Billy Horschel – Do I Know Him from Somewhere?
I’ve been reading a lot of commentary lately about the ongoing coronation of Rory McIlroy, and some of them are very analytical – he has the youth, they say, that Tiger has lost – he does such and such better, longer, and more accurately than Tiger – Rory, Tiger, Rory, Tiger. Listening to some of these guys, you’d think that no one other than those two play the game at any level worth watching.
So, in the past three weeks, Billy Horschel has finished second in one tournament, won the BMW, then won the Tour Championship, and the Fed Ex Cup, not to mention about thirteen million and small change. That’s a lot of Big Macs, if you count it that way, but a better perspective is that he played against Rory McIlroy all three weeks. Now, I’m sure that Rory is here to stay. He is a great golfer, and he’ll prove it many times to come, but it just seems like a heck of a time to annoint him the king of the game when a recent University of Florida grad, who only ignited last season, is beating the pants off of him, and has won two of the past three events, both of them huge.
Further, it is amazing to me, at least in my case, that I’ll see a less familiar name on the tour for a while, and not ascribe any personality to him at all. He’s just a name on a leaderboard or money list, a blank slate where my perception is concerned.
That’s what comes of not doing one’s homework. Apparently, this Billy Horschel person is full of personality, and somewhat of an emotional roller-coaster on the course. The moment of his ignition took place, under the radar at first, when he made twenty three cuts in a row for 2012. We noticed him a little more when he finished in the top five for the U.S. Open after sharing the lead two days in. This last April 28, he won the Zurich Classic in New Orleans (polite applause, please), and then…went bonkers. And here he is, watching Rory get crowned while he’s beating the Irishman two out of three weeks.
There may be another reason for Horschel being slow to grow among the golfing public. He’s a short game guy, they say one of the best around, but in the past two weeks, his putter has joined the cause, and that has made him all but unstoppable.
He’s added a coach to his life that seems to make him very happy – Todd Andersen. Horschel describes him as an entire coach, for every phase of the game, and not just a little bit for life. Citing a new attitude as the cause for winning in the past two weeks, he observes that he’s learning to be less rough on himself on a shot by shot basis, and to be more accepting of each shot’s result as part of a broader strategy that changes with each result.
That’s the dark side of emotion in golf – within one hole, you can be good guy, bad guy, good guy, several times in rapid-fire succession. The up-side of his emotion is that he’s excited to play and excited to win – “I’m never going to be a flat-line guy. My heart is going to be on my sleeve with every shot.” No problem, so long as he is able to shake off one result in preparation for the next.
While Rory has Tiger relatively under control (you know, the old guy who isn’t forty yet) until he finds his swing again, he’s having a bit more trouble with Billy Horschel, who seems to have found his stride, and has put a good team around him (including wife Brittany, who has apparently succeeded in getting rid of those one-time octopus pants). For a man who turned pro in 2009, and made his presence known around 2014, you might wonder what took Horschel so long to get here, but now he’s here, and Rory might have a whole new rivalry to worry about, one with a lot more personality than many of us ever realized.