DUBLIN, Ohio — It has been a running joke in Billy Horschel’s family that his family has yet to see him win, so when he led by five shots heading into the final round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday, it was time for wife Brittany and children Skylar, Colbie and Axel to come down and watch their father win.
“My wife has never wanted to fly in on a Saturday night when I’ve had a chance to win,” Horschel said. “She feels like she may be bringing bad luck or something, so she’s never wanted to do that. I had a chance to win Bay Hill this year and my family was there on 18 green. I was walking up, had a chance to make a putt to go into a playoff with Scottie Scheffler.
“I’ve just always wanted that one moment where my family runs out, the kids run out, that I can always look back for many years to come and they can look back at for their entire life of being on the green and congratulating their father for a victory. It’s special to have that video and those photos for the rest of our lives.”
At that point tournament founder Jack Nicklaus joked that he owned the footage and they would have to buy it from him, but by all means Horschel will get to enjoy his seventh career PGA Tour victory.
The clinching putt on 16th was his first eagle in 573 holes played to that point in the event and Horschel now moves to a career-best 11th in the Official World Golf Rankings, eighth in the Presidents Cup standings and 10th in the FedExCup points standings.
Horschel ranked first in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and was 13th in Strokes Gained: Putting.
For the second consecutive day, it was the first hole that got Horschel going. After Saturday’s close call with a fast chip connecting with the pin and bottom of the cup, he drove it into the fairway bunker off the tee.
Instead of panicking, Horschel held true to his process, and hit his approach to five feet. Though he did not sink the birdie putt, there was a first test which he was able to pass.
Horschel remained steady until the sixth hole, when his string of 49 holes without a bogey ended with a blemish, after his eight-foot par putt missed the mark.
As Horschel could not find a birdie on the front nine, there were those attempting to pursue.
First Max Homa who was firing a 5-under par round heading into the 18th hole, who stood at 8-under par, a bit far back, but able to post a score had he held his nerve. In defeat, Homa did set a PGA TOUR record with 99 putts for the fewest in a tournament.
Instead, Homa found the rough, well left of the fairway and with a tree affecting his swing plane, the ball barely advanced. Homa, would not recover, recording double bogey and tying for fifth place.
The lowest round of the day was 3-under par.
Aaron Wise was able to record a birdie on the second hole and made a couple of nervy par putts, to move to three shots behind. Even with a ninth-hole blemish, he quickly recovered with birdies on 10 and 11.
Horschel made a move of his own to get to 13 under but then bogeyed the 12th hole, meaning he was two shots ahead of Wise and three of Joaquin Niemann.
Niemann had started the day at 6 under and had improved to his 9-under figure, until a double bogey on 14 sealed his fate. Niemann had bunker trouble and then missed a 5-foot bogey putt to minimize the damage.
Even with birdies on 15 and 16 it was too late and a double bogey on 18 left him tied with two-time Memorial Tournament champion Patrick Cantlay.
“I think I hit only two bad swings, and they cost me a lot,” said Niemann. “I’m pretty happy the way I played all the other holes. The good shots I hit on the last couple of holes, the birdie on 16, I just take the positive out of that and just keep going.”
Horschel stood on the 15th green having just witnessed his playing partner Aaron Wise apply the first significant pressure faced all day as he stuck his third shot into the par 5 and tapped in for birdie.
Horschel had a 52-foot eagle putt he was going to have to lag to match and avoid losing momentum, expect there was one problem.
There was no lag putt, instead there was a long bomb that secured his place as the winner of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.
“To make eagle, icing on the cake,” Horschel said. “Aaron (Wise) just hit a great shot in there. That lead is down to two. If I don’t two-putt that it’s down to two instead of a three-shot lead. And like I said, icing on the cake to make eagle, have a four-shot lead with three tough holes out here, knowing I didn’t have to do anything special, and Aaron had to do something special to track me down.”
After Horschel answered on the 15th hole, Wise’s game got stuck in neutral and he parred 16 and 17. Needing a boost after a Horschel bogey on 17, he pulled a driver on 17 into the primary rough and out of answers, made one last bogey, still finishing tied for second, good for his second consecutive top-10 finish in this event.
“This is a tournament you’ve watched on TV since you were a little kid,” Wise said. “Walking off 18, shaking Jack’s hand there, that’s something you watch everyone do in the final group, and I got a chance to do it. It’s bittersweet, but I’m very happy with the week I had and super excited to leave here with a second place.”
The next Memorial Tournament will be contested May 29-June 4, 2023 with Larry Nelson as the honoree.
THE MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT PRESENTED BY WORKDAY FINAL LEADERBOARD
- Billy Horschel -13
Aaron Wise -9
T3. Patrick Cantlay -7
T3. Joaquin Niemann -7
T5. Daniel Berger -6
T5. Max Homa -6
T5. Denny McCarthy -6
T5. Sahith Theegala -6
T5. Will Zalatoris -6
T10. Sungjae Im -4
T10. Jon Rahm -4
T10. Brendan Steele -4