In today’s Pro Golf Weekly rundown, we have news on Billy and Brittany Horschel’s triumphs and struggles; an update on Jordan Spieth’s new equipment; the announcement that Maverick McNealy was chosen as the Ben Hogan award winner; the news that Ha Na Jang is leaving the LPGA Tour; and nuggets on Alvaro Quiros winning in Italy.
Horschel Qualifies For U.S. Open
One of the top names missing from the field at The Masters early last month was 30-year-old Billy Horschel, a four-time Tour winner whose famous 2014 FedEx Cup Playoffs tear won him the FedEx Cup title that year.
Horschel might not have qualified for Augusta, but after his thrilling playoff victory at last week’s Byron Nelson classic, he will not start the season 0-2 in major starts, as he jumped high enough to qualify for next month’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
- The Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), updates every Monday
- With his win at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Horschel earned 50 World Ranking Points, raising him from world #76 to #44
- The top 60 in the OWGR this week (May 22) all earn automatic bids to the U.S. Open, which is being held June 15-18 at Erin Hills, just outside of Milwaukee Wisconsin
- Horschel began 2017 ranked No. 70; his all-time high ranking was No 13 after his victory at the 2014 Tour Championship
- Horschel has played the U.S. Open five times, with a best finish of T4 at the 2013 edition at Merion.
“There’s a couple reasons I came here. I don’t think I have to worry about now but fortunately I was outside the Top 50 so I wasn’t qualified for the U.S. or British Open. It sucked this year. It honestly sucked to miss the Masters. I hated it.”
Horschel’s Wife Opens Up About Battle With Alcoholism
In an interview that occurred after his victory at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Horschel was extraordinarily emotional and made a nebulous reference to personal challenges.
On Monday, Billy’s wife, Brittany opened up on Twitter about her alcohol problem, which has weighed heavily on the couple.
- Brittany was first able to admit to being an alcoholic to friends and family within the last year.
- She was in a treatment center last summer (2016), from late May through July, in South Florida.
- She says her disease, and in particular, her time in rehab put extra responsibility on Billy, including caring for their 1½ year old daughter and moving into a new home.
- She said this weekend marked one year of sobriety.
- Billy made 17 cuts in 20 2016 events, with five top 10 finishes
“This weekend marked one year sober for me, but also marked a very hard-fought year for Billy. He deserves to soak in the glory of his win yesterday, throw his feet up and just let out a deep, long breath.”
–Brittany Horschel on Twitter
Stanford’s McNealy Wins Ben Hogan Award
The most prestigious honor in college golf is the Ben Hogan Award, given annually to who is determined to be the best collegiate player.
This year’s winner is 21-year-old Maverick McNealy of Stanford University. It was his third time being a finalist for the award, and his first win.
- McNealy has 11 collegiate victories, tying Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers for the Stanford record. Four of those wins came this past season
- McNealy’s six wins in 2014-15 was the most for a Stanford player in a single season since Tiger Woods had 8 victories in 1995-96
- McNealy was the World No. 1 ranked amateur as recently as last week, before being passed by Chile’s Joanquin Niemann
- He has played in one career professional major, missing the cut as an 18-year-old at the 2014 U.S. Open
- He is said to be weighing a potential pro golf career against a career in business, but no official decision has yet been made.
- Former Ben Hogan Award winners include Hunter Mahan, Ryan Moore, Chris Kirk, Bill Haas, and Jon Rahm
“Thank you so much to @BenHoganAward for a very special night. It is an absolute honor to be named winner this year.”
–Maverick McNealy via Twitter
Ha Na Jang Gives Up LPGA Membership to Play Full-Time in South Korea
South Korea is to women’s golf what the United States is to men’s basketball: far and away the best in the world. One of their higher-profile players on the LPGA Tour is Ha Na Jang, the world’s No. 10 ranked female golfer.
The 25-year-old announced that she will rescind her LPGA membership and play full-time in Korea, a stunning development for a Tour she was playing well on.
- In just her third year on the LPGA Tour, Jang already has four career victories, with her most recent coming in February of this year at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australia Open
- Jang made headlines in March of 2016 with a bizarre incident where her father dropped a travel bag down an airport escalator, injuring LPGA competitor In Gee Chun. Chun was forced to withdraw from the next event, which Jang won. She was widely criticized for her animated celebration following the victory
- Jang is reported to have struggled with the media attention and backlash the incident engendered. Her production dipped in the months following.
- She is holding a press conference today to discuss the decision
“Now every day crying in my room, last night, last week.”
–Ha Na Jang, discussing the public backlash over her celebration after she won the HSBC Women’s Champions
Alvaro Quiros Breaks Out of Long Slump, Wins Euro Event in Sicily
It was not long ago that a long-hitting Spaniard by the name of Alvaro Quiros was considered among the best players on the international golf scene.
The 34-year-old won seven events between 2006 and 2011, reaching as high as No. 21 in the world. He has struggled badly since 2011, however, with no wins from 2012-2016, and he no longer qualifies for the PGA majors that he used to be a fixture at.
All that changed this past weekend, however, as Quiros emphatically ended his slump with a victory at the Rocco Forte Open, a European Tour event.
- Quiros won in a playoff over Zander Lombard, after blowing a five-shot Sunday lead in regulation
- With the victory, Quiros skyrocketed from No. 703 to 237 in the world rankings
- Quiros had missed four straight cuts before a T22 in his last start before the victory in Siciliy. At one stretch in 2016, he had missed 11 of 14 cuts.
- Quiros averaged over 300 yards per drive for five straight years at his peak.
“I’m very happy. Obviously it shouldn’t be like that but at the end it’s a victory and that’s the most important thing. It’s been a little bit of a mess.The game wasn’t that bad. Just the last few holes I started to struggle with the wind left to right and he was playing nice, Pep was playing nice too.”
–Alvaro Quiros, after his Rocco Forte Open victory
Spieth’s New Putter Is Making Waves
As one of the PGA Tour’s premier players, Jordan Spieth is used to having his every move analyzed. That move this time, is a switch away from the long-time Scotty Cameron, which he has been using since 2009, well before his professional career began.
A dip in 2017 putting stats was the big factor in the surprising change. In his first tournament with his new putter, a Futura T5W Tour Only (a prototype), Spieth missed the cut at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
- Spieth’s new putter looks much different than his Scotty Cameron. His Futura has two prongs and two alignment aids.
- Spieth was 39th on Tour in strokes gained: putting, when he made the change. That is a drop off from No. 2 in 2016, and No. 9 in 2015. After one week, he is now No. 52. He has especially struggled with his putting early in tournaments, ranking a dismal 182nd on Tour in round one putts.
- Spieth’s loving relationship with his old putter was well publicized. He even mentioned sleeping with it during a 2016 appearance on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
- Spieth had been considering the change prior to his recent missed cut at THE PLAYERS, but his performance at TPC Sawgrass necessitated the change, in his mind.
“I haven’t been comfortable standing over it for a little while, and so I just wanted something that’s a new look, and the bigger a deal that’s made out of it the more bothersome that is for me. It’s not really that big of a deal, and every guy switches putters every single week. It’s nothing new. Just a new look for me for the time being.”
–Jordan Spieth, on the putter change