ATLANTA – Billy Horschel knows the Tour Championship doesn’t double as a U.S. Ryder Cup team qualifier. If it did, his victory in 2014 at East Lake would have come with a spot in the U.S. team room in Scotland. It did not.
At 34 years old, Horschel has found himself in the unenviable position of needing a captain’s pick enough times to know that there’s no substitute for just letting go, and that plan has held up well this week.
“It's funny, I don't worry about it, honestly,” said Horschel, who may not have set out to impress U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Steve Stricker this week, but his three rounds in the 60s and a share of fifth place can’t hurt when the captain makes his six picks on Wednesday. “I learned a long time ago that when I'm focusing on something I can't control, it's a detriment to me.”
Horschel started the week at 17th on the U.S. points list and well outside the six automatic qualifiers. He is likely a longshot for one of the six picks, but his play at East Lake might allow him into the conversation.
The consensus picks are Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth and Harris English, who are Nos. 7-10 on the final points list. That would leave two picks for likely three or four players.
Patrick Reed, No. 11 on the list, missed three consecutive starts with bilateral pneumonia and admitted he’s not 100 percent recovered. He's followed by Daniel Berger, Webb Simpson and Scottie Scheffler, Nos. 12 through 14, respectively. Simpson didn’t qualify for the Tour Championship and Berger is tied for 22nd out of 30 players at East Lake, which might prompt Stricker to be more creative with his final two picks.
Horschel at No. 17, or even Kevin Na at No. 19, could catch the captain’s attention with a solid finish at East Lake.
“I feel like I'm in a good position to get the captain's interest. I've been playing very well the last third of the season,” said Na, who has rounds of 66-67-66 and is alone in fourth place at the finale. “I feel like I'm hot in these playoffs, and I'm probably up there first or second if everybody started even par this week. Captain Stricker, I don't know, what do you think?”