AUSTIN, Texas – It was another fun week in Austin where the world’s best took each other on head-to-head before Billy Horschel buried his previous match play demons with victory over Scottie Scheffler in the final. We have plenty of twists and turns to update from along the way.
And while Horschel was adding a WGC title to his resume cancer survivor Joel Dahmen was claiming his first ever PGA TOUR win in the Dominican Republic.
Here are the five stories you may have missed from a huge weekend of TOUR action.
1. Billy Horschel buried his match play demons with an impressive display of mental fortitude.
Not known as being one of the strongest on TOUR in terms of his temperament and mental resilience Horschel was a picture of strength from Friday onwards. Having lost matches he should have won in previous editions of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play – twice letting the eventual champions came back from big deficits to beat him – Horschel was determined to do things differently this time.
He did so on Wednesday beating Max Homa but lost his cool in a loss to J.T. Poston on Thursday. After getting a boot in the backside over his attitude from his team Horschel refocused and took out No.4 seed Collin Morikawa before bouncing Homa in a playoff for the group. From there he went through Kevin Streelman, Tommy Fleetwood and Victor Perez to get to the championship match and despite a resume that included five PGA TOUR wins and a FedExCup title Horschel started underdog to 24-year-old local favorite Scottie Scheffler in the final. Scheffler was chasing his first TOUR win but Horschel flipped an early deficit by chipping in for a birdie on the fifth hole and then went about grinding his way to a 2 and 1 win. The feature of his play was staying calm even when he made mistakes. Now he hopes to bring his best to major championships with dreams of winning them all.
To read more about Horschel’s win, click here.
2. Scottie Scheffler may have just picked himself for the Ryder Cup.
Scheffler might not have won the Dell Match Play – and now has another close call where he’s failed to close down the stretch – but the 24-year-old continues to show its more a matter of when not if he will claim a trophy. Last season’s PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year was a little stale by the time he got to Horschel in the final but his path to get there was one huge audition in front of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker.
Scheffler advanced out of a group containing two-time Dell Match Play champion Jason Day, England’s Andy Sullivan and four-time TOUR winner Xander Schauffele. If that wasn’t impressive enough for Stricker his Saturday surely raised eyebrows.
In a dominant display of golf the Texan took out European star Ian Poulter 5 and 4 before heading right back out to deal with Jon Rahm 3 and 1. Rahm threw four consecutive birdies at Scheffler down the stretch and only won one hole.
In the semifinal Scheffler bested a veteran of U.S. teams past Matt Kuchar 1-up before running out of gas in the final.
“Obviously, I want to be on that team,” Scheffler said. “One of my biggest takeaways is most of the week I performed when I needed to. Obviously this last match I didn’t perform there towards the end but up until that point when I really needed to make a putt or hit a really nice shot I did that. So a lot of confidence going forward performing under pressure.
“Early in my career I’ve already seen myself perform in big moments and big events and I look forward to continuing to do that far into the future. I think this week is definitely a little bit of a confidence boost.”
3. “Golf Dork” Dahmen gets much deserved emotional TOUR win.
Dahmen – and his infamous bucket hut – outlasted a challenge from Rafael Campos and others in a windy finish at the second edition of the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship to get his first win.
Dahmen has long been not only a fan favorite thanks to his social media adventures but a favorite of his peers also thanks to his positive outlook on life and general attitude. Dahmen is a cancer survivor and in his first four seasons on the PGA TOUR was runner up twice. Last season five top 10s helped him to his best ever FedExCup finish at 38th but he came into the week in Punta Cana having missed the cut in six of his last seven starts.
It just made the win all the sweeter for both Dahmen and his just as popular caddie Geno Bonnalie. “I don’t know if our dreams were ever this big per se,” Dahmen said. “Making it five years on TOUR, getting a first win… it’s just pretty special. I mean, two dudes growing up together who were golf dorks, like, somehow, winning on the PGA TOUR… I’m so lucky.”
Read more about Dahmen’s emotional win here.
4. A bunch of big names got bounced early in Austin. Will it affect their mindset for the upcoming Masters?
Defending Masters champion and top seed Dustin Johnson added this week’s Valero Texas Open to his schedule at the last minute after failing to come out of the group stage in Austin. Johnson was seemingly rattled in his final group match against Kevin Na when the pair had a back and forth over a non-conceded putt and he ended up losing a lead and his chance to advance.
But Johnson wasn’t alone as a star player failing to get far in Austin. Of the 16 top seeds in group play only one – Jon Rahm (3) – came through their group and he failed to get past Saturday.
This means that the likes of PLAYERS champion Justin Thomas, U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, former Masters champ Patrick Reed, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and young gun Collin Morikawa all head towards Augusta National with a mini hit to their confidence. McIlroy hit 11 bags of balls on the range following his first loss.
On the flip side – among those players who did advance to the final 16 are some who can now perhaps have some extra in their tank as they move forward. Winner Billy Horschel and finalist Scottie Scheffler certainly come to mind as does Jordan Spieth. The former FedExCup and Masters champion was bounced in the round of 16 by Matt Kuchar but continues on his upward trajectory towards his best.
5. Match Play is awesome.
Never mind the top seeds didn’t make it to Sunday – the week in Austin was brilliant and the match play format is very welcomed as a point of difference one time a year.
Where else would you have seen things like this?
• Sergio Garcia beat Lee Westwood on the fourth hole of a playoff – with an ace!
• Bryson DeChambeau hit a 46-yard drive onto a practice putting green.
• Rory McIlroy hit a tee shot into a backyard swimming pool.
• Brian Harman made eight birdies but lost to Patrick Cantlay in perhaps the highest caliber match of the week.
• Jordan Spieth and Matthew Wolff played a wild tie with shots going all over the planet, including drives 60yards wide of target.
• Dustin Johnson and Kevin Na get into a testy discussion over a non-conceded putt.
• Tommy Fleetwood’s caddie accidentally snapping a strong wooded gallery crossing sign.
• Matt Kuchar opening the ropes for fans to help find his ball.
The list could go on and on. We are counting the days until we return again.