• Tour Championship

Horschel hits jackpot as Rory misses out

ESPN staff
September 14, 2014
Billy Horschel is congratulated by runner-up Rory McIlroy © Getty Images

Billy Horschel capped off the best three weeks of his career by winning the FedEx Cup and the $10 million (£6.1m) bonus that goes with it as Rory McIlroy finished runner-up at the Tour Championship.

Horschel pulled away from a self-destructing McIlroy early, and then holed two crucial putts to hold off Jim Furyk - who shared second place - on the back nine at East Lake. He closed with a two-under 68 for a three-shot victory in the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup.

Horschel's career earnings were just over $4.5m (£2.7m) coming into the year.

He collected $11.4m (£7m) in one day - most of that the FedEx Cup bonus - with an incomparable run through the play-offs.

The 27-year-old from Florida was runner-up in Boston, a winner in Denver and he cashed in big in Atlanta. Horschel was world No.69 when the play-offs began a month ago. No one had ever won the FedEx Cup starting lower than 19 in the rankings.

He epitomised what these play-offs offered - one month for anyone to get a hot hand. Horschel shot in the 60s in his last 12 rounds.

"He was clutch when he needed to be," McIlroy said. "He played the best golf this week and I'm happy for him."

The timing was great for Horschel - not so much for the American team going over to the Ryder Cup in two weeks. US captain Tom Watson made his three picks after Horschel's runner-up finish in the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Now the hottest hand in golf - he should move up to No.14 in the world - will be watching from home. Horschel figures he will be fairly occupied. His wife is expecting their first child, a girl, in two weeks.

Furyk closed with two bogeys for a 69 and his fourth runner-up finish this year. He has not won since the Tour Championship four years ago. McIlroy never recovered from three straight bogeys around the turn, and three late birdies only helped him pick up some FedEx Cup cash. He closed with a 71 and wound up No.3 in the FedEx Cup, which is worth an additional $2m (£1.2m).

Chris Kirk, who started the Tour Championship atop the FedEx Cup standings, closed with a 68 and tied for fourth with Justin Rose (69) and Jason Day (69). Kirk wound up second in the FedEx Cup and earned a $3m (£1.8m) bonus.

Horschel finished at 11-under 269.

McIlroy will have to settle for a season worth more than £6m - two major championships and the undisputed No.1 player in golf. Whatever hopes he had of his first FedEx Cup ended early. He hooked his tee shot into the water on the par-three fifth and made double bogey to fall three shots behind.

Needing to start picking up ground on the 600-yard ninth hole, he blasted his drive so far right that it wound up a foot away from the out-of-bounds fence of the practice range. There was no way out. With his caddie and a rules official ducking in the holly bushes, McIlroy slashed out with a wedge over the bushes and through a gap in the trees that only he saw. Next, he had a mobile TV truck lowered to ground level to get his third into the fairway. But his wedge came up short, and he made bogey.

Two more bogeys later, including another three-putt at the 10th, he was five shots behind and out of the mix.

By then, it was a two-man race between Horschel and Furyk.

Horschel won by not losing. He raced a 50-foot putt nearly eight feet by the hole on the 13th, and calmly sank the par putt to keep a one-shot lead. Furyk, playing in the group ahead of Horschel, got up-and-down for birdie on the par-five 15th to tie for the lead, only for Horschel to get up-and-down from a bunker to regain it.

The key moment came at the 16th, where Horschel drove into the trees, pitched out to the fairway and came up about 30 feet short on his third shot. Right when it looked as if he might blink first, Horschel drained the par putt to stay in front.

Ahead of him, Furyk came up well short of the 17th green and missed a 12-foot par putt. Horschel was already on the 18th tee when he watched Furyk three-putt the par-three 18th hole for another bogey. He put another shot in the middle of the green, taking away all the drama from the finish.

Not that it mattered to him.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
ESPN staff Close