Rory McIlroy who? His time may have been during the summer, but there is a new man in town. It is the relatively unheard of Billy Horschel, who just walked away from the Tour Championship with $11.5 million. Not only $11.5 million, but the winner of the FedEx Cup, last week’s BMW Championship, and a newfound name. On his personal website, he states placing 2nd at the Stadion Classic on the Web.com Tour was his most memorable moment in his golfing career.1 Oh, how things have changed. Horschel was a no-name to many just a few weeks ago, but that isn’t the case anymore.
Horschel, who turns 28 in December, grew up Grant, Florida. He earned the Space Coast Golfer of the Year in 2002 and 2003 and took 5th in the state championship the following year. In 2006, Billy participated in the 2006 U.S. Amateur at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, MN. On the first day of qualifying, Horschel threw up a 12-under 60, a USGA record. He followed that up with a not-so-pretty 78, but his first day score was still good enough for him to hold onto his lead, as he was the medalist by three shots. Unfortunately, his course record didn’t carry over to match play, as he was bounced in the third round by Ryan Yip. He did end up qualifying for the 2006 U.S. Open but missed the cut by three stokes, shooting a 75-77. Tiger Woods, who also missed the cut, shot a 76-76. Horschel then moved onto the University of Florida – Gainesville, where he dominated from 2006 to 2009. He was a 3x first-team All-American, 2x SEC Player of the Year, and a Ben Hogan Award Semifinalist, just to name a few.
After a brilliant four years at Florida, his career hit a speed bump. He turned pro after he graduated in 2009, as he went to qualifying school and earned his PGA Tour Card for the upcoming 2010 season. Horschel dealt with injuries that year and he was only able to play in a few events. From there, he struggled to gain any traction. He floated from tournament to tournament and dealt with a variety of injuries. He continued to go to qualifying school to gain access to the PGA Tour, but he wasn’t performing like he should of been. He missed the cut in all four events he played in in 2010 and missed over half the following year.
Horschel took baby steps in 2012, where he made the cut in 15 of 17 events. Unfortunately, he floated around the bottom of the leaderboard on Saturday and Sunday. He took 3rd once, had another top-10 finish, and two top-25 finishes.2 Nothing too impressive. He did make $486,177 in winnings that year, so should I bash the guy? Is it really that unimpressive? Probably not. He made $400K+ playing a game where he is just mediocre among his peers. What a life. I digress.
In 2013, Billy Horschel finally kicked it into gear. He won his first PGA Tour event, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on April 28th. He fired a low-round 64 on the day and birdied six straight holes at one point.3 That win qualified him for many upcoming events, including the 2013 PGA Championship and the 2014 Masters. It also moved him up the FedEx rankings and the Official World Golf Ranking. He was finally becoming relevant. Just two months later in June, Horschel held the lead with Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open, his first major as a professional. He shot a 3-under, 67 on the 2nd day, which tied the best round on the course for the tournament.4 He finished the weekend shooting a 72-74, tying him for 4th. It was certainly the performance Horschel was looking for. That year, he finished an impressive 16th in the FedEx Cup rankings.
It was a relatively slow and boring 2014 for Horschel though, at least for most of it. He made 20 of 27 cuts, but only finished in the top-10 five times. Before September 1st, his best finish was 10 months prior, a 3rd place finish at the Wendy’s 3-four Challenge. Leading up to the FedEx Cup playoffs, he was cut at The Open Championship, tied for 58th at the PGA Championship, and then tied for 47th at the Wyndham Championship. Shoot, he missed the cut at The Barclays, the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs. His odds weren’t looking too good.
That all changed the following week at the Deutsche Bank Championship. He was hitting everything perfectly and his execution was immaculate. With a chance to win the tournament on the 18th hole on the final day, he chunked a 6-iron on a par-5 into a hazard. It was pretty tough to watch. He couldn’t believe he did that. He went onto take 2nd, but he was so close to his 2nd career victory. Many people bashed him on TV, the radio, and social media for his choke on the 18th. Many thought that was his chance to breakthrough. Many thought that he would falter after such a bitter defeat. Let’s just say he went onto prove everyone wrong.
The next week at the BMW Championship, Horschel stuck around after the first two rounds. But on Saturday, he shot a 7-under 63, giving him a nice lead heading into the final day. He went on to win the tournament in dominant fashion, shooting 14-under, a two-stroke victory over Bubba Watson. He hit over 76% of greens in regulation, averaged 316 yards off the tee, and was 100% in sand saves.
And finally, Horschel went onto win the final tournament of the year, the Tour Championship. He shot 11-under, a three-stroke victory over Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy. This was probably his most impressive win. In the final day, he was paired up with McIlroy. They were both tied for first at 9-under and many believed they would duke it out all the way to the 18th. That wasn’t the case. McIlroy faltered early and Horschel never wavered. He played smart, aggressive golf and made a lot of big putts.
After a year of fairly disappointing golf for Billy Horschel, he certainly ended it with a bang. A big bang. Not only did he win the BMW Championship, the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup, and over $12 million in winnings, his wife was expecting their first child. She wasn’t due for another couple of weeks, but when everything is going for you, everything is going for you. On Tuesday, September 16th, at 8:48 PM, Billy and his wife gave birth to their first child, Skylar Lillian Horschel. Talk about the greatest week of your life.
— Billy Horschel (@BillyHo_Golf) September 17, 2014
Billy Horschel might have not been a household name a month ago, but everyone who follows golf knows him now. It looks like he has really figured out his swing in recent weeks and he is more confident than ever. It would have been great if he was this dominant just a few weeks prior though. If anyone deserves a spot on the Ryder Cup team, it is Billy Horschel. His competitiveness, fire, and energy is exactly what that team needs and he provides all of it. Unfortunately, that’s not how it worked out. Tom Watson picked Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan, and Webb Simpson. Regardless, Horschel just came out a couple of days ago and said he was not worthy of a spot on the Ryder Cup. He said his recent hot play doesn’t deserve it. It is what you put together throughout a season. The recent birth of his child also might have kept him out of the Ryder Cup.
When everyone thought that it was the start of Rory McIlory era, Billy Horschel gave us a second to pause. Now I’m not saying Horschel is better than McIlroy, or that he will be able to go head-to-head with him for the next 10 years, but he will certainly be atop of many leaderboards for years to come. The guy can play. In the past month, he has shown us he can do it. I’m hoping, like many golf fans are, Billy Horschel is here to stay.