Horschel played the patient game in 3-under 67

By Jason SobelJune 15, 2013, 12:32 am

ARDMORE, Pa. – There is a certain type of player who contends at the annual teeth-gnasher known as the U.S. Open Championship. He looks more relaxed than Fred Couples on a beach vacation. His resting heart rate is barely north of dead. And most importantly, he owns the patience of a kindergarten teacher.

Enter Billy Horschel.

The 26-year-old is a jittery ball of excess energy. He bounds down the fairways like a pre-teen who spit out his ADD medication. You know that old saying, “He makes coffee nervous”? He’s way past that. This guy could wear out a gallon of espresso.

So it stands to reason that the U.S. Open and Horschel would make for a dysfunctional couple.

He even admits it. Earlier this week, prior to the latest edition of the tournament here at Merion Golf Club, Horschel was asked about owning that necessary characteristic. “Obviously,” he said while fidgeting with a club on the practice range, “I don’t have very much patience.”

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What he does have is talent – and plenty of it. He proved it Friday with a second-round 3-under 67 that gave him a share of the clubhouse lead with Phil Mickelson entering the weekend.

But his talent wouldn’t have shown through without some added emphasis on the patience.

“I know it's a big event; I know it's a historical event,” said Horschel, whose 67 followed an opening-round total of 72. “But one thing that me and [sports psychologist] Fran [Pirozzolo] have worked on is limiting the distractions. I get distracted too easily out there on the golf course and off the golf course. So it's more or less just focus on what I do, don't worry about anybody else. Don't worry about the crowd noise. Don't worry about what your playing partners are doing. Just focus on what I'm trying to do.”

That focus resulted in hitting 18 greens in regulation – the first player to accomplish the feat in at least 15 years, according to the USGA, and possibly much longer.

On a course so fondly remembered for Ben Hogan’s ball-striking abilities years ago, Horschel solidified himself as a confident version of the modern-day ball-striker.

“Some of the pins you can take on, and there are some pins if you do take on and you miss, you miss badly. You pay the price for it,” he explained. “I was pretty happy if I hit 20, 25 feet.”

While his round included plenty of ups and not many downs – his lone bogey came on the par-3 13th hole – Horschel tried to keep cool in the burgeoning Philadelphia sunlight.

That’s not easy for a guy who doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeves, but envelops himself in a coat of them.

When he stood outside the scoring trailer after the final round of the Shell Houston Open two months ago, waiting to see if his score would be good enough for a playoff, he swayed back and forth, side to side, barely keeping still before learning that he had lost by a stroke to D.A. Points. When he earned his first career PGA Tour victory four weeks later at the Zurich Classic, he fist-pumped his way around the course for four days, culminating in a winning birdie putt on the last hole.

The U.S. Open, though, is a patient man’s game. Horschel is more than willing to play that game – now he’s showing that he’s able, too.

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“Patience is something that has always been a struggle for me,” he admitted. “I'm doing a really good job of it this week, staying patient and just taking what's in front of me. I'm trying to keep a smile on my face and be happy with anything I do. If I can execute every shot, that's all I can try to do out there this week.”

“You give him stuff and he does it,” said Pirozzolo, who has been working with Horschel since last June. “He should get all the credit for making the changes that he’s made. He just works on stuff he likes, then goes out and does it. He’s fascinated by his training. Too many players are too self-satisfied and scared to death about failure. Billy isn’t that kind of guy.”

It all makes sense. If there’s one tournament each year where the imposing sense of being scared to death about failure circumvents the commitment to winning, it’s the U.S. Open.

Horschel still owns boundless energy. He’s still a bundle of nerves. He’s still not the type of even-keeled flat-liner you’d expect to contend at this tournament.

He’s worked on it, though. And that newfound patience – coupled with ball-striking abilities that even Hogan would have admired – have him on top of the leaderboard entering one of the biggest weekends of the year.

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

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"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."

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Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

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"It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

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Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.

Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.