The 18: Horschel wins the Nelson
The 18 is a look at eighteen stories from the previous week or so in the world of golf, and they will usually be on stories that I didn’t dedicate a full post towards. Expect a combination of thoughts, GIFs, images and anything else that caught my eye from the past seven days. Some will be longer thoughts, and others will be no more than a line or two.
The 18 will (hopefully) run every Tuesday, but has been on hiatus for the last two weeks thanks to #BlogCabin. You can catch up on previous versions of The 18 right here.
1. Eight of the last nineteen versions of the Byron Nelson have ended in a playoff, so it made sense that the 2017 version would as well in the last tournament before the move to Trinity Forest next year. It seemed pretty clear from the beginning on Sunday that it was going to be a three horse race, with Billy Horschel, Jason Day and James Hahn being the only three that really made any sort of move, but we actually ended up getting a pretty solid finish, minus the short putt missed by Day in the playoff. You can see full highlights of the final round below.
2. This win had been a long time coming for Horschel, who hadn’t won a tournament since the 2014 Tour Championship and to be honest, he hasn’t really gotten himself involved in a serious way all that often since then either. As a player, I’m really not sure what to make of Horschel. When he went on that run at the end of the 2013-14 season, he looked like the best player in the world and someone who you knew was going to come through when he was standing over the ball, but looking back, the statistics don’t really seem to back that up. The graph below shows the strokes gained numbers for Horschel dating back to 2013.
The reputation that Horschel has is that of a world class ballstriker, and certainly when he’s on, he’s one of the best but the numbers paint the picture of someone who has been very inconsistent over the last five years. It seems like every facet of his game, save for around the green, has hovered around that elite status at some point, but putting it all together over a full season just isn’t something that he has been able to do. This isn’t a knock on him at all because only the very best players can sustain that for a full year or more, and while Horschel looked unbeatable for that stretch in 2014, he’s been rather pedestrian since and I think that’s more of a commentary on the difficulty of golf at the pro level than it is about anything Horschel has done specifically. I guess ultimately, I view Horschel with the idea that he’s a good tour player with an extraordinary ability to get and stay hot, particularly if his short game and putter are working like they did last week.
3. When I first started “covering” the game a few years ago, I always said that Horschel was a dream for someone like me who made GIFs because he’s so emotive and whether you like it or not, you usually know where he stands on an issue. It’s a little bit different with Bubba Watson and Ian Poulter, but along the same lines, golf just seems more interesting when Horschel is around a leaderboard on a consistent basis, and I hope that we see more of that going forward. The best writing on Horschel in the last few years came from these two articles, both of which I recommend reading:
Also, just wanted to share this tweet from Horschel’s wife Brittany, which went around yesterday in the aftermath of Horschel’s win. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we’re all pulling for the Horschel family here.
4. The strokes gained leaderboard from the Nelson, where Horschel was able to get it done mostly because of his putter, but you can also see why James Hahn was right there as well. As always, this is with all stats courtesy of Data Golf and only features players who made the cut.
- Off the Tee
- Best: Dustin Johnson (+1.674)
- Billy Horschel: (+0.657)
- Worst: Billy Hurley III (-1.874)
- Best: Billy Horschel (+2.096)
- Worst: Seamus Power (-1.533)
- Tee to Green:
- Best: James Hahn (+3.577)
- Billy Horschel: (+1.522)
- Worst: Brendon Todd (-2.077)
- Best: Scott Piercy (+2.350)
- Billy Horschel: (+0.151)
- Worst: Brendon Todd (-1.354)
- Around the Green:
- Best: Willy Wilcox (+1.517)
- Billy Horschel: (+0.715)
- Worst: Charley Hoffman (-1.029)
5. I know that he’s not the most popular player on Golf Twitter these days, but it was good to see some signs of life from Jason Day this week. A lot has been made about the personal issues he’s faced over the last year, along with the injuries and the fact that his last win is now more than a calendar year in the rearview, so the fact that he got in the mix is a good sign. What was interesting about Day’s week from a statistical standpoint was that aside from the putter, which ranked second behind Horschel in strokes gained for the week, Day was pretty average in every other facet of the game and was actually a negative in his approach shots. If he can clean that up a little bit, it won’t be too long before he gets another win or two under his belt.
Also, the same can be said for James Hahn, who had a negative Strokes Gained: Putting number for the week. Since his win at the Wells Fargo last May, Hahn had only posted two top-10 finishes coming into last week, so obviously this is a good sign for him as well. You also have to think this is the best week that PXG has had since bursting onto the scene last year, with both Horschel and Hahn coming up big.
6. Sergio Garcia didn’t have the best day on Sunday after an excellent Saturday 64, but this shot was probably the best of anyone during the week.
7. I’m not going to read too much into the missed cut for Jordan Spieth, even though it is his third in his last five starts. He’s in the field at Colonial this week, as well as Memorial next week ahead of the U.S. Open, where I have no reason to believe that he won’t be in the mix.
8. Shout out to Alvaro Quiros for winning the Rocco Forte Open on the European Tour, and jumping 466 spots in the OWGR from 703 to 237. It’s his first win in almost six years, which explains why he didn’t have status on the European Tour and was recently playing on the Challenge Tour (the Euro version of the Web.com) in an attempt to get his game back. I remember thinking years ago that Quiros and Nicolas Colsaerts were going to be the next big things coming out of Europe, and with seven European Tour wins, he’s had a good run but that explosion hasn’t really happened.
The good thing for Quiros is that at 34 years old, he still has plenty of time to make an impact, and maybe this win is what kickstarts his career again. His best shot from the week had to be this pitch shot from the cart path:
9. It is with a heavy heart that I report that Bernhard Langer is at it again. Langer shot 64 on Sunday at the Regions Tradition to win the first senior major of the year, and the eighth of his ridiculous run at the top of the over-50 tour. I get that we’re never going to pay as much attention to the Champions Tour as we do to the other tours, but Langer’s dominance feels like the most underrated story in golf over the last decade. His numbers are honestly mind blowing.
Top-10 finishes in over 70% of your starts? That shouldn’t be a thing. The win also tied him with Jack Nicklaus at the top of the senior major list with eight career wins, and there’s no reason to believe that Langer won’t surpass him at some point in the near future.
10. It sucks that the BMW Charity Pro-Am was shortened to 54 holes, with Stephan Jaeger coming away with the victory after rounds of 64-66-65, and it appears likely that we’ll be seeing him on the big tour at some point soon. I always love looking at the Web.com leaderboard and seeing the crazy low numbers that the guys put up who aren’t really all that close to the top of the board.
Take Andrew Landry, last year’s U.S. Open darling, for example. Landry was tied for fifth place going into the final round that got washed out after rounds of 68-65-66 for a total of 15-under par. That should be good enough to lead pretty much any tournament after three rounds, but he was somehow four shots back of Jaeger. It’s a reminder that these guys are all really, really good and given the right week and circumstances, they can beat anyone.
11. Let’s be real though: the story of the Web.com event this week was that Twitter personality, and spicy curmudgeon, Tron Carter teed it up with Chesson Hadley in the pro-am portion. By all accounts, Tron acquitted himself well and the best part was that the fine folks running the Web.com Tour Twitter account let us know whenever they had footage.
In all honesty though, I got a chance to play with Tron down in Jacksonville during our PLAYERS stay at the #BlogCabin and Hadley’s right: he can play, and he’s an excellent driver of the ball. As great as the footage on the course was, showing only his shortcomings was disappointing. Very dishonest!
12. Pumped as always to watch the BMW PGA at Wentworth this week, but it goes without saying that it sucks that Rory won’t be there thanks to his ongoing rib troubles. As Will Gray pointed out last week, this also doesn’t look great moving forward for the Memorial either.
I’m not ready to freak out or jump to any conclusions because it still feels like it’s way too early to do either, but this story has the potential to be a very big deal in the coming weeks and months if Rory can’t get healthy.
13. So, after not hearing anything in what felt like forever on the potential Vijay Singh/PGA Tour lawsuit, we got word last week that it is in fact going to go to trial. This whole ordeal has always felt a little strange just because Vijay continues to play on the PGA Tour like it’s no big deal, and I’m sure that when he was in contention at the PLAYERS a few weeks ago that Tour officials would have preferred anyone else win the tournament than him. I’ve always thought that there wasn’t enough for Vijay to gain here by taking this to trial and that eventually they’d just settle, but clearly he sees it differently and is intent on getting everything he can out of them.
It’s going to be interesting to see what the outcome is here. The tour has always been super protective of their disciplinary actions and a trial like this has the potential for things to be revealed that the PGA Tour and other parties would probably prefer were kept quiet. It’s also possible that there isn’t much to be revealed at all and we’ll forget about this as soon as it’s over, but this is worth keeping an eye on over the next few months.
14. Hat tip to Geoff Shackelford for this video of PGA of America’s Paul Levy discussing the idea of the PGA Championship potentially moving to May.
The potential reworking of the PGA Tour schedule, involving a potential moving of the PLAYERS to March and the PGA jumping into May, makes a lot of sense from a viewers standpoint. Having a big event before the Masters, and winding the season down ahead of the start of the NFL season is something the PGA Tour should be looking at, but it also presents some difficulties.
First off, the PGA of America controls the PGA Championship, so it’s not like the the decision is with the PGA Tour to move it. Also, three of the next seven PGA Championships are set to be played on the east coast, where the weather isn’t always the most friendly in May and could pose problems with temperature and course conditions. I’m all for moving the schedule around, but there also might not be a 100% ideal solution out there either.
15. On the Ian Poulter/Brandel Chamblee debate: If you’ve read anything I’ve written in the past, it’s easy to make an argument that I’ve been pro-Poulter and anti-Chamblee based on some of the situations that both men have put themselves in. Both like to speak their minds, and ultimately, I think they’re both good for the game. In this case, I have no idea if Poulter was playing it safe in order to earn money and not playing to win as Chamblee suggests, but Chamblee gets paid to analyze the events as he sees it and that’s exactly what he did here. His experience in this area is valuable, and as he said on the broadcast, he’s been there before. It did seem like Poulter was being cautious, and maybe that thought of his tour card being safe did enter his mind. Having said that, Poulter has every right to respond the way that he did and defend his position.
I thought Kevin Van Valkenburg summed it up best in a series of tweets last week:
16. Three great reads from the week:
- Jonathan Wall on Trinity Forest, where the Nelson is headed starting next year.
- Gary D’Amato has been profiling Erin Hills and the history of the track for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. All five parts are more than worth your time, and you can find them here.
- Mike McAllister’s deep dive on Jack Nicklaus: ‘Mr. Columbus’
17. Your must listen of the week is Alan Shipnuck’s podcast with swing coach Sean Foley. One of my favourite interviews from a few years ago was when Foley spoke with Charlie Rose, and to be honest, I could listen to Foley talk for hours. We can argue about a lot of things when it comes to Foley, particularly around how effective his teachings are and if what he does leads to back injuries, but there’s no doubting that Foley brings an interesting perspective and is super intelligent. I highly recommend listening.
18. For your random GIFs of the week, I present Spencer Levin.