Billy Horschel keeps the shaft in line with his lead forearm during the initial backswing. (Cohen/Getty Images)
By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, PGA TOUR Academy
One of the more underrated golf swings on the PGA TOUR is Billy Horschel’s. This is the golf swing that has so many good components, from very sound body movements to an efficient use of his arms and hands. All year, Billy has treated us to not only some great swings but some solid golf, and this week at the Zurich Classic, he got that first PGA TOUR win.
One of the things that lead to great consistency and power during Horschel’s swing is how he keeps the club shaft in line with the lead forearm during the initial backswing. The initial backswing is measured from address to when the club shaft reaches parallel to the ground (halfway back). During this period of the backswing, Billy does a great job of keeping the club shaft in line with the lead forearm. This relationship is a key one that so many amateurs can learn from.
One of the most common errors during the initial backswing is this relationship quickly comes out of line. When this occurs, the lead hand goes into a bowed position allowing the hands to move away from the body and the club head to move quickly behind the hands. This very common mistake can be a major problem in the progression of golf swings because not only is the club shaft immediately off plane, but the body almost always doesn’t turn to its capability. As a result, the body, arms and hands are always trying to overcome this error on the downswing to manufacturer a descent impact position.
The benefit of keeping the club shaft in line with the lead forearm is it allows the hands to stay closer to the body and the club head to work up the plane. Often times when learning this, amateurs will feel as if the hands are “in” and the club head is more “out”. Although this can feel very different at first, it is the correct relationship and direction for so many golfers.
Once achieved, you will feel a more efficient shoulder turn during the backswing and the ability to get the club head back to the inside on the downswing. As a result, a good impact can be achieved more instinctively like Billy Horschel.
Travis Fulton is the Director of Instruction at the TOUR Academies at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village. For more information on the TOUR Academy, click here.
Billy Horschel remained composed with his swing and demeanor in New Orleans. (Revere/Getty Images)
By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
N’awlins, The Big Easy, The Crescent City, NOLA … New Orleans has many nicknames, but it has one identity: A vibrant city with a distinctive culture of food and music. Its people are carefree and easygoing and their hospitality and the vibe of the city make New Orleans a favorite stop for the PGA TOUR and the players.
The 2013 Zurich Classic of New Orleans boasted a strong field, and the week’s competition certainly made for compelling viewing. In fact, the final nine holes of competition were riveting as some of the TOUR’S up-and-coming stars vied for the title.
After a long rain delay, young Billy Horschel surged to the top of the leaderboard with six straight birdies from holes No. 7 through No. 12. Shell Houston Open champion D.A. Points kept pace with four straight birdies of his own and, in the end, it came down to the final green. Clinging to a one-shot lead and with Points just 6 feet away from a potentially tying birdie, Horschel faced a 29-foot birdie attempt for the title. He summoned all of his nerve and drew on all of his past experiences and hit the career-defining putt. The ball disappeared into the cup, the vocal gallery went crazy and Horschel celebrated emphatically as he recorded his first win on TOUR.
In truth, Horschel has been superb since the end of March. His win on the bayou was really just the culmination of some incredible play. Since the Shell Houston Open, Horschel is an incredible 49 under and has logged finishes of T2, T3, T9 and a win. Sublime stuff from the young Florida Gator, and there are a couple of lessons we can learn from his play:
Manage your emotions: Horschel is an animated, energetic young man who wears his heart on his sleeve. In fact, that very tendency caught up with him last season in the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island. After entering the final round just one stroke out of the lead -- and in the final group -- he imploded for a final round 75. By his own admission he did not behave very well during that final round and his family and close friends “called him out” on his petulance and on-course manner. Since then he has made a conscious push to maintain his poise and emotional control and his results have shown marked improvement.
Realize this very simple point: The golf swing is a fluid and timed mechanism that requires a sequence of events to transpire correctly to allow consistently good presentation of the club to the ball. Hence, by definition, it is crucial that negative tension in the shoulders, arms and hands should be avoided at all costs as that negative tension could quite easily throw off the timing of all of these high-speed moving parts. Further, it goes without saying that angst and negative tension can certainly compromise a clear and poised mindset. I often say to my students, “I don’t mind you losing your swing, but I do mind you losing your mind.”
Employ the three-quarter iron shot: Horschel is a convicted and aggressive swinger of the club, but he took a more measured approach in the closing stretch of the Zurich Classic. He still attacked the flags that were “gettable,” but he did so with a three-quarter swing that worked like a charm. He hit many great irons, but possibly the most impressive of those was an “off-speed” 6-iron to about 4 feet on the ninth hole. You don’t always have to swing full bore, and if you are in between clubs, consider selecting a longer club and making a more controlled pass like Billy Ho did. Doing it is easier than you think ...
There are (and have been) some tremendous examples of this shot – Sam Snead, Nick Faldo, Luke Donald and now Billy Horschel. Why don’t you give it a try?
Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.
The video team at PGATOUR.COM put together this comprehensive look featuring most of Billy Horschel's shots during his final round en route to winning the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Sunday. Take a look at the video and give us your feedback. Do you like it? Not like it? Find it useful? Interesting? Would you like to see something like this each week?
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Check out the top five shots of the week from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf featuring Jason Dufner, Brad Faxon, Lucas Glover, Ken Looper and Billy Horschel.
Billy Horschel geared it back at times en route to his first PGA TOUR win. (Graythen/Getty Images)
By Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM
On the 15th hole at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Billy Horschel was at a crossroads to victory.Both Sir Nick Faldo and Peter Kostis, the TV commentators, noticed an increase in speed in Horschel’s game.
He is already a fast player, but Horschel’s swing and thinking were getting faster and faster under the pressure of being the leader. On No. 15, he hit his drive to the right and finished on the upslope of a bunker. He proceeded to hit his next shot extraordinarily quick, and it ended to the right of the green. He chipped up and missed his putt for bogey, his first of the weekend.
Luckily for Horschel, he gained his composure with a birdie on the next hole and slowed down to his first victory on the PGA TOUR.
Billy Horschel was doing what most golfers do when anxious: speed up. This stems from our ancestors and the fight or flight response. Thousands of years ago, the fear of losing your life would release hormones in your body such as epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones act as stimulants and can make us run faster and jump higher, providing us with a swift getaway from predators.
In today’s world, we are not afraid of dying, but rather we have the fear of failing. This fear comes out when we want to play well under pressure, or in Horschel’s case, win his first golf PGA TOUR event.
When the pressure hits your game, you most likely will get quicker, both in your thinking and in your swing. Here is one great suggestion to remedy this problem that I got from the great Gary Player: go slow.
When Player felt the pressure, he would do everything just a tad slower. He would walk to his ball a little bit slower, and even take his practice swings a bit slower. Gary intuitively knew this would counterbalance the increase in speed from anxiety.
Next time you feel the butterflies entering the scene, slow it down one notch. This strategy is bound to increase your good play under pressure.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the Tour” heard on the Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio. He is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has been the mental game coach for many PGA TOUR players. Dr. Gregg is the author of the best selling golf psychology book, MentalRules for Golf, and you can get your autographed copy at www.drgreggsteinberg.com.
Click here to learn more about Els's quest to promote Autism awareness.
Editor's note: Ernie Els is writing a blog for PGATOUR.COM in 2013 and this is his latest installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com.
I really enjoyed being back in the Big Easy last week for the Zurich Classic. As with the previous year, the vibe here is good and the galleries are fantastic. It’s a great tournament and a wonderful golf course.
For Thursday’s first round we had beautiful conditions for golf and I played nicely to shoot a bogey-free round of 67, including five birdies. I felt very comfortable out there and it was just the kind of round I’ve been searching for these past few months. To start the tournament that way was really pleasing.
On Friday I had a couple of bad holes in the middle of my round, but I fought hard all day and I stuck in there and stayed patient. Holing an 18-footer for birdie on the last to shoot 69 made my lunch taste better, that’s for sure, and I was feeling very upbeat about the weekend. I like this golf course, it suits my eye, and obviously I played well here last year and almost won the tournament.
On reflection I feel like my game plan for the weekend was solid so I’m slightly disappointed that I wasn’t able to make more of my opportunities, because for the most part I hit the ball beautifully. I just hit a couple of loose shots at the wrong time. Without those, I’d have been right up there in the mix. Even so, 12-under par and tied-15th gives me plenty of encouragement going forward.
On a separate note this was the final tournament in Autism Awareness Month on the PGA TOUR and I want to thank all the players, the fans, tournament sponsors, officials and media who made the effort to jump on board and help us promote this worthy cause. Liezl and I really appreciate the support.
Anyway, moving on I didn’t have much time between packing my bags in New Orleans and jumping on a plane to Hong Kong from where it will then be onwards to Jakarta for this week’s CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters. It should be a very interesting week. I’ve played on the Asia Tour quite a bit in the last few years and I always enjoy my time in this part of the world.
This week’s tournament may have a few established names in the field, but golf is growing fast in Asia and there is some serious homegrown talent teeing it up here every week. These guys can play so it’s not necessary nailed-on that the winner will come out of the so-called star player groups. We’ll see.
For me, I’ve put a lot of work into my game recently and it’s definitely starting to pay off. Physically everything feels very good, I just need to get myself in a slightly better mindset and cut out the occasional bad hole and basically clean-up my card some days. To be honest, we’re really close.
Okay, that’s it for this week’s report. I’ll write again very soon.
Justin Rose led the field in greens in regulation and proximity to the hole. (Graythen/Getty Images)
|Zurich Classic of New Orleans
||Winner: Billy Horschel
|Driving Distance||288.3 (27th)||Nicolas Colsaerts (308.4 yards)||T8
|Driving Accuracy||55.36% (T63)||D.A. Points (82.14%)||2nd|
|Strokes Gained-Putting||1.768 (3rd)
||Doug LaBelle II (2.453)
|Greens in Regulation||81.94% (T2)||Justin Rose (84.72%)
|Proximity to Hole||28'-2" (4th)
||Justin Rose (27'-4")
|Scrambling||61.54% (50th)||David Toms (92.00%)
WEEKLY PERFORMANCE STATS ARCHIVE
Week 2: Sony Open in Hawaii
Week 4: Farmers Insurance Open
Week 5: Waste Management Phoenix Open
Week 7: Northern Trust Open
Week 8: The Honda Classic
Week 9: WGC Cadillac & Puerto Rico Open
Week 12: Shell Houston Open
Week 13: Valero Texas Open
Week 14: The Masters
Week 15: RBC Heritage
By Brian Allee-Walsh, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
AVONDALE, La. -- Though Louisiana native Ken Looper would like to forget the 72nd hole of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, his first event on the PGA TOUR turned out to be quite memorable.
A former standout at the University of New Orleans and LSU, the 23-year-old Looper earned $58,740 after shooting a final-round 71 and finishing in a tie for 21st at 11-under 277 at TPC Louisiana.
And it could have been a bigger pay day.
Sitting at 12 under on the tee box at No. 18, he needed a birdie on the 587-yard, par 5 to climb into the top 10 and earn an invitation to next week's Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte. But it wasn't to be after he blocked his drive into the water.
He went on to post a bogey 6 and walked away wondering what might have been. That errant swing cost him an estimated $50,000, the difference between finishing T21 and T15.
Now it's back to the NGA Hooters Tour for the young man who earned his way into the Zurich Classic through Monday qualifying.
"I was playing well the whole week, all up until the back nine today,'' said Looper, who grew up in Mandeville, La., a suburb about an hour north of New Orleans across Lake Ponchartrain. "This has been a dream come true. I've always wanted to to make my PGA TOUR debut at this golf tournament.
"Moving forward it gives me a lot of confidence that I can play out here. Hopefully, I can get another opportunity to show that I can compete in a future event.''
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
AVONDALE, La. -- Maybe Billy Horschel was hoping for a "coast" to the finish line but I thought D.A. Points keeping pace was a good thing. With Points applying pressure, Horschel had to focus all the way to the final putt. Without that head-to-head confrontation, it would have been tempting to play conservatively and that approach could have led to bogeys. Points' sparkling play kept Horschel on point as well.
Composure: There was a time when Horschel had a reputation. In college, his chile would run a little hot. After making bogey on the 15th hole, Horschel was visibly upset. You could see him reach the boiling point and yet somehow on the 50-yard walk to the 16th tee, Horschel regained his composure. He took a very aggressive line to carry a fairway bunker with his tee shot and from 108 yards stuffed a wedge to within 5 feet. The ensuing birdie re-established his lead and offered confirmation of Horschel's maturity as a player.
Rain delay: Hats off to PGA TOUR Officials who made every call correctly in the final round. With rain in the forecast, they implemented “preferred lies” from the very beginning of the round even though it took the weather system three hours to arrive. Mud balls would have been a huge problem if lift, clean and place had not been in effect following the rain storm. Remember, preferred lies can only be implemented at the start of a stroke-play round for equity purposes. Officials correctly stopped play a little more than a half hour before the heavy morning rain began. That gave spectators and competitors ample time to seek shelter.
Alignment: D.A. Points has a curious pre-shot routine before putting. He takes his left hand and folds it across his chest, then takes one handed practice strokes. It accomplishes two things. Points can feel the toe of the putter release during the practice stroke and it helps keep his shoulders aligned. Many golfers open their shoulders just the slightest bit while taking one last look down the line. Points has also perfected a no look, back-hand flip of the golf ball to his caddy. It's an assist that would make Greivis Vasquez jealous.
Numbers: Horschel put up some very impressive statistics this week and in particular, on Sunday. He hit 59 of 72 greens for the week and was 17 of 18 in the final round. Horschel not only hit greens, he gave himself makeable putts, hitting it an average of 28 feet, 2 inches to rank fourth in the tournament. He was third this week in strokes gained-putting and was first in putts per green in regulation at 1.559. When you crunch all the numbers, only Points kept this tournament from being a runaway.
Golf gods: As Ken Looper left the 17th green, he spotted me standing in the player's exit and came over for a chat. He excitedly said a par on the 18th hole would mean a top-10 finish and a slot in next week's Wells Fargo Championship. He looked like a child on Christmas morning and it was impossible not to share his enthusiasm. Looper is from Louisiana, he Monday qualified for this tournament and everyone appreciated his play. The only problem was the golf gods were listening and there was still a drive to be hit. Looper hit that drive into the water hazard and made bogey. He finished T21. Like Sisyphus, the gods of golf who tantalized him would not allow the boulder to be pushed to the top of the hill.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.