Billy Horschel Wins AT&T Byron Nelson in Playoff

After missing the cut in his previous four starts, Billy Horschel defeated Jason Day on the first playoff hole to win the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Day seemed to have the tournament in his back pocket after chipping in for birdie on 15 to take a one shot lead. However, the Aussie three-putted for par on the par-5 16th, while Horschel converted a birdie to tie the lead.

Both players parred the final two holes in regulation and went into a sudden death playoff. On the first playoff hole, Day’s iron off the tee missed the fairway right and hit a spectator which left him 40 yards behind Horschel, who had hit driver.

Day hit his approach shot to 48 feet, the same distance, as Jim Nantz noted, of fellow-Aussie Adam Scott’s winning putt on the same green nine years ago, while Horschel’s approach finished 20 feet away.

Day hit is putt five past the hole and Horschel left his birdie attempt right in the heart of the hole, but short. Day then badly pulled his putt to give Horschel the title.

Thoughts:

– Jason Kokrak had control of the tournament after a 62 in the second round. Kokrak had a five-shot margin, but his lead evaporated halfway through the third round and he would go on to finish fourth.

– With the win, Horschel moved into the top 60 in the world and earned a spot in this year’s U.S. Open.

– This was the second week in a row the champion showed zero form entering the tournament. Si Woo Kim had missed nine of his previous 12 cuts before winning The Players a week ago.

– The Byron Nelson was the site of Day’s first tournament win in 2010. Day’s victory came in a playoff over Blake Adams.

– Day has made 278 of 291 putts inside five feet this season (95.5%) before he missed the four-footer in the playoff (h/t Justin Ray).

– This week marked the final Byron Nelson event at TPC Four Seasons as the tournament will move to Trinity Forest Golf Club (also in the Dallas area) next year.

– The Nelson boasted a strong field this week, which hasn’t been the case since the legend’s death in 2006. The tournament used to be one of the premiere events on the schedule, but with Nelson’s death, the quality of the field has wavered. This week saw Day, Jordan Spieth, and Dustin Johnson among other top players to return the field to an elite level.

– Although the event has bounced back after some lean years field-wise immediately after Nelson’s death, the Arnold Palmer Invitational looks at this event as a warning sign to what can happen when a legend and the namesake of a tournament passes away.

– Luckily for the Arnold Palmer event, the tournament boasts a quality course with great fans and a great experience for players. These factors will allow the tournament to maintain its prestige and elite status after Palmer’s death.

– For the Nelson event, the course and tournament wasn’t on the same level as Bay Hill and many of the players entered the field as a sign of respect for Nelson.

– Dustin Johnson was T-3 heading into the weekend and seemed primed to make a weekend run and continue his winning ways, but he struggled in Saturday’s third round and fell back in the pack. Johnson would finish the week T-12 after a 69 on Sunday.

– Jordan Spieth was in the mix after the first round, but failed to make a move Friday. His struggles culminated with a quadruple bogey nine on the 16th that saw him hit two balls out of bounds off the tee. Spieth went from -1 to +3 and missed the cut in his hometown tournament.

– Spieth made his PGA Tour debut at this event at 16 years old. As a high school junior, Spieth was on the fringes of contention throughout the weekend and notched a top-20 finish.

– James Hahn took one-shot 54-hole lead after a third round 64. Hahn ended up finishing third after he lipped out for eagle on the final hole, which would have put him in the playoff.

– Players with a one-shot lead after 54 holes have a 25% winning percentage over the last five years.

– Like last week at The Players, Sergio went low on Saturday to thrust himself into contention only to follow it up with a disappointing final round.

– Long putts were critical for both Day and Horschel this weekend. Day jarred a 60-footer on 17 on Saturday, while Horschel drained a 50-footer on 14 on Sunday to put himself in a tie for the lead.

– The turning point for Horschel’s week came late in the third round. After a birdie on the par-5 16th, Horschel pulled his tee shot on 17 into a greenside bunker. Before the ball landed, Horschel had thrown his club in disgust, something that is becoming a familiar sight as he did the same thing at The Players last week.

– Horschel holed his downhill bunker shot, which would have gone 8-10 feet past had it not hit the pin. He went on to birdie the final hole to earn a spot in the final group Sunday.

Old Man Yelling At Cloud:

This is going to make me sound like a curmudgeon, but bothered me that Horschel and Day were being buddy-buddy down the stretch. The camera caught them joking on multiple occasions, most notably after Day holed his chip shot on 15 to take the lead. I can see that reaction from a playing competitor in the first or second rounda, but in the final round on the back nine with the tournament on the line? You would never see Jack, Arnie, Tiger or Phil do that in their primes.

There are some valid criticisms with the younger generation of tour players that they are too friendly and lack the killer instinct when they are competing with their friends on tour. Both Day and Horschel are intense competitors and it seemed instigated by Horschel and it could be how he copes with pressure, but seeing them joke around with so much on the line was a little off-putting. It’s comparable to the modern-day NBA where the top players are all friends and are more interested in maintaining those friendships instead of winning.

Anyone who has kept up with The Otter Room’s scribing knows there is no greater insult I can throw in someone’s direction than to compare them to the NBA.

Shot of the Week:

The shot of the week is not always positive. To see a player with the pedigree of Day miss a such a critical putt just outside of gimmie range, and not even hit the hole, was stunning. The above stat shows how good Day is in that range, but this shows that pressure gets to even the best.

Stay tuned to The Otter Room this week for a complete preview of the Dean & Deluca Invitational or, what everyone with a brain calls it, The Colonial.

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