Horschel credits short game for Zurich win

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Following six consecutive rounds under par at last fall’s Q-School, Billy Horschel was clearly pleased with his game and another opportunity to play the PGA Tour. From that moment of competitive clarity, however, came an avalanche of confidence that didn’t exactly dovetail with his resume.

“I’m going to win next year (2013), no doubt about it,” Horschel told Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz in December at PGA West.

In two seasons on Tour, Horschel had missed 16 cuts and in 17 events in 2012 he wasn’t among the top 140 in earners at any point in the season. But the Florida native had no doubt he could deliver on his bold prediction, and on Sunday in his 12th start of the year he closed with two birdies over his last three holes to win the Zurich Classic by a stroke.

“I felt like I was the best player at Q-School last year. I wasn’t down about it. I was embracing the situation. If I did my thing I would get through easily and that just built my confidence,” said Horschel, who tied for fourth at Q-School. “I took what I learned from Q-School. I wanted to back up that comment and not look like an idiot if I didn’t do it.”

Horschel said the turnaround has been largely the result of improved wedge play, which he and swing coach Todd Anderson focused on following last year’s Q-School, and a slight adjustment to his putting.

Horschel – who finished T-2 (Shell Houston Open), T-2 (Valero Texas Open), T-9 (RBC Heritage) and first (Zurich Classic) in his last four starts – switched to a new putter with a slightly different neck that allows him to maintain better posture over the ball.

“The only difference between yesterday and the three weeks where I had top 10s before is that I didn’t make bad mistakes. I got the ball up and down when I should have,” he said.  “(Anderson) and I talked about it after Hilton Head. He said, ‘You need to clean it up a little more and when you clean it up you’re going to win.’”

Horschel celebrated his victory with another former University of Florida player, Chris DiMarco, at Harrah’s in New Orleans’ French Quarter, complete with a few hands of blackjack, before flying home to Jacksonville, Fla., after just two hours of sleep.

He won’t have far to go for his next Tour stop. Horschel’s victory qualified him for next week’s Players Championship on a course he’s played “quite a bit.” In fact, given his play on Pete Dye-designed courses the last two weeks (Harbour Town Golf Links and TPC Louisiana) he may be headed toward his second Tour title.

Maybe Horschel wasn’t bold enough last year at Q-School.