By Alex Myers
Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt, the Masters rookies who tied for second, are clearly the exception when it comes to players competing at Augusta National for the first time. Billy Horschel? Now, that's more what we've come to expect.
Horschel put on a ball-striking clinic for most of the week, hitting 29 greens in regulation the first two days and winding up with 52 for the week -- second only to Spieth. But Horschel only finished T-37, 12 shots behind the 20-year-old and 15 shots behind winner Bubba Watson, who tied for fifth in greens hit for the week.
Getting to Augusta National's greens didn't prove to be a problem for Horschel, but navigating them -- historically, what rookies seem to have the most trouble with -- did. Of the 51 players who made the cut, Horschel had the worst putts per hole average (1.82) and the most three-putts (eight).
While those stats make sense for someone playing the course for the first time, Blixt's don't. He finished third in putts per hole (Russell Henley, another rookie, was second and Rickie Fowler was first) and was the only player other than Miguel Angel Jimenez (T-5) to not register a single three-putt for the week.
Horschel's stats also fell in line with how he's been playing all season. He ranks 16th in greens in regulation on the PGA Tour, but just 91st in strokes gained/putting and an abysmal 188th in three-putt avoidance.
If Horschel hitting a lot of greens at a major championship rings a bell, that's because it should. At last year's U.S. Open at Merion, Horschel hit all 18 greens during a second-round 67.
That week, Horschel turned his great iron play into a T-4. It's a bit of a stretch to think he could produce a similar result at Augusta National after how poorly he putted this week, but he seemed confident that his first experience taught him a lot.
"I've got a lot notes in my book," Horschel said. "When I come back here, I will be a little better prepared on the greens."