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Horschel outlasts Scheffler in sloppy final of Match Play

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Billy Horschel holds his trophy after winning the Dell Technologies Match Play Championship golf tournament Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

AUSTIN, Texas – Billy Horschel didn’t find much to admire about his golf Sunday except that he was the last man standing in the Dell Technologies Match Play.

And that was a thing of beauty.

Horschel won six out of his seven matches over 122 holes in the longest week in golf, and he had just enough left in the tank in strong wind to hold off Scottie Scheffler, 2 and 1, in a sloppy championship match at Austin Country Club.

His only birdie was a chip-in from 40 feet below the fifth green, yet Horschel didn’t lose another hole.

Scheffler lost his putting touch that carried him to so many big moments this week, yet he managed to stay in the match. He twice had to take penalty drops — with Horschel in the fairway — and he still didn’t lose the hole.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Horschel said. “I feel sorry for the fans watching the coverage because they didn’t see any great golf shots, or very few of them at that. They saw a lot of sloppiness. They saw a lot of pars win holes.

“It was just one of those days where you knew you just had to keep grinding it out, trying to give yourself the best opportunity to make easy pars and hopefully that was going to get the job done,” he said. “I didn’t have my great stuff.”

Neither did Scheffler, the 24-year-old Texas graduate who reached the final by taking down three former Match Play champions and two players from the top 10 in the world. His only birdie in the final match was a 35-footer that Horschel conceded after driving into the ravine on the second hole.

“I just wasn’t able to make any birdies this afternoon,” Scheffler said. “I couldn’t really get that spark that I needed, and I gave myself some opportunities. Just wasn’t able to make the putts.”

He had the support of the Austin crowd that shouted, “Hook ‘em,” and Scheffler too often obliged.

He went left on the par-5 sixth and had to take a penalty drop. He pulled is approach into the water on the par-5 12th. He hooked another drive off the roof of a two-story hospitality tent left of the 15th fairway.

Through it all, he managed to make Horschel sweat it out until the 17th hole. Scheffler, who missed two putts inside 10 feet on the back nine that would have won holes, missed from 10 feet for birdie on the par-3 17th to end it.

Horschel, the No. 32 seed, won for the sixth time on the PGA Tour. It was his first individual title in nearly four years. A former Walker Cup player, he had failed to make it to the weekend in his previous four appearances in the Match Play.

“You just never know when you’re going to win,” Horschel said. “You just never know when it’s going to be your time.”

Horschel took his first lead when Scheffler’s chip left of the seventh green was too strong and rolled 12 feet by, and he took a 2-up lead to the back nine when the Texan missed a 5-foot par putt on No. 9.

Horschel didn’t make it easy on himself. He was poised to take control on the par-5 12th when Scheffler’s approach went into the water. Horschel had a wedge to the green and sent it over the flag into a bunker, leaving him a shot he couldn’t get any closer than about 18 feet. He wound up with a bogey, and Scheffler had a 10-footer for par to win the hole.

He missed.

Two holes later, Scheffler stuff his approach into 5 feet on No. 14 with a chance to get to 1 down.

He missed again.

The match looked as though it would end on the par-5 16th when Scheffler went so far to the right up the hill that his only play was back to the fairway, and he did well to get on the green some 35 feet away. Horschel smartly laid up, but his wedge to a back pin went into the bunker. He managed to save par this time to stay 2 up, and it ended a hole later.

So many times this week, Scheffler was able to make all the big putts at all the right moments. That included his 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole Sunday morning that led to a 1-up victory over Matt Kuchar.

“I think I did that pretty much every time this week until the last match,” Scheffler said. “I mean, that’s golf. That’s what happens.”

Kuchar won the consolation match over Victor Perez of France.

Kuchar, trying to tie Tiger Woods’ record with a fourth appearance in the championship match, didn’t make a putt longer than 3 feet, 6 inches in his semifinal loss to Scheffler.

Perez wasn’t much better in his semifinal match. The Frenchman lost three holes on the back nine to Horschel by making bogey or worse, including a three-putt on the 14th hole.