AVONDALE, La. — Billy Horschel sensed the time had come for him to win his first PGA Tour event. This could explain the composure he displayed in the face of two final-round weather delays and a 26-foot putt he had to make on the final hole to avert a playoff.
Horschel tied a course record at the TPC Louisiana with an 8-under 64 in the final round of the Zurich Classic on Sunday, which was good enough to win by one stroke over D.A. Points.
Points put on the pressure by hitting out of a bunker to set up a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th. Then Horschel rolled in his long victory-sealing putt, pumping his arms and letting out a triumphant yell before sinking into a crouch and briefly pulling his cap over his face as the crowd roared.
”I hadn’t made a long one all week and I said, ‘I’m due,”’ Horschel said. ”I was like, ‘If it’s my time, this putt needs to go in.’
Soon after, he saw a video replay of his celebration.
”I know it was pretty intense,” he said. ”There was a lot going on. It’s celebration time now.”
The 26-year-old former Florida Gator began the day two shots behind third-round leader Lucas Glover and surged into the lead with six straight birdies after the first weather delay. He finished at 20 under, narrowly holding off Points, who won the Shell Houston Open last month by a stroke over Horschel and Henrik Stenson.
”When a player goes out and shoots 8 under and birdies the last hole to win, hats off to Billy,” said Points, who had a 65. ”He’s played great all year. He was one shot shy of me at Houston and I’m a shot shy of him here. It’s just the way it goes.”
The second delay, for lightning, happened before Horschel could take his second shot on the 18th hole, giving him 52 minutes to reflect on what was at stake – $1.19 million and a two-year exemption.
It didn’t really faze him. He said he tends to relax during delays, and almost always plays well after them.
”For some reason it puts me at ease a little bit,” Horschel said. ”You don’t know how long your delay is going to be so you’ve just got to go with it and just wait it out. … It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t as hard as it could have been.”
Kyle Stanley shot a 5-under 67 to finish third, while 14-year-old amateur Guan Tianlang of China finished 71st after making his second cut in two PGA events, the first coming at the Masters.
Although Horschel had never won on the Tour, he had been playing the best golf of his young career lately, with three top-10 finishes in his past three tournaments – tying for second in Houston, tying for third in San Antonio and tying for ninth in Hilton Head Island, S.C., a week ago.
”I played well. It just wasn’t my time,” Horschel said of his recent top-three finishes. ”It was nice that today was my time.”
He has also made a PGA Tour-leading 23 straight cuts, and had already earned $1.3 million this year. Now he has nearly doubled that, thanks to a final round that tied a course record that has been matched several times, including by Rickey Barnes in Thursday’s first round.
Moments before Horschel took reporters’ questions about his victory, he sat at a podium with the winner’s silver cup in front of him, appearing on the verge of tears as he spoke by phone to his wife and parents.
Horschel said he had planned to fly home to Jacksonville, Fla., after finishing his round Sunday night, then added ”I think that plane has been delayed for a few hours.” He’s familiar with celebrating in New Orleans, where he also had his bachelor party.
Horschel became the sixth player in the last nine years to celebrate his maiden PGA Tour victory in New Orleans. He also was the sixth first-time winner on the Tour this year.
Horschel began the day at 12 under, two shots behind Glover. He began to make his move up the leaderboard with his first birdie on the fifth hole.
His string of six straight birdies ran from seventh through 12th holes and moved him to 7 under on the round and 19 under for the tournament.
On the par-5 seventh, Horschel chipped from about 89 feet to within 2 feet to set up his first birdie putt. He made a 9-foot birdie putt on the eighth and then hit a 191-yard tee shot to about 4 feet from the pin to set up a birdie on the par-3 ninth.
He made a birdie putts of 13 1/2 feet on 10, 6 feet on 11 and 15 1/2 feet on 12.
Horschel bogeyed the 15th hole after twice hitting into the right rough to fall back into a tie with Points.
But Horschel then birdied No. 16 by hitting a 109-yard approach within 5 feet, putting him back at 19 under and restoring his one-shot lead.
Points, playing in the same crowd-pleasing group as Horschel, birdied the 10th through 13th holes to stay on Horschel’s heels. However, he left a 98-yard approach shot 30 feet short and left on 16, where he lost the lead.
Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open winner who was looking for his first Tour victory in nearly two years, took a two-shot lead into the final round and opened with five pars – narrowly missing a birdie when his putt rimmed out on the first hole. He was about to line up a birdie putt from 27 feet on No. 6 when a horn sounded, signaling nearby lightning. Play was halted immediately and a downpour ensued shortly after, causing a 2-hour, 54-minute delay.
Glover two-putted for par when play resumed, then struggled on the seventh hole, hitting his drive to an uphill lie in the rough on the edge of a pot bunker. That forced him to lay up, and he chipped over the green and wound up with a bogey on a hole that many players birdied or eagled.
That dropped him out of the lead for good, and he wound up finishing tied for fourth with Bobby Gates, five shots off the lead.
Leaderboard: Billy Horschel 67-71-66-64—268 (-20); D.A. Points 66-68-70-65—269 (-19); Kyle Stanley 72-67-65-67—271 (-17)
— Horschel birdied six holes in a row (Nos. 7-12) and then drained a 26’8” putt for birdie-4 on the final hole en route to a final-round 8-under 64 and a one-stroke victory over D.A. Points at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
— Horschel’s first-career PGA Tour win comes at the age of 26 years, 5 month and 21 days and in his 61st start. With the victory, Horschel earned 500 points and moved from No. 14 to No. 3 in the FedExCup standings.
— With the victory, the Jacksonville Beach, Fla. resident earns a spot in The Players Championship for the first time in his career. He also extends his Exempt Status on Tour through 2015.
— Since 1990, Horschel becomes the 13th player to make the Zurich Classic of New Orleans his first Tour victory. Six of the past nine winners of the event have made the win their maiden victory on TOUR (Tim Petrovic/2005, Chris Couch/2006, Nick Watney/2007, Andres Romero/2008, Jason Dufner/2012, Billy Horschel/2013).
— Horschel’s victory is his fourth consecutive top-10 finish on the PGA Tour (T2-Shell Houston Open, T3-Valero Texas Open, T9-RBC Heritage, 1st-Zurich Classic of New Orleans). He now owns five top 10s in 12 starts this season, tied with Keegan Bradley, Bill Haas and Brandt Snedeker for most on Tour.
— Horschel’s winning score of 20-under 268 tops the previous-best 72-hole score at TPC Louisiana (seven installments), set by Jason Dufner and Ernie Els a year ago (269, -19. By comparison, Chip Beck owns the overall 72-hole scoring record with a winning score of 262 (-26) in 1988 at Lakewood CC.
— With Horschel’s one-stroke win over Points, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans has now been decided either by one stroke or in a playoff nine times since 2003. The only exceptions were Nick Watney’s three-stroke win in 2007 and Jason Bohn’s two-stroke victory in 2010.
— Horschel becomes the fifth winner in his 20s on the PGA Tour in 2013 (Dustin Johnson, Russell Henley, Michael Thompson, Scott Brown).
— Horschel is the sixth first-time winner in 2013, joining Russell Henley, John Merrick, Michael Thompson, Scott Brown and Kevin Streelman.
— Horschel’s win marks the first time in five years the Zurich Classic of New Orleans has produced a come-from-behind winner. Jason Dufner (2012), Bubba Watson (2011), Jason Bohn (2010) and Jerry Kelly (2009) all carried the lead into the final round.
— Horschel’s win is the fifth-consecutive come-from-behind win on TOUR this season and seventh overall. One of the previous six involved Horschel, who entered the final round of the Valero Texas Open with a two-stroke lead but was overtaken by eventual champion Martin Laird.
— Horschel made his Tour-leading 23rd consecutive cut this week, with Jimmy Walker next with 20 straight.
— Horschel wins in his third consecutive start in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Before a missed cut last year at TPC Louisiana, he finished T26 in 2011.
— Most birdies on Tour: Billy Horschel (220), Jimmy Walker (189), Brendon de Jonge (188), Brad Fritsch (171).
— 2013 Shell Houston Open winner D.A. Points was a worthy rival to Horschel on Sunday. Both players entered the day tied for second at 12-under and trailing Lucas Glover by two strokes. While Horschel turned in a scorecard with nine birdies and one bogey, Points was nearly as good with a bogey-free card and seven birdies.
— With the runner-up finish, Points moves to No. 7 in the FedExCup standings.
— Points’ owns two top-10 finishes this season, a win at the Shell Houston Open and runner-up finish this week.
— Points’ runner-up finish comes in his seventh start at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. A T24 in 2009 marked his previous-best finish of two made cuts (T56/2011). Prior to this week, which included rounds of 66-68-70-65, Points owned just two rounds in the 60s at this event (opening-round 69s in 2006 and 2009).
— Points earned the second runner-up finish of his career (2012 Wells Fargo Championship) to go with victories at the 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and 2013 Shell Houston Open.
— Third-round leader Glover finished T4 in his eighth start at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, where he now has four top-10 finishes (T3/2005, T7/2006, T8/2007, T4/2013).
— Glover has now played 28 competitive rounds in this event, of which 25 have been par or better. His last over-par score was a 1-over 73 in the second round of 2008.
— Glover did not 3-putt all week. The last time he played all 72 holes without a 3-putt was during the 2011 Wells Fargo Championship.
— Glover’s T4 is his second top-10 finish of the season. Earlier, he finished T4 at The Honda Classic for his first top-10 since winning the 2011 Wells Fargo Championship.
— Glover is now winless in two tries as a 54-hole leader/co-leader (2010 Hyundai Tournament of Champions/finished T14).
— 14-year-old Guan Tianlang finished 71st this week in his second-consecutive made cut on the PGA Tour. Earlier this month he finished 58th at the Masters Tournament.
— Monday qualifier, local favorite and former LSU Tiger Ken Looper finished T21.
— Last year’s runner-up Ernie Els carded a final-round 4-under 68 to finish T15.
— Shreveport resident and former LSU All-America David Toms finished T47 in his 20th career start at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. He won in 2001 and has three top-10 finishes in New Orleans.
— Former LSU golfer and current Web.com Tour member John Peterson, the 2011 NCAA individual champion, finished T8 in his third start on the PGA Tour this season and his 12th overall.
— Defending champion Jason Dufner finished T42 in his bid to become the first player to successfully defend his title in New Orleans since Carlos Franco (1999-2000).
— Eight past Zurich Classic champions competed his week: Nick Watney (T15), Bubba Watson (T15), Jason Dufner (T42), Jerry Kelly (T47), Jason Bohn (T47), David Toms (T47), K.J. Choi (MC), Andres Romero (MC).