Backspin: Horschel's climb back continues

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April 01, 2013
Brian Wacker,

Billy Horschel’s cuts-made streak is now at 20, the longest on the PGA TOUR. But more importantly, he’s starting to deliver on the type of promise he showed coming out of the University of Florida, where he was a three-time first-team All-American and the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year in 2007 and 2009.

The road hasn’t been easy.

In 2010 Horschel hurt his wrist, which required surgery, and most of his rookie season was lost.

Things didn’t go much better in 2011 with Horschel missing more cuts, 14, than he made, 11. He ended up at q-school and flamed out, finishing 103rd.

The following season he was back at q-school after splitting time between the Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR. This time, though, there was a swagger about him. After a promising fall, he arrived at PGA West confident he would get his card back. He finished fourth.

It was an important result given the shorter season this year, and his start to 2013 has been has been just as critical if not impressive.

With nearly $1 million in earnings as the calendar hits April, Horschel’s card is all but secure for next season, too.

"I'm trying to do a better job of staying composed and not rushing when things go a little sideways," Horschel said.

An example of that came Saturday when he was 3 over after four holes. Instead of letting the frustration build upon itself, Horschel made eight birdies and shot 67.

He followed with a 66 on Sunday, making just one bogey all afternoon, and led the field in strokes gained-putting for the week.

The only thing missing now is a win.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“I thought maybe I’ll pull this old putter out of the garage and maybe it will have some magic in it.” -- D.A. Points on playing in Houston using his mom’s Ping Anser putter from the 1980s.

“Little bits and pieces of being in contention and performing fairly well under the gun when time is expiring. When you're not in that position for a while, you kind of forget what it feels like when the juices really flow. Sometimes you kind of tend to think that you wonder if I could do it again. It's good to see some performance during those stages when you're nervous and excited and amped up and still see some good shots some good putts.” -- Stewart Cink, who was tied for the lead going into the final round in Houston and finished sixth. Cink hasn’t won since the 2009 British Open.

“When I’m playing my best, golf becomes kind of a reactionary sport where I’m looking at the target, I see the shot and just swing.” -- Phil Mickelson, who tied for 16th in Houston after weekend rounds of 67 and 68.

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

@JasonDufner: What can I say, I was tired, my back hurt from sitting on the floor, and we were talking about relaxation and focusing. #dufnering -- Jason Dufner after the photo of him “dufnering” went viral late last week.

@AndyRoddick: My dog is #dufnering -- Proof that dufnering isn’t limited to just humans: http://img.ly/tOZq

THE BACK NINE: 9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. D.A. Points had never met Brian White before,
but when you’re 173rd in strokes gained-putting, you’ll try anything. Chris Stroud told Points that the Lamar golf coach and putting guru was in town and that he could give him an hour on Wednesday morning. Points said sure, and White pushed his flight back. Points, who was adding too much loft and releasing the club too early in his stroke, went on to rank fourth in the field in distance of putts made and 10th in strokes gained-putting. “He sent me a text and said, ‘You can just pay for my change fee and that will be payment enough for the lesson,’” Points said. “I probably should kick him a little more than that.”

2. How badly does Rory McIlroy need to play competitively right now? “If it was a par 3 course, I would go and play it just because that's what I need,” McIlroy said of his last-minute decision to add this week’s Valero Texas Open to his schedule. “I need competitive golf and I need committing to targets, and it doesn't matter if it's a short course or long course or wide course or whatever. As long as I have that and I have a scorecard in my hand, that's what I need.”

3. Pretty telling stuff from McIlroy in terms of where he’s at with the year’s first major around the corner. As for his game, it’s coming along but not as quickly as he’d like. “I just made too many silly mistakes this week,” he said after barely making the cut then tying for 45th in Houston. In terms of where he needs to get better? “I'd say course management is a big thing, not short-siding yourself, hitting to the fat of the greens when you need to, giving yourself a bit more margin for errors,” he said. “Limit mistakes like making bogies from the middle of the fairway.”

4. Marcel Siem did his part, winning the Hassan II Trophy, but so did Henrik Stenson, finishing second in Houston. As a result, Stenson moved from 53rd to 42nd the Official World Golf Ranking to secure a spot in the Masters field and prevented Siem -- now 51st -- from earning a bid.

5. Charles Howell III, on the other hand, won’t be going to the Masters. Despite a strong start to his season that included a pair of top-3 finishes to open the year, the Augusta, Ga., native climbed to just 54th in the world, meaning he’ll miss the year’s first major for the fourth time in the last five years. “I'm not going to go down the road of disappointment,” Howell said Sunday. “I played good. I would love to be in the golf tournament, so would 300 million other golfers. I played well this year and, you know, I'm going to watch the tournament on TV. It's just horrible to watch on TV, to be honest.”

6. What kind of odds does Points have at the Masters? Well, nine Shell Houston Open winners have won a total of 17 Green Jackets. Phil Mickelson was the last to do it, winning in Houston in 2011, though that came after his three Masters wins in 2004, 2006 and 2010. Gary Player is the only one to have won the Shell Houston Open and the Masters in the same year (1978).

7. Stat of the Week I: Points’ season so far: 10 starts, three made cuts, one win, one top 10, one top 25. In other words, feast or famine. “That's just kind of how things are for me,” said Points, who last year lost in a playoff at Quail Hollow then missed six of seven cuts the following month. “The thing about it is, I never count myself out. I never just chalk it up, like, oh, this year is over with. I was just grinding, just trying to wait and try to find that one thing that was like, boom, there it is and there I go.”

8. Stat of the Week II: The third-round leader has now won nine of 11 times this season, including in four of the last five events, on TOUR. Last season, just 15 of 43 third-round leaders went on to win.

9. Stat of the Week III: I’ve mentioned this one before, but the streak is now at 14 in a row for Americans winning on the TOUR this season, surpassing the run of 13 straight winners from the U.S. in 1989.

MONDAY BACKSPIN MAILBAG
mail

Justin Rose and Tiger Woods each win a tournament in the next four weeks. You agree? -- Michael Smyth

I think one of them will win, and the one I think will win is the same guy I’ve thought since the beginning of the year would win the Masters: Tiger Woods. But I also think Rose could be in contention at Augusta. His putting has come a long way and his ball-striking and driving has never really been a problem there.

I like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar at the Masters. I won’t touch Rory McIlroy for a while. What do you think? -- Darren Greene

All good choices given their history there. And I agree with you in terms of McIlroy. He’s still getting adjusted to his equipment and working out a few issues with his swing, neither of which is very comforting going to Augusta National.

Have a question for the mailbag? Email your question to brianwacker@pgatourhq.com, or tweet it to @pgatour_brianw.

FORWARD SPIN: WHO I LIKE THIS WEEK
Valero-88

What can players expect this week at the Valero Texas Open? Phil Mickelson summed it up perhaps the best a couple of weeks ago, saying the course is tight, windy and extremely difficult. In other words, not typically conditions players are faced with at Augusta National. Still, Rory McIlroy will be there trying to get in as many reps as possible. But the point is, whoever wins at TPC San Antonio deserves it given the fact it is annually one of the toughest tracks year after year. Ben Curtis is the defending champion, but only three players have successfully defended in this tournament. Instead, I like Louis Oosthuizen’s chances

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