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Horschel goes for eagle on final hole, settles for bogey


It’s not like Billy Horschel to back away from a challenge. So when he had the opportunity to go for the 18th green in two or lay up in the final round of the Honda Classic Sunday at PGA National, he didn’t think twice.

“I’ll sleep well tonight,” Horschel said after his 3-wood from 252 yards faded right and found the water, resulting in a bogey-6 that proved the difference between second and fourth place.

“I didn’t pull it off this time, but I’m happy I felt confident enough to hit the shot, because there are a lot of guys who would have laid up and tried for birdie. I had to have eagle. I went for the win.”

The former Florida Gator and the Honda had a difficult relationship until last year, with three missed cuts and a 46th-place finish in his first four visits. Last year, he finished eighth, meaning he now has back-to-back top 10s.

“I’m just a smarter player,” he said. “I haven’t hit it well here in the past. I’ve hit shots I shouldn’t hit instead of being smart. And I’m telling you, the second and third rounds I missed so many putts that should have gone in. I could have shot 7-under both days. There’s a lot of good I’m doing.”

Horschel’s world ranking climbed to as high as No. 13 when he won the last two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2014, but is now at No. 75. With only a handful of weeks left before the Masters in April, he needs to either win or climb into the top 50 to avoid missing the year’s first major for the first time in four years.

“I’m going to Tampa in a couple weeks, and that course fits my game very well,” he said. “Then I’ll go to Bay Hill, where I’ve had some success - not a top-10 yet but well enough to contend. So I feel like my Masters bid is … I’ll get it.”

One tournament he’s decided to skip is this week’s World Golf Championship event in Mexico City, an event formerly held at Doral but moved when Cadillac pulled out of its sponsorship. Players are being cautioned about safety, an issue that, without coming out and saying it, clearly has Horschel concerned.

“I know they’ve said it’s safe, and we’re fine,” he said. “I just didn’t want to go this time. Some guys don’t go to China, I didn’t want to go to Mexico. I’ve been to Mexico before; I love Cancun. It’s a first-year event and I want to see how it goes.”

Horschel already would be in the Masters field had he won the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Ga., last November. He was among five players in a five-man playoff and had a birdie putt to win on the first playoff hole. He missed that, then a 2-footer for par and was knocked out; Canadian McKenzie Hughes wound up winning with a par on the third playoff hole.

“That would have secured my spot right there,” he said.

He’s played only five events since and done no better than a 24th at Phoenix. But now that he’s back in Florida he feels his game has come around.

“Now I’m ready to kick off my year,” he said. “I’m back to where I feel comfortable: On the East Coast, playing Bermuda greens, Bermuda rough, rye grass, whatever. I’m used to this stuff and I’m excited about the process going forward.”

Always a fan favorite, Horschel said he heard more than his share of “Go Gators” shouts during the past week.

“Always,” he said. “West Palm is a great area; South Florida is a big ‘go Gator’ fan base. I enjoy being here. You hear a couple ‘Go Noles’ and that, but it’s fine.

“I enjoy the fans here. They have a lot of excitement, they enjoy good golf, they support the tournament really well. Everyone is really happy that this tournament keeps building and building.”



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