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Horschel aims to regain winning form in Big Easy

April 23, 2014

AVONDALE, Louisiana (AP) — There’s something about the rhythm of life in the Big Easy that appeals to Billy Horschel, who acknowledges that he can be a little “hyper” for even his own liking on the PGA Tour.

Horschel earned his first PGA Tour victory at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans a year ago. It remains his lone triumph at golf’s highest level, though he isn’t shy about saying that he likes his chances of defending his title.

“Something about this city just puts me at a sense of ease,” Horschel said.

Horschel has been disappointed with his form lately. In his last seven tournaments (excluding the Accenture Match Play Championship), he has missed three cuts and hasn’t finished higher than 37th. This week, though, he has been greeted by larger-than-life images of himself as he arrives at the TPC Louisiana.

At first glance, Horschel’s toughest competition this week appears to include 2013-14 tour winners Patrick Reed, Kevin Stadler, Chris Kirk and Matt Every, along with Master’s runner-up Jonas Blixt. Then there is a host of established tour players — a number of them past winners — including Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh.

“This is probably the first time I’ve been a favorite this year,” Fowler said. “It’s nice to be back up near the top where people actually are talking about me and I’m not off on the weekends doing my own thing. ... I definitely expect myself to be in contention. But it’s golf; anything can happen.”

The field will not include a pair of recent Zurich champions: Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner. But Zurich has a history of producing champions who’ve never before won on the tour.

Last year, Horschel became the sixth player in the last nine years to capture his maiden PGA Tour triumph in New Orleans. Horschel said he sees Canada’s Graham DeLaet among the prime candidates to continue to that trend.

“It still shocks me he hasn’t won because he had such a great year last year,” Horschel said.

Then he added, “I have a feeling that you’re not going to see a maiden winner this week. I think you’re going to see someone who’s won before, and maybe that’s me.”

This marks the ninth year New Orleans’ event has been held at the par-72, 7,425-yard TPC Louisiana, a Pete Dye-designed course carved out of a cypress swamp just southwest of the city. This year’s purse is $6.8 million, with the winner taking home $1,224,000.

Horschel’s 268 total last year was the best score since the tournament moved to the TPC Louisiana from English Turn. His final-round 64, which ended with him sinking a 27-foot birdie putt to clinch the title, tied for the best single-round score.

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