By Kurt Voigt
The Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO — Billy Horschel was confident about his chances of staying on top at the Texas Open after taking the second-round lead.
The relatively unknown up-and-comer lived up to his words on Saturday, holding off an experienced leaderboard to shoot a 2-under 70 and take a two-shot lead entering the final round.
Horschel finished second at last week’s Houston Open, and he extended his PGA Tour-best streak of consecutive cuts made to 21 this week.
Still, the Florida native faces the daunting task of fending off a trailing pack that includes former major winners Jim Furyk, Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington if he’s to earn his first PGA Tour win today.
Just don’t try and tell him that.
“I’ve never been star struck out here,” Horschel said. “... I respect all the veterans out here. I respect everyone that’s put their time (in) out here.
“But at the same time, I’m as confident as I’ve ever been, and I feel just as good as anyone else in the world right now.”
Horschel enters the final day with a two-shot lead over Furyk and Charley Hoffman. He’s four shots ahead of a trio that includes former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who would like nothing better than to close out with a win today on his way to next week’s Masters.
McIlroy shot a 1-under 71 to reach 6 under overall. He tied for the low round on Friday with a 67, but he was inconsistent off the tee on Saturday and had four birdies and three bogeys.
The world No. 2 hit just 7 of 14 fairways for the second time in the tournament, continuing his trend of up-and-down play this year after an offseason equipment change.
He only signed up for the tournament late last week, in search of as many competitive rounds as possible before next week — which will mark the first major since his PGA Championship win last August.
Saturday’s gusty Texas wind provided McIlroy with a far different challenge than he’ll likely face next week at Augusta National.
“It was a tough scoring day,” McIlroy said. “It was hard to really go low under par.
“... I probably should have been a couple better, but at the end of the day, it’s still a solid round, and I still have a chance coming into tomorrow.”
Ryan Palmer had the low round on Saturday, posting a 4-under 68.
Furyk, playing the course for the first time this week — and after rain limited his practice round to four holes on Wednesday — birdied No. 18 to cap a 3-under effort for the day and to reach Sunday’s final pairing.
The former U.S. Open champion was consistent from tee to green, hitting 15 greens in regulation — a remarkable feat as the San Antonio wind switched to the south for the first time during the tournament. However, he took 31 putts after needing only 26 on Friday.
“It was funny to wake up and have the wind the dead opposite,” Furyk said. “What I was hitting hybrid into Thursday and Friday, I’m hitting 9-iron today.
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