Horschel, Wittenberg get a moment in the spotlight
SAN DIEGO -- Billy Horschel has never played with Tiger Woods. Casey Wittenberg has only paired with him on golf’s grandest stages. They’ll join Woods for the final 36 holes of the Farmers Insurance Open, though.
Saturday’s heavy fog, which allowed only five minutes of play, ensured that this event will wrap up Monday. To save time, players won’t be re-paired after the third round. They’ll begin the fourth as soon as possible, instead. It’s expected the final group will have to finish approximately nine holes Monday.
“I think the coolest thing that can come from it is that ... we're going to be paired together for 36 holes,” Horschel said. He and Wittenberg will have their hands full as they try to catch Woods, who’s won seven times at Torrey Pines. He’s two shots ahead of Horschel and three shots ahead of Wittenberg.
“The guy that's winning the golf tournament has won a lot before, so in order to beat him, you're going to have to play some good golf and everybody knows that,” Wittenberg said. “So we'll have to get out there and see what we can do.”
Wittenberg has fared well against Woods before, finishing ahead of him in both majors in which they were paired. They played in the first two rounds of the 2004 Masters and final group of last year’s U.S. Open.
Wittenberg shot 76-72 in the first two rounds of the 2004 Masters, while Woods fired 75-69. Wittenberg finished 13th that week, two strokes ahead of Woods. Wittenberg finished 10th at Olympic Club after beating Woods in the final round, 70-73.
Horschel hopes his experience at the 2007 Walker Cup will help him in the final two rounds at Torrey Pines. It may seem far-fetched to compare an amateur event to a Sunday pairing with Woods, but Horschel thinks it’s comparable. He faced Rory McIlroy three times in that Walker Cup, which was held in McIlroy’s home country, Northern Ireland. Horschel estimated 12,000 people were present when he hit the matches’ opening tee shot.
“I'm excited to play with him,” Horschel said. “I've got a lot of good advice from other players who have texted me who have played with him before and given me some good advice. So I'm just going to do my own thing, take a couple of things that some guys have mentioned to me and just go about that.”
Horschel and Wittenberg are both back on the PGA Tour after regaining their cards via Q-School and the Web.com Tour, respectively. Horschel finished fourth at the most recent Q-School; he’s earned his card in three of four trips to the Q-School finals. Wittenberg was the leading money winner on the 2012 Web.com Tour after winning twice.
A high finish will help Horschel in multiple ways. Not only will it help him in the reshuffle, but it will earn him a spot in next week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open. Wittenberg already is in the Phoenix field. Horschel would earn a spot in the field with a top-10 at Torrey.
He’s currently entered in the Monday qualifier. Players at Torrey Pines who are also in the Monday qualifier will be given the final tee times at the qualifier to buy them more time to make it to Arizona. The final time is scheduled for 2:03 p.m. local time, though, so it seems unlikely he could make it in time.
He has bigger things to think about, like two rounds with Tiger Woods.