Billy Horschel and Derek Ernst are playing in their first PLAYERS Championship this week. (Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Editor’s note: Billy Horschel and Derek Ernst won each of the last two weeks on the PGA TOUR and are playing in their first PLAYERS Championship this week. They will file a daily diary for PGATOUR.COM, documenting their week on and off the course beginning Tuesday.
Derek Ernst: The only thing I know about TPC Sawgrass is from playing it on the video game, though I played a couple of rounds in March after the Puerto Rico event because I didn’t want to travel all the way to the west coast and back again. I like it. You have to be accurate and know where to hit it -- it’s a thinking man’s course.
I got here Monday night after winning the Wells Fargo Championship and decided to turn off my phone so I could enjoy the drive down. Everyone has been coming up to me on the range and congratulating me. It’s crazy. Wayne Gretzky texted me out of the blue during my practice round on Tuesday. He said, ‘Hey this is Wayne Gretzky, I watched your win and good luck with your career.’ The greatest hockey player of all time is texting me? I feel like I’m a nobody, and he’s saying good job to me. This is crazy. I haven’t texted him back yet, but I will. I don’t know what I’m going to say, though.
I played nine holes with Jason Dufner on Tuesday. I was on the first tee and he just came up and joined me. I’m kind of quiet, so we got along pretty well, but he did help me out with some pointers and tips on the course. Jeff Overton also played with us, but he took off after four holes. For how much rain there was the course isn’t soaking wet -- the greens were firm. You can tell it will be firm and fast by the weekend.
My win still hasn’t hit me yet because once I found out I was in this tournament my focused turned to preparing for here. When I have next week off it will hit me -- plus it’s my birthday so it’ll be a big celebration and a lot of fun.
Billy Horschel: It’s nice to finally be able to play in the tournament. My wife and I just bought a house down the street, too. In the past, I’d go early in the week and just hang out with some of the guys but I never went out there once the tournament started. When I look back at it, I never played that well at the Byron Nelson Championship the week after because I was always a little bummed out from having not played this week and not really practiced well.
This week is different in the sense that people recognize me more, they know who I am. I have a lot of friends and family here, too, having grown up a few hours away and having lived here since I turned pro.
I do feel prepared just because I won a couple of weeks ago, but I’m also a little underprepared because we had four days of heavy rain last week so on Wednesday I’ll practice hard with nine holes in the morning and more practice in the afternoon. There’s also a little more pressure because my friends and family will be here watching this week, even though I know it won’t matter to them if I shoot 68 or 78 because they’ll be happy regardless.
When players have come up to me this week I can tell they are truly, truly happy for me. It’s not the usual, ‘Hey, nice job.’ That’s cool. In terms of my expectations, though, I want them to be the same. That’s something I was talking with Jerry Kelly about. I don’t want to expect any more or less before I won than after I did.