DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Billy Horschel ended any doubt of his victory at Muirfield Village with an eagle putt across the green on the 15th hole, sending him to a four-stroke win Sunday at the Memorial.
Horschel was staked with a five-stroke lead at the start of a sunny final round and no one ever came within two strokes. He closed with an even par 72.
There are still a few moments of nervousness.
Horschel’s bogey-free streak of 49 straight holes ended on the sixth hole. He only made his first birdie on the 10th hole. He had to rush to bogey on the par-3 12th which reduced his lead to two over Aaron Wise.
Before the long eagle, Horschel saved himself with par putts of 12 feet on the 13th hole and 8 feet on the 14th.
And then it was over. From the front of the green on the par-5 15th, Horschel’s putt just inside 55 feet had the perfect line and perfect speed, leaning left and falling to the left side of the cut as he held out both arms in calm, incredulous celebration.
“So are you, big guy,” Horschel told tournament host Jack Nicklaus at the end.
His lead was up to four shots, and it was a comfortable finish. Horschel finished 13-under 275 and earned $2.16 million, the biggest payday of his career. As a high event, victory comes with a three-year exemption.
Horschel said he learned from Tiger Woods and Nicklaus that he didn’t need to do anything special with a five-shot lead unless the moment called for it. He was calling on the 15th hole after Wise wedged in 2 feet for a birdie.
“If I had to do something special, I was ready,” he said. “Doing that was huge.”
Wise did what he could in such a tough final round that no one shot better than 69. He and Joaquin Niemann were the only players to put serious pressure on Horschel. He opened the back nine with a pair of birdies and saved par from the back bunker on the 12th. But he dropped a shot on the 13th just when Horschel looked shaky.
Wise made a meaningless bogey on the final hole for a 71 to finish alone in second.
Cameron Smith, who had the 36-hole lead, also started five strokes behind. He had a pair of double bogeys for a 42 on the front nine and was never a factor.
Niemann, who won another high event at Riviera in the Genesis Invitational, made a strong move and crawled within range until his corner of 14 found a bunker, leading to a double bogey. He responded with two birdies, finished with a double bogey and shot 71. He finished tied for third with defending champion Patrick Cantlay (71).
Prior to the handshake with Nicklaus, Horschel was mobbed by his three children. He now has seven PGA Tour wins. His wife saw him win. His parents saw him win. It was his kids’ first time there, and they were bouncing around the firm greens.
It could have been as strong as any pressure Horschel felt.
“Having a five-shot lead, knowing it was mine to win, I really wanted to get rid of the monkey,” he said of the win with his kids in attendance.
Horschel moves just outside the world top 10, the highest he’s ever been, thanks to a year that finally brought some consistency to random play. He’s had three wins in the last 15 months, all against strong teams – the Dell Match Play and the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last year, and now this.
It might even be enough to finally be considered for an American team with the Presidents Cup later this year.
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