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Horschel outlasts Day in playoff to win Nelson event

(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- IRVING, Texas -- Billy Horschel didn't have much reason for optimism when he began play this week at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but he certainly left the TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas on Sunday walking tall and with some pep in his step.

Horschel earned his first win since 2014 when he parred the first playoff hole, beating Australia's Jason Day on Sunday to win for the fourth time on the PGA Tour.

Horschel, who won the FedExCup in 2014 when he captured the Tour Championship, outlasted Day by two-putting the 18th hole in the playoff. He then watched from the side as Day, the world's fourth-ranked player, missed a 4-foot putt that would have extended the competition.

By Horschel's own admission, there was little reason to expect the kind of performance he produced this week at a course where he had no prior success. Horschel entered this week coming of four consecutive missed cuts, and he didn't play on the weekend in his previous two starts at the Byron Nelson in 2011 and 2012.

"I came here (without) any type of momentum, and the only thing I can hang my hat on was my practice sessions for the last several months have (gone) well leading to the tournaments," Horschel said.

He added of himself and Day, "I don't think either of us played spectacular today. We had our moments, but I was just able to grind it out and come away with a victory."

The hole that ultimately cost Day a chance to win was his lone three-putt of the week.

"When you're in the position like that, you have to go for it and try to win," Day said. "I can't just lag it down there 2 feet short and keep going back and forth. Overall, it was a pretty good week, but obviously I'm disappointed that I didn't get the win."

Both players finished at 12-under-par 268, Horschel closing with a 1-under 69 and Day with a 68.

"You never want to win with an opponent like Jason missing a short putt like that," Horschel said. "Listen, I've missed a short putt not too long ago to lose a playoff, so I know the feeling. You always want to win with a birdie on the last hole. It's the way the game of golf goes sometimes."

The event was held for the final time at the TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas.

"Every day, I drove to the course like this is a pretty special place, and it really is," Horschel said. "I was in a peaceful place all week, just happy to be here and happy to compete, and it's nice to walk away with a trophy. This means a lot -- I'm sad that we're leaving."

James Hahn, the first-round co-leader and third-round leader, shot a 71 and finished alone in third at 269. He nearly holed his approach shot on the closing hole, coming inches from joining Day and Horschel in the playoff.

Jason Kokrak, who led by five shots after the second round, ended up solo in fourth at 270 after a 68 in the final round.

The final group -- Day, Horschel and Hahn -- remained on top of the leaderboard all day, creating a bit of a match-play scenario and a constant anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better competition between the trio.

Hahn had a one-stroke lead over Horschel after both players birdied the par-4 11th. All three players bogeyed the par-4 12th. Hahn then bogeyed the par-3 13th and par-4 14th to fall a stroke behind Horschel, who birdied the No. 14 to create a two-shot swing.

Day, meanwhile, parred Nos. 13 and 14 before uncorking the shot of the day -- a 27-yard pitch over a bunker that rolled in for a birdie and moved him into the lead at 12 under.

"I only had one top-10 (finish this year) up until this point, and it's not the first tournament I'm going to lose," Day said. "I've lost plenty of other ones beforehand, and I'll lose plenty more in the future.

"I got to try to get better from this experience, and I feel good about my game. Everything is coming along nicely. Got to work a little bit more, and if that happens, then I should be in pretty good form coming into the (rest of the) majors."

Horschel's two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th moved him back into a tie for the lead with Day while Hahn's par on the hole all but ended his chances. Both Day and Horschel parred Nos. 17 and 18.

The victory on Sunday came in Horschel's 166th tour start. In 16 tournaments this season, Horschel, 30, now has a win, five top-25 results and three top-10 finishes, with his best previous result a tie fourth at The Honda Classic. He improved to No. 15 from 71st in the FedExCup standings with the victory.

Danny Lee of New Zealand (68), Sean O'Hair (68), Byeong Hun An of South Korea (69) and Bud Cauley (70) finished tied for fifth at 272. Canada's Nick Taylor (65, the best score of the final round), Joel Dahmen (67), Matt Kuchar (69) and Cameron Tringale (72) were another stoke in arrears at 273. Taylor was 9 under in his final two rounds combined.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson never made a serious run and finished in a group of five players tied for 13th at 274. Defending champion and recent Masters winner Sergio Garcia of Spain went out in 40 before settling for a 74 and finishing in a tie for 20th at 276.

NOTES: Shawn Stefani was disqualified after signing an incorrect scorecard following the third round. ... In 2018, the tournament will move to Trinity Forest Golf Club (a links-style course designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore), located just 10 minutes south of downtown Dallas. ... This tournament was the first Tour event named for a specific player and has been a constant on the professional golf circuit since Nelson won the inaugural event in 1944. ... The event celebrates Nelson's life and legacy. Nelson was born in Waxahachie, Texas, and died in 2006. He reached the pinnacle of his golfing career in 1945, winning 18 tournaments, including a record 11-tournament winning streak. Throughout his relatively brief career, he won 54 times, including the 1939 U.S. Open, the 1937 and 1942 Masters and the 1940 and 1945 PGA Championships.

Updated May 21, 2017

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