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Horschel showing confidence is key in final stage

PGA TOUR

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- For being just 26 years old, Billy Horschel is already a veteran when it comes to q-school.

This is Horschel's fourth appearance in the grueling six-day tournament, and he hopes it is his last, at least for the near future.

"I feel like I'm one of the best players out here," Horschel said. "If I just play close to what I'm capable of, I should get through."

So far, he's been just that, shooting a 66 Friday to get to 15 under and within three shots of the lead at PGA West.

Six years ago, however, it looked like Horschel wouldn't have to worry about being here.

He won individual medalist honors at the 2006 U.S. Amateur, opening with a tournament-record 60.

At the University of Florida, Horschel was a four-time All-American and in 2007 posted an impressive 3-1 record in the Walker Cup for a U.S. team that included Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler.

After turning professional in 2009 and getting his TOUR card via q-school, though, Horschel suffered a season-ending wrist injury the following year.

Ever since, Horschel has struggled to find consistency and bounced back and forth between the PGA TOUR and the Web.com Tour.

"2010 and 2011 was tough," Horschel said. "I had a ton of confidence after I got out of college and got through q-school and then I get injured and you're not the same player you were six months before the wrist surgery."

Even when he was healthy, things didn't exactly go the way Horschel expected.

In 2011, Horschel missed 14 of 25 cuts. But he also posted three straight top-20 finishes at the end of the year, including a tie for seventh at the Frys.com Open, where he closed with a 65.

The latter gave Horschel hope -- until he arrived here last November. Horschel finished 103rd and failed to secure a TOUR card for this season, earning full Web.com Tour status and only conditional status on the PGA TOUR.

"I knew I wasn't going to get my card," Horschel said. "My swing didn't feel well, I wasn't putting well."

So he had a choice: Play a full season on the Web.com Tour, or play both tours, trying to get as many starts as he could on the PGA TOUR.

It was a bit of a conundrum. Horschel could try to finish in the top 25 on the Web.com Tour to secure a card for next season, or try to earn enough FedExCup points and money in limited action on the PGA TOUR.

He chose the latter, and again the results were mixed.

Horschel missed just two cuts on the PGA TOUR, but he also had just two top 25s in 17 starts.

In just seven starts on the Web.com Tour, however, Horschel had a pair of top 10s and a tie for 13th in Colombia.

"It does make a difference because you're profiting (on the PGA TOUR) instead of just breaking even (on the Web.com Tour)," Horschel said, referring to the sizeable difference in earnings. "If I'd played the full year on the Web.com Tour, I have no doubt I would have gotten my card. But it was my decision so I don't really regret it.

"I shouldn't even be here at this q-school, if I had just played better on the weekend (on TOUR) this year."

That said, the experience of four trips to the final stage seems to have helped.

"I know I'm going to get my card this year because I'm going to play well and do what I've done the whole year.

"And I've already told myself if I don't get through this year, I'll play the Web.com Tour all next year."

If he keeps playing the way he has through the first three rounds, Horschel won't have to worry about that. In his last two rounds here, he's made 13 birdies and no bogeys.

"I'm a better player than I was at the start of the year," Horschel said. "And that's what it all comes down to."

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