” outplayed the three U.S. picks – Keegan Bradley (who didn’t qualify for the Tour Championship), Webb Simpson and Hunter Mahan – by a combined 37 strokes.

Or maybe Paul Azinger should have sent “Cracking the Code,” his tome to the victorious 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team, to Captain Tom.

But that’s not a concern for Horschel, whose scrambling par at the 16th hole gave him a one-stroke cushion followed by back-to-back bogeys for Furyk to close his round and set the stage for the anti-climactic finish.

“Billy was out ahead all day, and I just couldn’t case him down,” said Furyk, who won the 2010 Tour Championship and FedEx Cup.

For a player who had endured a self-described pedestrian year, before the post-season Horschel had just two top-10 finishes and told his wife just three weeks ago he couldn’t wait for the 2013-14 season to be over, it was the ultimate Cinderella playoff tale.

That a player whose mind has a tendency to race ahead closed out the event with so much on the line only made it that much more compelling.

“Every night I’d send him a text, ‘Holes 1 through 18 are done. Same plan for holes 19 through 36, then 37 through 54 and so on. You have to keep the same mind set,” said Horschel’s swing coach Todd Anderson, the first to coach two separate players to the FedEx Cup crown (Brandt Snedeker, 2012). “(Horschel) can get broad picture really, really quickly.”

As for that much-maligned 6-iron and the fallout from his Boston letdown.

“I’m not afraid of what people say,” said Horschel, whose wife, Brittany, is due with the couple’s first child in two weeks. “Maybe it gives me a little chip I can prove people wrong and that I have what it takes to get the job done.”

Point made.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.