BMW PGA: 'Motivated' Billy Horschel wins at Wentworth after Ryder Cup snub

Lee Westwood and Bernd Wiesberger secured automatic European Ryder Cup spots, but it was Billy Horschel, overlooked for the American team and feeling “motivated” by that, who wore an equally big smile after landing a dramatic victory in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Billy Horschel shows off the BMW PGA Championship trophy after his win at Wentworth. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

Endearing some of the locals in the crowd with his West Ham United golf bag, Horschel signed off with a stunning bogey-free seven-under-par 65 to finish with a 19-under 269 total, winning the $8 million event by a shot from Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64), Jamie Donaldson (66) and Laurie Canter (67).

Horschel is the first American to taste victory in a Rolex Series event on the European Tour and only the second American to claim this title, joining the great Arnold Palmer, who landed his triumph at Royal St George’s in 1975.

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“Man, I'm speechless, which is very, very rare,” said Horschel, who, with Mark Noble and Declan Rice in the crowd, made a gesture with his arms to replicate West Ham’s hammers badge as he was warmly applauded on to the green for the trophy ceremony. “In my mind, it's equivalent to The Players Championship.”

He described his Rolex Series feat as “pretty special” and said that joining Palmer on the trophy was “legendary stuff”.

Horschel finished 17th in the US Ryder Cup standings and he admitted: “It sucks not making the team. As I said all week, I didn't play consistent enough and well enough after I won the Match Play to warrant a pick or to get enough points to be an automatic selection.”

Referring to Stricker having announced his six captain’s picks on Wednesday, he said: “I was a little gutted I didn't get a call this week. I didn't think the call was going to say I made the team, but I was a little gutted that I didn't get a call to say, you didn't make the team. In my mind I thought I would at least get that. There was a little more added motivation this week for that. Gave me a little bit of fire in my butt.”

In a dramatic final round at the Surrey venue, Aphibarnrat looked to be heading to victory after picking up five birdies in the first seven holes then moving into a three-shot lead as he followed a birdie at the 11th with an eagle-3 at the 12th.

Billy Horschel gestures to fans as he leaves the 18th green after the final round at Wentworth. Picture: Glym Kirk/AFP via Getty Images.

He was still in the driving seat following a seventh birdie of the day at the 16th only to then run up a bogey at the 17th, where the damage could easily have been greater as he feared that he’d sent two shots out of bounds but found the first one in a hedge and was able to take a penalty drop.

His 18-under-par total was then matched by Donaldson, who was unable to convert a 15-foot eagle chance at the last, before Horschel, having come up just short of a ditch from the tee, stiffed his third for a closing birdie. Playing in the final group, Canter was unable to match that and it was job done for Horschel.

The new champion said he’d made a “big par putt” at the first and described a birdie at the 15th, which earned him a tie for lead as “huge”. On his overall display, he said: “I played really great all around.”

On the Ryder Cup front, Westwood secured his spot, equalling Nick Faldo’s record 11 appearances in the process, despite signing off with a disappointing 77, having started with back-to-back birdies but then running up one triple-bogey and two double-bogeys in the space of four holes around the turn.

“First eight holes, I was hitting it as good as I’ve hit it in a long time,” said the European No 1 afterwards. “Birdied the first, stiffed it at the second, missed from five feet at the third, didn’t get it up and down from just short on four, missed from 15 feet on five, 15 feet on six, got unlucky on seven, got unlucky on eight.”

Referring to what happened thereafter, he added: “I suppose the toys came out of their cot. This game beats you up all the time. There’s a few of us got a lot of stuff going through our minds this week and it was just one of those moments where

“I just went ‘f*** I’ve had enough of this s***.’ You can all relate to that, can’t you? Anyone who has played golf. If there had been a buggy on that ninth tee, I would have taken it in.”

The 48-year-old hasn’t had a top-20 finish since the Players Championship in March, admitting a sense of “frustration” about his game. “Feel like I played better than the results have shown in mid part of the year,” he said. “It’s the kind of game where even when you think you’ve turned a corner it gives you a good kicking every now and again.”

Sounding a note of optimism about the Ryder Cup, he insisted: “I’m seeing progress. I’m hitting good shots, starting to hit the ball better. This is a time for patience for me. I do feel like I am taking a few steps forward and getting a bit of a kicking, like my experience of the last 28 years.”

It was also job done for Wiesberger, who came into the event needing a top-50 finish to secure his debut in the biennial event and, despite a bit of a wobble when dropping two shots in four holes on the front nine in the final round, achieved his target comfortably in the end in a tie for 20th.

“Thankfully I've laid the groundwork in the first three days because today was something different,” said the 2019 Scottish Open champion. “I've never felt like this on a golf course before. It was very high pressure.

“Normally when you play for tournament wins, you're excited and you're anxious on the first tee and you kind of improve into it as the round goes on. Today, I never, never let off and I just had to take deep breaths for every shot and I guess that's what it means to be able to play for a Ryder Cup team.

“It's been a lifelong goal for me to be part of a European Team and I'm very proud to have just done enough to get into that team and go to Whistling Straits in a couple weeks. In 2018 in France, I was doing SKY Germany because I had an operation on my arm and it inspired me a lot to be part of this team.

“I'm really looking forward to being of as much help as I can be on that team. I will put my heart and my soul into the team and deliver in every way possible. I’m very proud to be one of Paddy's 12.”

Westwood edged out Shane Lowry by just 8.98 points after the Irishman had to settle for a tie for 17th, having been on course early on to stay in an automatic berth before dropping three shots in two holes on the back nine at an inopportune time.

“Yeah, it wasn't really good enough today,” he said afterwards. “Golf course is pretty easy today. I just had a bad two holes on the back nine and that’s kind of you.

“To be honest, I felt like I was more in the tournament than I was. The scoreboards were broken out there. I think I didn't get to see a scoreboard until 14 and I'm a scoreboard watcher, and I didn't even know how I stood.

“That was disappointing. I'm not sure it would have changed anything or how I played because I'm quite an aggressive player anyway. Then had a bad three-putt on 14 and bad tee shot on 15.

"I played that in five-over for the week, which is obviously not good enough. Small margins in this game. I played nicely again today and I played nicely every day. It is what it is.”

The 2019 Open champion was relieved when he was named later in the day along with Sergio Garcia, who missed the Wentworth finale, and Ian Poulter, who failed to make the cut, as Padraig Harrington’s picks.

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