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Tuesday April 30, 2013

American wins first PGA Tour title after dramatic finish

Meaningful victory: Billy Horschel posing with the trophy after winning the Zurich Classic at the TPC Louisiana on Sunday. — AFP Meaningful victory: Billy Horschel posing with the trophy after winning the Zurich Classic at the TPC Louisiana on Sunday. — AFP

NEW ORLEANS: Billy Horschel waited out a storm delay to sink a 26-foot birdie putt on the final hole and claim his first US PGA Tour title on Sunday at the US$6.6mil Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Horschel, who earlier birdied six holes in a row, fired an eight-under 64 in the final round to finish on 20-under 268 after 72 holes, one stroke ahead of fellow American D. A. Points in a dramatic back-nine duel.

“This one means a lot. It’s something I’ve worked so hard for,” Horschel said. “Man, for that putt to go in – I said, ‘I’m due for a long one’. It came off the putter so good and I’m so glad it went in.”

Horschel, the US PGA’s sixth first-time winner this year, had his best prior PGA result last month with a runner-up effort at the Houston Open behind Points, whose only prior PGA title came in 2011 at Pebble Beach.

Horschel, whose 22 made cuts in a row is the longest active tour streak, enjoyed his third straight top-10 finish while Points, who missed seven of his first nine cuts this year, missed a chance for a second triumph in four starts.

One stroke ahead of Points at the tee on the par-five 18th, Horschel found the right rough while Points found the fairway just before the weather warning horn sounded and forced the final nine players off the course.

When play resumed, Points left himself a six-foot birdie putt while Horschel had at a 26-footer. After he watched the ball fall into the cup, Horschel pumped his fists and yelled with joy.

“It’s unbelievable right now,” Horschel said.

Points sank his birdie putt to finish off a round of 65 and stand on 269, two strokes ahead of compatriot Kyle Stanley in third with Americans Lucas Glover and Bobby Gates sharing fourth on 273.

Chinese schoolboy Guan Tianlang, the youngest starter in Masters history earlier this month at age 14, fired a 74 to finish 71st on four-over 292.

Horschel matched the longest birdie streak on tour this year with six in a row starting at the par-five seventh, a run that included the last three holes of the front nine and the first three on the back nine.

Horschel put his tee shot at the par-three ninth just four feet from the cup and made the putt, then sank a 13-foot birdie putt at the 10th, a six-foot birdie putt at the par-five 11th and a 15-foot birdie putt at the 12th.

The streak ended when Horschel missed an eight-foot birdie attempt at the 13th.

“I obviously was on a hell of a stretch,” Horschel said.

But playing partner Points made a run of his own, sinking his fourth birdie in a row with a 14-footer at 13 to reach 18-under, one shot back with five holes to play.

Horschel stumbled into a tie for the lead with Points with a bogey at 15, finding the right rough with his first two shots and missing a nine-foot par putt to leave both men at 18-under with three holes remaining.

At the 16th, Horschel put his 108-yard approach to four feet and made the birdie putt while Points two-putted from 30 feet for par. Both parred the 17th to carry the drama to the final hole. — AFP

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