Floridian takes down Texas alumnus Scottie Scheffler in front of a heckling, partisan gallery in Austin for his 6th PGA Tour title
AUSTIN, Texas – Billy Horschel denied local crowd favorite Scottie Scheffler, 2 and 1, in the final of the WGC Match Play on Sunday at Austin Country Club.
Horschel never trailed after the fifth hole and didn’t flinch in face of the overwhelming support for Scheffler, a Dallas native who attended the nearby University of Texas (scorecard).
In doing so, Horschel, who finished tied for second in the first WGC event of the year four weeks earlier in his native Florida, reminded fans and fellow players of the Gator chomp-waving, flamboyant golfer who captured the 2014 FedEx Cup in dramatic fashion. He has struggled to return to that level of play.
“It’s a lot of hard work on the range and grinding out this match today,” Horschel said. “I know I have that talent to win all the majors. I just haven’t shown it yet.”
While the victory will give him plenty of money ($1.82 million) and FedEx points (550), he’s hopeful that it also will provide a spark to improve his woeful major-championship record, starting next week at the Masters.
Since his rookie season in 2013, he has had only one top-10 finish in golf’s four biggest events, a tie for fourth in the 2013 U.S. Open. But with a week off to get ready for Augusta National, Horschel said he is ready to rewrite his major script.
“My goal has been to play my best for Augusta,” said Horschel, 34, a six-time winner on the PGA Tour. “I wanted to play well here, take what I need to work on at home, and be ready for the Masters.”
The final match was far from a thing of beauty, with each player taking turns spraying drives off the fairway and into the rough or missing birdie putts. Each player made only one birdie – both on the front nine – and Scheffler’s came when Horschel conceded a 34-foot putt on the second hole.
“I felt really sorry for the fans who had to watch that [final] match,” Horschel said. “There wasn’t a lot of birdies today.”
Nonetheless, Scheffler will take far more positives than negatives as he seeks his first PGA Tour victory.
“This is the first round of the last four I didn’t feel like I had my game this afternoon,” Scheffler said. “I couldn’t get anything going, but I take a lot of confidence out of this week. I got a ton of energy from the fans.”
While Horschel was thrilled with his first WGC title and his fourth top-10 finish in the wraparound 2020-21 season, he was more excited for what his recent performance surge could mean in six months: his first berth at the Ryder Cup, to be played at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
“The Ryder Cup has always been my No. 1 goal, or at least in the top 5,” he said. “I love playing for America. I’ve played in the Walker Cup and other events, but never the Ryder Cup.
“I’ve always said I’d like to play the Ryder Cup when it’s in Europe because I love when people are pulling against me. I feed off of that.”
Horschel experienced some of that vibe here Sunday afternoon as the pro-Scheffler Texas crowd shouted, “Chip it in the water, Billy” and “roll it off the green.”
But after taking the lead with his only birdie, on the par-4 fifth hole, Horschel ran off six straight pars and held a 2-up lead. Scheffler never mounted a comeback, much to the dismay of his vocal gallery.
Other than the Texas fans rooting him on every shot and the heckling of his Florida opponent, Scheffler has plenty of experience in Austin professional golf.
The first came at age 11, at the Champions Tour's Kinkos Classic at the nearby Hills of Lakeway Course. Scheffler was randomly selected out of the crowd to hit a shot for D.A. Weibring’s group during a pro-am and knocked it closer than any professional or amateur in the crowd.
Scheffler, a Dallas native and former U.S. Junior champion, spent four stellar years at the University of Texas in Austin, where he picked up multiple wins and All-America honors.
“Scottie is comfortable here. He knows the course and the people and his family is here. He is very comfortable among friends and family,” said his dad Scott Scheffler, who followed his son every hole this week, along with his son’s wife, Meredith.
No Texas alumnus has won the Match Play, which has been played since 2015 in Austin, though A&M fans will point out that Jeff Maggert won the inaugural 1999 edition at La Costa in southern California.
In the Sunday morning semifinals, Horschel downed France’s Victor Perez, 3 and 2, and Scheffler defeated two-time Match Play finalist Matt Kuchar, 1 up.
Though Horschel was in control of his match for almost all 18 holes against Perez, Scheffler survived back-to-back water balls on Nos. 12 and 13. He came to the 17th hole tied with Kuchar, who had his own Texas connection with Dallas instructor Chris O’Connell following him.
Scheffler rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th to take a one-hole lead and watched on 18 as Kuchar missed an 8½-foot putt, which would have tied the match and sent it into extra holes.
In the third-place match Sunday afternoon, Kuchar defeated Perez, 2 and 1, after winning the first hole with a bogey and never trailing.
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