Horschel prevails as McIlroy and Garcia burn out
Post by Sports Writer, Derek Clements
THIS great game that we all love has no respect for reputations. Just ask Rory McIlroy.
The world No1 missed the green on the par-three 12th hole at Cherry Hills in the third round of the BMW Championship, pitched on and, unbelievably, four-putted from no more than six feet for a triple bogey that derailed his challenge for the title - or so we thought.
The Northern Irishman tweeted that he was happy we had all enjoyed witnessing his misfortune. And then he went out in the final round and raced to the turn in just 30 shots. He was never going to win, but for a while it looked like he might be mounting a serious challenge for second or third place.
And then the 25-year-old came to the 12th hole. The same 12th hole. This time he found the green with his tee shot. He had a 20-foot downhill putt for a birdie to move him to nine under par and ran it four feet by. His second putt didn't even touch the hole as it ran three feet beyond the cup. Putt number three caught the edge of the hole and finished almost six feet away. But McIlroy wasn't looking. He leant against his putter, shook his head and stood there for several seconds before, thankfully, holing his fourth putt for a double bogey. To his credit, he picked up two birdies to finish with a 66.
It is not the first time that McIlroy has had problems on a par three 12th hole. During his meltdown at The Masters in 2011, he struck a perfect tee-shot to the 12th and walked off the green with a five.
Despite his rollercoaster ride at the BMW, McIlroy moves to the Tour Championship at East Lake with a great chance of walking away with the $10m bonus that goes to the FedEx Cup champion. An initial field of 125 has now been whittled down to just 30, almost all of whom can claim the ultimate prize.
Billy Horschel, who saw a three-shot lead disappear in the final round of the BMW, held on to win - laying to rest his failure to win the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston when a poor iron shot handed victory to Chris Kirk.
This time it was down to Horschel's rivals to throw it away - Ryan Palmer saw his chance go west at the 13th, when he shanked a shot from the rough into a creek. And Sergio Garcia watched his chances disappear at the par-five 17th. He laid up, put his third shot over the green and then chipped into the water. The Spaniard made a triple-bogey eight and finished at nine under, tied for fourth with Palmer, Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk.
''It's what happens when you're not mentally sharp,'' Garcia said about the decision not to go for the green in two. ''Then, just a mistake after another mistake.''
Bubba Watson finished two behind Horschel but, in truth, never really challenged for the lead.
''If I were a betting man, I'd put some money on me [for the FedEx title],'' said Horschel. ''Obviously, after last week, a lot of people on Twitter were calling me a choker. ''I didn't choke. I made one bad swing at a bad time. To start with a three-shot lead today and hold on means a lot."
Horschel said losing the lead early didn't bother him much. "That's why you have a three-shot lead. To have a little wiggle room,'' he said.
Despite winning the BMW and finishing second in Boston, Horschel lies second in the standings behind Kirk. Watson is third, McIlroy fourth and Hunter Mahan fifth. If any of those players win at East Lake they are guaranteed the big bucks.
Palmer's fourth-place finish moved him from 37th to 23rd in the standings. Morgan Hoffman, who was third, shot a 63 on Sunday to go with his course-record 62 on Saturday and vaulted from 68th to 21st in the standings. He started the playoffs 124th, matching the worst starting ranking to make the 30-player Tour Championship in the eight-year history of the playoffs.
''That's the perfect way of putting it - 'nothing to lose,''' Hoffman said. ''Carefree and just go out and fire at pins.
Derek Clements is a sports journalist with a particular passion for golf with over 12 years of experience covering golf and other sports including Chief Sub-Editor on the sports desk of The Sunday Times. To contact Derek email direct via [email protected]
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