Horschel's win in New Orleans a long time coming

By Ryan LavnerApril 29, 2013, 12:21 am

AVONDALE, La. – The longest 52 minutes of Billy Horschel’s life were spent mostly in a brown leather chair in the player lounge at TPC Louisiana.

Awkwardly, Horschel and Matt Every – his friend and former teammate at Florida – watched highlights of the final round of the Zurich Classic. He was 278 yards away from clinching his first PGA Tour title – something he guaranteed he would do this season in an on-air interview last December – when play was suspended because of inclement weather.

Chin in his left hand, Horschel poked around on Every’s iPhone, perusing an email of his friend’s new house plans. That distraction complete, he watched the coverage and critiqued each featured shot. Of course, there wasn’t much to complain about – to that point, Horschel had made eight birdies, including a 4-footer on 16 that nudged him one shot ahead of D.A. Points.

Every so often, CBS would cut to a shot of Horschel, watching himself on the 16-inch Sony TV, but on a 22-second delay. “This is my first time on TV this year,” Every cracked.

The weather-plagued final round finally resumed at 5:27 p.m. local time. Horschel was in the left rough on the par-5 18th, with a one-shot lead, with a steady rain falling, with a pond looming to the right if he fanned his first competitive shot in nearly an hour.

An uber-agressive and confident player – more on that later – Horschel instead went the conservative route after an errant drive, laying up with a 9-iron and wedging to 27 feet. It took him but a moment to see the read on his putt. “If this is my time,” he told himself, “then this putt needs to go in.”

The putt found the bottom of the cup – his ninth birdie of the day, for a final-round, 8-under 64 and one-stroke victory at 20-under 268 – and he simply lost it.

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Video: Horschel wins Zurich in dramatic fashion

He furiously pumped his fists, the emotion of three consecutive close calls pouring out. He crouched on the green, hands behind his head, and let the roars overwhelm him. Points, now relegated to a runner-up, applauded from behind the green. As Horschel walked toward the tunnel behind 18, rain-soaked fans threw beads from the grandstands.

“What’s amazing about Billy is that the belief that he’s got in himself. It knocks out the nerves and anxiousness because he believes in himself so much,” said Chris DiMarco, a former Gator and a mentor for Horschel. “He’s that good. Every time I play with him, I don’t know how he’s not winning every week. This is just the beginning.”

This magical run started in Houston, in late March. In the same group as Lee Westwood on the final day, the 26-year-old outplayed the former world No. 1, finished in a tie for second, and then, most importantly, wrapped up his Tour card for next season. Finally, he wouldn’t have to endure the torture chamber known as Q-School. He could play free, more at ease, confidently. Now, he told his peers, it was going to be “Scary Billy.”

Next came San Antonio, where he slept on a two-shot lead after 54 holes. Final-round pressure can have a bizarre effect on players, however, and Horschel admitted to having Jell-O for legs that day. He shot 71 and never was a factor late (T-3).

Another opportunity presented itself two weeks later, in Hilton Head, but on the weekend he played the last two holes in 5 over, eventually finishing T-9.

“I’ve always felt like I was good enough to win out here,” he said. “I just felt like I had to check every box first.”

Throughout the journey Horschel has been genuine and brash, borderline cocky, a human highlight reel of emotion. It was glorious theater.

“It used to be kind of a fake confidence, but now it’s real,” Every said. “You can say that you’re confident and believe in yourself, and the stuff he’s been saying in the media might rub people the wrong way, but he really believes he’s that good.”

Followers of Horschel’s career might notice a pattern. His incredible consistency was reminiscent of his time at Florida, when he seemingly found himself inside the top 10 in every tournament he entered. When he turned pro, the start to his promising career was delayed by a wrist injury that eventually required surgery, a psyche that was too fragile.

But in those college and amateur events, Horschel learned quickly that he liked playing from behind and hunting the leader. The chase narrowed his focus; it sharpened his precision.

And that’s exactly what he faced in the final round here, where he trailed Lucas Glover by two strokes after a Saturday 66.

“This whole week,” Horschel said, “I felt like I’m going to get my first victory here.”

But when play was suspended Sunday for the first time, he found himself one under after six holes and one shot behind. Upon the restart, he ran off six birdies in a row, matching the longest streak on Tour this season, and reached 19 under par.

“He’s not afraid to go low,” said Rickie Fowler, a former Walker Cup teammate of Horschel’s. “He’s not afraid to make birdie.”

That’s fair to say – Horschel has made a Tour-best 220 this season.

None, however, proved bigger than his 27-footer on the 72nd hole, when Points was 4 feet from a playoff. Alas, after Horschel’s dramatics, it was rendered a mere footnote.

Said Fowler, “It’s about damn time. He’s too good of a player not to be out here playing and being in contention.”

Indeed, and Horschel would agree – it was well worth the wait.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

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First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.