Horschel simply the best down the stretch
Cards a final-round 68 to hold off Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy and win the FedExCup
September 14, 2014
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Billy Horschel shot a 2-under 68 on Sunday at East Lake to capture the TOUR Championship and FedExCup. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
ATLANTA -- Three weeks ago, Billy Horschel couldn't wait for the FedExCup Playoffs to end and the 2014-15 PGA TOUR season to begin. He was frustrated after missing the cut at The Barclays and he was ready for a fresh start.
On Sunday, though, Horschel's attitude had taken a 180-degree turn after he parlayed a gutsy win at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola into the FedExCup title. Seems that the man who was $11.44 million richer now didn't want the season to end.
"It's surreal, it really is," Horschel said on a Sunday evening so jam-packed with ceremonies and interviews that he hadn't even had a chance to call his very pregnant wife Brittany, who was back at their home in Florida. "It hits me a little bit, and it still doesn't hit me. ...
"The Playoffs are the biggest, besides the majors, are the four biggest events we have on the PGA TOUR. And that's where the light shines the brightest and I was able to rise to the occasion and get the job done."
We should have seen it coming, too.
After all, Horschel had arrived at East Lake with momentum to spare thanks to that win at the BMW Championship a week after he tied for second at the Deutsche Bank Championship. In fact, it might have been three in a row for the affable Floridian if he hadn't hit a 6-iron into the marsh on the 72nd hole at TPC Boston.
An avid user of social media, Horschel, who came up two shots shy that Labor Day, even made sure he read everything that was tweeted after that gaffe and the 2 percent he found negative just spurred him on.
"I'm not afraid of what people say," Horschel said. "... If anything, it maybe gives me a little chip, a little added motivation that I can prove them wrong."
And he certainly did. Particularly at East Lake when Horschel faced the unenviable task of going head-to-head with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy in the final pairing in each of the last two rounds, with both knowing a win would earn them the FedExCup and its $10 million bonus.
Horschel was steady when McIlroy faltered at the sixth hole on Sunday, hitting his tee shot at the par 3 into the water for the second time in three years. A string of three consecutive bogeys at the turn essentially took the 25-year-old Northern Irishman out of contention, but he couldn't help but be impressed by Horschel.
"Today he didn't really put a foot wrong, apart from the 10th hole there, and he made a huge putt on 16," McIlroy said. "... When he needed to, he could produce the shots. He was a very worthy winner."
And later, when Jim Furyk, who also had a very real chance of winning his second FedExCup, pulled even with Horschel, first at the ninth and again at the 15th hole, his Florida neighbor wasn't rattled.
Horschel made his own birdie at the 15th and then recovered from an errant tee shot at No. 16 by making a gut-check of a 30-footer for par to preserve his lead. Furyk bogeyed the final two holes while Horschel parred in for a three-shot victory that was hardly as easy as the final scores would have you believe.
"It gives me so much confidence, so much thrill to accomplish something like this, especially with the guys I was going up against," Horschel said.
Billy Horschel wins big at TOUR Championship
TEACHER OF THE YEAR?: Todd Anderson, the noted Sea Island instructor, now has coached two of the past three FedExCup champions.
His first was Brandt Snedeker, who won the TOUR Championship and FedExCup in 2012. Billy Horschel repeated the feat Sunday. Horschel gave particular credit to a change the two made in his putting grip that took his hands further away so he could get better control of the speed through the ball.
"I don't think anyone can come close to what he does," Horschel said. "He's not just a swing coach. He's a short game coach. He's a putting coach. He talks to me about the mental side of the game and, I mean, Todd Anderson is just unbelievable."
Snedeker, who began working with Butch Harmon earlier this year, and Horschelalso share the services of Mark Horton, a statistician who helps them analyze and understand how to apply the PGA TOUR's ample performance data to their practice and game-day routines. Brendan de Jonge also works with Horton.
"I'm not sure I would have won this FedExCup without him," Horschel said. "The way he shows me my strengths, the way we gameplan, the way he has belief in that I'm one of the best players in the world, you know, just gives me that extra little confidence that I can get it done. The information he gives Micah (Fugitt, his caddy) and I is second to none."
RYDER CUP REDUX: Horschel's stellar play over the last three weeks resurrected discussion about Tom Watson's three captain's picks and whether future selections should be delayed until after the FedExCup.
Even Rory McIlroy, who will be a mainstay for the Europeans, weighed in when he was asked whether he was glad he wouldn't see Horschel, who has two wins and a runner-up in his last three starts, at Gleneagles in two weeks.
"There's a few guys I'm glad I'm not going to see at Gleneagles: him, Ryan Palmer, Chris Kirk," McIlroy said. "There's a few guys that are playing well that aren't on this U.S. team that obviously had a great chance to make it."
Horschel for his part, refused to get caught in the discussion.
"I'll be supportive of the U.S. team, and even with this extra win, I still don't feel like I deserve to be on the team," he said. "I haven't played good enough this year. I haven't played good enough over a two-year period to be on the team, and I understand that. I'm not upset with that. I'm over it. I've been over it since the picks were made at Deutsche Bank.
"And Tom texted me earlier in the week and I said, hey, I'm fully behind you, so hopefully the team can go over there and bring back the Ryder Cup trophy, because it's been too long since we've had it in our hands."
QUOTES OF THE DAY
"Kudos to whoever put the leaderboards out there this week. They make them blatantly impossible to not see. I was trying as hard as I could all day to not look at them and you're sitting there reading your putt and they're boom, right in front of you, your projected FedExCup ranks." -Chris Kirk, who entered the week ranked No. 1 and ended up finishing second in the FedExCup.
"I love interacting with fans, and I love just having a great little, fun little back-and-forth with fans. I don't mind it. I've always been like that out on the golf course. ... And listen, I love doing the Gator Chomp. I'm proud of being a University of Florida Gator. If people got turned off from me by doing the Gator Chomp, they've got their own issues. It was all out of fun. I just wanted them to know that a University of Florida Gator came into Georgia Bulldog country and was able to come out victoriously." -Billy Horschel on his unique celebration after his dual victory.
"I'm just trying to get healthy. I just want a healthy year, you know, where I can practice hard and get ready for tournaments and try and play the best I can without worrying about injuries, you know, in the back of my mind." -Jason Day, who tied for fourth, about his health issues, which have included a bulging disk and thumb injury.
BEST SOCIAL MEDIA OF THE DAY
Congrats to @BillyHo_Golf on an incredible playoffs.. Capped off by a nice pay day! Well deserved buddy— Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth) September 15, 2014
ODDS & ENDS
Billy Horschel played the par 3s in 3 under and the par 4s and par 5s each in 4 under this week. ...
Horschel ranked first in greens in regulation at 79.2 percent despite hitting just 29 of 56 fairways. ...
Horschel has now shot 12 consecutive rounds in the 60s, which is the longest such streak on the PGA TOUR this year. Jim Furyk had 11 straight earlier this year.
CALL OF THE DAY
Mark Carnevale of PGA TOUR Radio on Sirius XM and PGATOUR.COM calls Billy Horschel's finish at the 18th hole to win the TOUR Championship and FedExCup.
Billy Horschel wins TOUR Championship and FedExCup
BEHIND THE NUMBERS
Category Player(s) Statistic(s) Driving distance Bubba Watson 311 yards Driving accuracy Ryan Palmer 12 of 14 (85.71 percent) Greens in regulation Billy Horschel 16 of 18 (88.89 percent) Lowest score Sergio Garcia, Brendon Todd 66 Total birdies Brendon Todd 7 Longest putt Bubba Watson 42 feet, 11 inches Bogey-free rounds Sergio Garcia Strokes Gained: Putting Brendon Todd 5.053
Hardest hole Par-4 No. 5 4.345 Easiest hole Par-5 No. 16 4.276
Shot of the Day
Billy Horshel’s clutch par putt is the Shot of the Day
Click on the picture below to see the best images during the final round of the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.