Billy Horschel needed less than a week to give himself a second chance. If he keeps playing this well, his next shot at closing out a tournament will not be nearly as stressful as the last one.
Horschel made a 32-foot birdie putt on Saturday to close out the third round of the BMW Championship with a bogey-free, seven-under 63 and take a three-shot lead over Ryan Palmer heading into the final 18 holes.
On Monday last week at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Horschel had a 6-iron in hand on the 18th fairway and a chance to win or force a playoff, but he chunked the shot, made bogey and settled for a disappointing second-place tie.
“It happened,” said Horschel, who stands at 13-under 197. “It’s not a big deal. Just a bad swing at the wrong time. You can’t dwell on things like that.”
Five days later, he gave himself a cushion, rolling in a 22-footer for birdie on 14, then an 8-foot birdie on 15 to vault into the lead. He closed it out with the long one on 18 — the uphill, par-four, 477-yard closing hole that is the third-toughest on the course. He has surrendered only 18 birdies all week.
Horschel had one of 14 rounds of 67 or better at 1.6km-high Cherry Hills, where soaking rains and cool weather over the past two days have softened the course and chipped away at some of its defenses. There were 15 67s or better through the first two days. The course played 1.7 shots easier on Saturday than it did on Thursday.
“The greens are so much more soft than the first day,” said Morgan Hoffman, who briefly flirted with 59 before settling for an eight-under 62. “You can really throw it at the flags and keep it there.”
Masters champion Bubba Watson shot 66 to draw into a third-place tie at eight-under with US Open champion Martin Kaymer, who made seven birdies over the last 12 holes to shoot 64.
“Should have been eight,” said Kaymer, who three-putted from inside 20 feet on the par-five 17th and settled for par.
However, that was not the worst display on the greens.
Rory McIlroy made a 60-footer on No. 4 to get into a brief tie for the lead, but gave all that back and more with a four-putt from inside five feet on No. 12 — bringing gasps from the crowd. It was McIlory’s first triple-bogey or worse since the first hole of last year’s BMW Championship.
The world’s top-ranked player shot two-over 72 and went into yesterday nine shots off the lead.
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