Poor putting costly for Billy Horschel

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Billy Horschel wouldn’t say who told him, but he knew exactly what his balky putting cost him in his first Masters tournament.

The former Florida Gator shot a final-round 73 Sunday to tie for 37th at 7-over par 295.

But he figured he could have been on the leaderboard if he putted better.

Horschel tied for second in greens in regulation at 72.22 percent behind runner-up and fellow Masters rookie Jordan Spieth. But Horschel finished 88th in putting compared to the entire 97-man field with 1.82 putts per hole.

“Probably the worst I putted all year,” the defending Zurich Classic of New Orleans champion said. “I know these greens are tricky but I missed a lot of putts that were makeable.

“A stats guy told me I lost seven and a half shots to the field just on putting. I do what the rest of the field’s doing, I’m under par.”

Still, Horschel said there were things to build on from his first Masters.

“My caddy and I did a good job. We didn’t miss in the wrong spots,” he said. “I’ve got a lot notes in my book.

“When I come back here I will be a little better prepared on the greens.”

No tree, but still tough

Ike might have said, “I told you so.”

One of the biggest stories coming into this year’s Masters was the loss of the famous Eisenhower tree on the 17th hole in a February ice storm, and how it might impact scoring on the 440-yard par-4.

Instead of trying to hastily replace the tree in the weeks leading up to the tournament, Masters officials decided to simply let it play out and see how the hole faired.

It proved to be virtually just as tough. The 17th played as the sixth-toughest hole all week to an average of 4.24. Sunday, it gave up one birdie and just 22 overall compared to 85 bogeys.

Last year, the 17th played to a stroke average of 4.22 and also ranked sixth toughest.

The Eisenhower tree, a massive loblolly pine that stood 210 yards off the tee and covered the left half of the 17th fairway, was named for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

An Augusta National Golf Club member, Eisenhower hit the tree so often he lobbied unsuccessfully to have it cut down.

Zurich masters

Twenty-four players committed to play in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, April 24-27, were in this week’s Masters field.

Of those, 13 made the cut, including runner-up and Masters rookie Jonas Blixt, fifth-place finisher Rickie Fowler, reigning U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, Nick Watney and Horschel.

Masters winner Bubba Watson, who won the Zurich in 2011, has not committed to this year’s New Orleans event.

Past masters

Bernhard Langer has become a dominant force on the Champions Tour, but the two-time Masters champion proved he can still play here as well.

Langer, 56, who won in 1985 and 1993, shota 69 to finish at even par in a tie for eighth at even par.

Meanwhile 50-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez was even farther up the leaderboard. Jimenez, who makes his Champions Tour debut next week, shot 71 to finish in solo fourth at 4 under.

Fifty-four-year-old Fred Couples, the 1992 Masters winner, started birdie-birdie to vault into contention at 3 under, but faded down the stretch to shoot a 3 over 75 and finish in a tie for 20th at 2 over.

Future dates

The Masters is always contested the first full week of April, but here are the official dates for the next three years:

April 9-12, 2015

April 7-10, 2016

April 6-9, 2017

Also, the second Drive, Chip & Putt Championship will be held Sunday, April 5 at Augusta National. Local qualifiers in Louisiana will be held June 11 at TPC Louisiana in Avondale and July 2 at The Island in Plaquemine.

The last word

“Oh, he’s lost his marbles.”

— CBS announcer David Feherty after Watson hit his second through the trees and over the pond on the par-5 15th hole. He cleared it.