Cameron Morfit / PGATOUR.COM
DUBLIN, OH – Billy Horschel won’t begrudge you the memory if all you take away from his victory at the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday on Sunday is his eagle at the 15th hole. His nearly 55-foot putt, curling from right to left, was a splendid stroke and extended his two-shot lead to four, the final margin as Horschel (72) bested Aaron Wise (71).
But while the eagle stood out, shiny things do not excite Horschel, who obsesses more over peak performance and what goes into it. He wants to understand success like a cheetah understands speed. What works? What doesn’t? He thinks about this as it relates to real estate, business – he doesn’t want to play professionally forever – and, for now, golf. On a list of the hardest workers on the PGA TOUR, he puts himself in the top five.
That work is paying off, and in capturing his seventh TOUR title over a cast of younger players – Wise, 25; Joaquin Niemann, 23; Will Zalatoris, 25; Sungjae Im, 24; Sahith Theegala, 24 – Horschel, 35, also authored a victory for professionalism itself.
“I think today, knowing the golf course, knowing how it was going to be fast and firm again, it was knowing the pin locations,” Horschel said. “I didn’t have to do anything to do anything special out there. I’ve got a five-shot lead.”
Given that he is now 3-for-5 at converting 54-hole leads/co-leads to victory, it’s probably a good thing.
Horschel has not only studied the game, he has assembled an all-star cast around him that includes his (longtime) swing coach, Todd Anderson; fitness guy, Alex Bennett at the TPC Performance Center; stats guy, Mark Horton; and caddie, Mark “Fooch” Fulcher, who was on the bag for Justin Rose’s 2010 Memorial victory and joined Team Horschel last summer.
Horschel’s wife, Brittany, has his back, too, although she had never been there to witness one of his wins until Sunday. She’s been too busy with their three young children, Skylar, Colbie and Axel. She’s also, ahem, superstitious.
“My wife has never wanted to fly in on a Saturday night when I’ve had a chance to win,” Horschel said, laughing at the running joke in their family. “She feels like she may be bringing bad luck or something.
“I had a chance to win Bay Hill this year,” he continued. “My family was there. They were right there on the 18th green. As I was walking up, had a chance to make a putt to go into a playoff with Scottie Scheffler.”
After Horschel missed the cut at the Charles Schwab Challenge last week – his first missed cut on TOUR since the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, nearly a year ago – he called a team meeting with Fulcher and statistician Horton.
“We just said, ‘We need to get back to it,’” Horschel said.
It, meaning their process, even if it sometimes feels too slow and deliberate for pedal-to-the-metal Horschel.
“To be honest, it was probably long overdue,” Fulcher said.
Not missing a cut since the U.S. Open was becoming too much of a story. Also, they were not thinking well, and consequently making poor decisions. Perversely, the missed cut at Colonial, and the ensuing meeting, prepared Horschel for winning.
Deep into his successful but somewhat underrated career – he has never played on a U.S. Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team – he is enjoying his best run since winning the 2014 FedExCup. He captured the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play last season, plus the BMW PGA Championship, the crown jewel of the DP World Tour. And now he’s earned the coveted Jack Nicklaus handshake at Muirfield Village, moving from 30th to 10th in the FedExCup.
“He’s an incredible professional, and I think he’s getting better,” Fulcher said.
Teeing it up against significantly younger competition, Horschel is a throwback to an earlier era when guys like Ben Hogan and Tom Watson and others routinely peaked in their mid-30s. He would know all about that. He also knows where success has eluded him: in the majors. It just so happens the next U.S. Open, at The Country Club in Boston, is in two weeks.
Horschel will continue put in the work; he loves the grind. If it doesn’t pay off at the U.S. Open, then it will at The Open Championship, and if not at St. Andrews, then next year. He admits the majors get him extra riled up, maybe too riled up.
“He’s emotional,” Fulcher said. “What I have seen, though, is he’s a lot quieter on the golf course now, especially in moments like today. He’s a lot more set in his process than even when I started with him. He was a bit loose.”
Work hard, stick to the process, and success will get in the way. Horschel firmly believes that.
“Sometimes they get a little tired,” he said of his team, which he calls the best in the business, “because I want to just keep pushing and keep going forward. But they all understand it’s all for the betterment of the team and hopefully gives us the best chance to be victorious. And it’s great to have three wins in roughly the last 15 months.”
Canadian Notes: Corey Conners tied for 13th at -3, ten shots back of Horschel’s winning score. Adam Hadwin tied for 18th at -2, Mackenzie Hughes was +2 (T37) and Adam Svensson +3 (T45).