Because there they were, at 6:40 a.m., for a practice round Wednesday alongside Billy Horschel. The trio played eight holes (Nos. 11-18) at Merion and then practiced for about an hour.
Horschel said that he and Woods were supposed to play together Monday, but scrapped those plans because of weather. They accidently “crisscrossed” times Tuesday, with Horschel going early and Woods late.
When the Zurich Classic winner arrived on the range early Wednesday, Woods said he and McIlroy were headed off No. 11 at 6:40 a.m. “And it just worked out that way,” Horschel said.
But Woods and McIlroy together in a major practice round seemed just as newsworthy as the Northern Irishman and Horschel in the same group.
Supposedly there was some bad blood between the two players, dating to the 2007 Walker Cup. McIlroy had reportedly grown tired of Horschel’s animated behavior on the course throughout the week, and he told reporters after his singles victory, “It was great to win. Especially against him. I don’t really have much time for him, to be honest.”
Asked about their relationship Wednesday, Horschel said: “He didn’t think the way I conducted myself on the golf course was right, but we were young. We were immature. I consider him a buddy. There’s no spat at all; no hard feelings at all. We were young guys, and we’re going to make mistakes when we’re still maturing as individuals. It was water under the bridge a long time ago.”
Earlier this season, Horschel and Woods were grouped together for the final 36 holes at Torrey Pines, where Woods won for the eighth time. The 26-year-old said each time they play together he grows more comfortable and confident.
“You’ve got to feel comfortable playing with those guys on a regular basis,” Horschel said. “If you want to be the best, you’re going to be paired with them a lot.”