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Late surge gives Horschel 36-hole lead

Billy Horschel was 4 under on his last four holes Friday en route to the 36 hole lead.

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — A furious finish at the Seaside Course on Friday gave Billy Horschel the 36-hole lead at the McGladrey Classic.

The 2009 and 2010 q-school graduate finished eagle-birdie-par-birdie to take a two-shot lead over Webb Simpson and Michael Thompson at the midway point.

Putting was the catalyst for Horschel on Friday. His eagle on No. 15 required an 11-foot putt while the birdie on No. 16 was a 14-footer.

“I’m a pretty good ball striker day-in and day-out, and if I just get a little bit of confidence in my putting and start seeing balls go in the hole, it’s a big key,” Horschel said. “If I’m hitting well, I’ll have somewhere between two and four putts inside 10 feet for birdie, and I pride myself on making every putt inside 10 feet. If I can make a couple of 15-, 20-footers, then rounds go a bit lower. That’s what happens every once in a while.”

The former Florida Gator competed in the SEC Championships at Sea Island in 2007, and at Frederica (also on St. Simons Island) in 2008 and 2009, claiming medalist honors in ’09.

“The area is a great place,” he said. “There’s a lot of nice people here. They may be Georgia Bulldogs, but I get along with them pretty well. We respect each other. It’s a great place out here… It’s laid-back, just the South the way it is. I’m a little bit of a high-strung, emotional guy, and so the more I can stay nice and relaxed and even-keel, it helps me more on the golf course.”

After catching the leaders on No. 15, Horschel quickly moved ahead on No. 16 and just missed a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 17 that would have put him two ahead. He didn’t make sweat much over the final birdie, though. Horschel hit his approach inside 3-feet on the 468-yard closing hole to set him up for an easy birdie and a two-shot overnight lead.

“On 18, we had 173 (yards), and we just had a little downhill lie,” Horschel said. “So we knew if we just hit a nice regular 8-iron, the downhill lie was going to make it go about four yards farther than it normally does. It turned out nice, a nice little tap-in.”

Horschel is playing this week for more than his first TOUR victory. At No. 139 on the money list, he’s in need of a significant move over the course of the next two weeks to get into the top 125 and secure his TOUR card for 2011.

“Whatever happens after these two weeks, it happens,” Horschel said. “I’m 24-years old. I’m not someone who’s been out here grinding for years and years and worrying about it. I’ve got plenty of time. I’m lucky enough that I got out here early on, and that helps out a lot.”

Horschel graduated from q-school at the age of 22 in 2009, but only made four starts before a wrist injury requiring surgery derailed his rookie campaign. He again graduated from q-school last year and has made 23 starts.

Horschel made just one cut in the first three months of the season but pieced things together and now has made six straight, posting two top-10s and a 36-hole lead in the process.

“I’ve been playing really well the last couple months and I’m back to where I was in ’09 q-school when I first came out of college,” Horschel said. “It doesn’t matter how bad I may be hitting it or what may be going wrong. I am going to figure out some way to play well that day.”

If Horschel is able to play well for two more days, he’ll secure, not just his first victory, but a two-year exemption on TOUR.

Photo by Greenwood, Getty Images 

Chris Dunham, PGATOUR

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