Horschel's hard work, attitude pay off in Atlanta

By Rex HoggardSeptember 15, 2014, 10:00 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Amid the cheers immediately following his three-stroke victory on Sunday at the Tour Championship, Billy Horschel turned the partisan Georgia Bulldog crowd on a dime with his signature Florida Gator “chomp.”

“You know what, I love interacting with fans, and I love just having a fun little back and forth with fans,” said Horschel, who also collected the FedEx Cup with his victory at East Lake and the $10 million season-long bonus. 

“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.”

In short, it was Billy being Billy.

Horschel’s torrid playoff run is sure to thrust him into the spotlight as the 2014-15 season gets underway in the next few weeks and with that newfound attention will come a startling revelation that the energetic 27-year-old is not like other FedEx Cup champions.

Where Vijay Singh, the 2008 champion, is aloof, Horschel is infinitely accessible. Where Bill Haas, who hoisted the silver chalice in ’11, is reserved, Horschel can be downright raucous at times. Where Tiger Woods, the ’07 and ’09 champion, can be less than forthcoming with the media, Horschel is outspoken and emotional.

His impromptu “chomp” was the natural response to a life-changing moment and above all it was heartfelt. It’s a trait he’s come by honestly.

The son of two hardworking, blue-collar parents, Horschel has an instinctive chip on his shoulder that is all at once edgy and endearing.

“He wasn’t a country club kid,” said Todd Anderson, Horschel’s Sea Island (Ga.)-based swing coach. “He’s always been a guy fighting from behind. He’s always had to prove himself.”

Horschel said all the right things after U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson bypassed him as pick for this year’s matches. “I didn’t deserve to be on that team,” he said.

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But those who know him know that it was not a coincidence that less than a week after Captain Tom “went another way” with his picks, Horschel won the BMW Championship and closed out the season-ending walk-off with his East Lake performance.

What Horschel may have lacked in pedigree he’s more than made up for in grit and an almost surreal amount of confidence.

Consider that at the Deutsche Bank Championship, which he would lose after woefully miss-hitting his second shot into the par-5 closing hole on Monday, he told reporters that he might not be able to play this year’s matches because his wife, Brittany, was due with the couple’s first child the Saturday of the Ryder Cup.

He told reporters this on Saturday when he was tied for third and vying for just his third top-10 finish of the season and 35th on the U.S. Ryder Cup point list.

It is the Horschel way, always has been.

A few years ago, when Horschel was in the early stages of his PGA Tour career, he was playing the Arnold Palmer invitational when he stopped Tiger Woods on the practice range. He explained to this generation’s most accomplished player that he could jump over a water cooler without a running start.

Horschel didn’t clear the cooler, catching a spike and falling to the ground, but it is a telling example of what drives your FedEx Cup champion.

“Someone once said that Rory (McIlroy) can run a 4.5 (second) 40 (yard dash) and Billy immediately said that he could run a 4.6 40,” Anderson laughed.

Even after his ill-timed miscue at TPC Boston, Horschel refused – or was unable –to fully accept failure.

“There's some inner belief in me that when I need to do something, I can do it,” he said at the time. “Unfortunately I hit a really bad 6-iron in there. But I honestly had a feeling that I was going to hit a good shot and I was going to make the putt for eagle.”

It’s an inner belief that at least partly explains how he was able to climb from 82nd on the FedEx Cup point list after missing the cut at the post-season opener in New Jersey to the $10 million golden ticket at East Lake.

Even after his seminal victory at the Tour Championship, Horschel was less concerned with his dramatic change in his financial fortunes or his dramatic climb in the World Golf Ranking (23rd) than he was fixing weaknesses in his game, either real or perceived.

“We talked last night,” Anderson said on Monday. “For the first 10 minutes he talked about his day and everything that (the victory) would mean and then the next 20 minutes was about what he needs to do to get ready for next year. About all the things he can improve.”

All you need to know about Billy Ho is that while he climbed the steep hill to the par-3 18th green on Sunday afternoon at East Lake, secure in the notion that his tee ball found the putting surface and he was three strokes clear of the field, he turned to his caddie Micah Fugitt and went off topic.

“He starts telling me about this dream he had when he was 10 about getting hit in the eye with a baseball bat and that a little while later he got hit in the eye with a bat,” Fugitt smiled. “Then he says he had a dream earlier this year that he won the FedEx Cup . . .”

It was signature Horschel – determined and maybe a little different.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.