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Other names bigger, but Horschel's hot

Jul. 04, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Golf fans know Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson are playing in The Greenbrier Classic. They are two of the most prominent left-handers in golf and have statistics to prove it.

But, when the fourth $6.3 million Greenbrier Classic begins Thursday on the Old White TPC course at The Greenbrier Resort there's at least one other player fans should be aware of.

Billy Horschel enters the PGA Tour FedExCup event ranked No. 5 in FedExCup points (1,422), one spot below Mickelson, sixth on the money list with more than $3 million and tied for No. 1 with Bill Haas in Top 10 finishes with seven in 17 starts. This is the same player who is No. 35 in the World Golf Rankings after opening the 2013 season at No. 318 and tied for fourth place in the U.S.Open played on the demanding Merion Golf Club.

"It's cool. It's been a great year no doubt about it," Horschel said Tuesday after finishing play with four promising juniors in the Youth Day scramble. "I'm not satisfied though. I want to keep getting better."

Horschel, who won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April for his first PGA Tour victory, is coming off a rough week. He tied for 61st last week in the AT&T National played at Congressional in Bethesda, Md.

But, Horschel said he's enjoyed the week at one of the top resorts in America and is ready to get down to business.

"It's a cool place. There's so much great fun because there's so much to do," Horschel said. "I wouldn't say this is the most difficult course we play, but it still can be a challenge. It suits a lot of people's games."

Ted Potter Jr. is defending champion of The Greenbrier Classic. The left-hander beat Troy Kelly on the third playoff hole to win in 2012. It was his first PGA Tour win and made him an instant millionaire. The winner this year gets $1,134,000.

Some of the other entries are Webb Simpson, Bill Haas, Kenny Perry, and Greenbrier pro emeritus and 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson. Haas won the AT&T last week and Perry won the Senior Players for his first career major.

"People will see a lot of good golf," said Horschel, who made less than $500,000 in 2012. "They get a good turnout here. I'd love to be near or in the final group come Sunday. It would be fun."

Potter said he can't wait to get started. He played in pro-ams Monday and Wednesday and fans knew who he was this time.

"Fans out there were very respectful and very nice, definitely signed a lot more autographs than I normally would at a PGA event, so it's been a good week," he said.

"I feel I have more confidence coming into this week knowing I played so well here last year. So definitely I'm looking forward to getting the tournament started. I definitely have good vibes from last year."

Tournament chairman and Greenbrier owner Jim Justice said he hopes players and fans enjoy what this event has to offer. Justice said Bubba Watson has enjoyed it since arriving last week and that he wants to buy property here.

"Bubba said it probably the best. He said, 'I didn't know what to expect coming here.' And think about it for a second. To me, that's very impactful. When you think about it, a lot of times an image of West Virginia may not be in a great way and you really don't know what to expect, and then all of a sudden you come and it's unbelievable. I think his (Watson's) first tweet was, 'This place is awesome.'

"It's just what the Greenbrier is really all about. It's family. And the amenities we have here. The Greenbrier itself ... the people, the kindness, the love, that's just so gravitating to lots and lots of the players."