Tiger Woods put on a masterful display on the North course at Torrey Pines, shooting 7-under 65 in the Farmers Insurance Open. That got him to 11-under and two shots ahead of Billy Horschel, a 4th year player who says his game doesn’t always feel good, but it never feels bad.
This will be interesting because when Horschel graduated from the University of Florida, Tiger gave him a sponsor’s invitation into his AT&T National tournament. Horschel remembers his first meeting with Tiger at the tournament:
Yeah, I met him on Wednesday before the tournament wrapped. He got done playing the Pro-Am. I told my manager at the time I said I wanted to see Tiger and thank Tiger for the spot. We went up and he said a couple of words.
What I thought was pretty cool was there was no one that he was talking to before, but he said I know you’ve had a pretty good college career and you’ve done pretty well. Just keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll be fine, and you’ll be out here in no time. So I thought that was something cool at the time.
Obviously, he meets tons of players and for him to sort of mention my college career and a couple things I’ve done was, I thought, pretty remarkable.
In the early years of my Monday qualifying efforts, when I played with a really good player in practice rounds or after competitive rounds, if I had established a relatedness with them by then, I would always ask, “Is there anything you’d like to contribute to my game?” And it was surprising how generous people were when you asked. But like Billy Horschel’s first meeting with Tiger, the most encouraging feedback you could get was always, “No. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”
Horschel has never been paired with Tiger before, but it sounds like he’ll be ready on Saturday:
I know there are going to be crowds. It’s nothing that I haven’t dealt with before. I’ve played the Walker Cup in 2007 over in Northern Ireland at Royal County Down and there was a guy I competed against three times called Rory McIlroy. So there may have been 10, 12,000 people following us, and only a couple thousand following the rest of the groups. So I’ve dealt with crowds.
I guess, it’s a little bit easier playing with Tiger because I guess the group ahead, they move [quickly] or something. Just hearing what media says….But, yeah, it’s going to be a good day no matter what.
Another interesting thing about Horschel is that he’s a player; he’s gotten through Q-School 3 of the 4 times he’s tried. Things just didn’t feel right the third time he tried. But here he is again.
He’s also become very self-aware out of his Q-School efforts:
One thing that I learned is that I like to know a lot of things, and once I get addicted to something, I like to read a lot of articles. I like to read a lot of anything. I like information, knowledge, and paying attention to the leaderboards, which I’ve never done in Q‑school. Going back to 2009 and any stage I played, I never looked at a leaderboard at all, so I never knew where I stood. And I’m carrying that out to here, trying not to look at leaderboards. Obviously, it’s a little harder out here because they’re every three holes.
And I’m not reading anymore Golf Week articles. I’m not reading anymore Golf World articles. I’m on Twitter still, but I’m not paying attention to certain things that, you know, little headlines that I could sort of get enticed into reading.
I don’t do it all during the week. It’s tough, because I like to hear what other guys are doing or anything like that, and it’s just I’ve learned it’s not beneficial to me.
He’s discovered that all of these fascinations put pressure on him:
Reading about other people, reading about myself. I just sort of put maybe a little bit more pressure on myself. Nothing good, I’ve learned, comes from it, for me, at least. Some guys can read the articles and sort of let it go. With me, it stays with me. I think about it.
What it actually does is it takes away from me being — me just looking out for myself. I like to — it sounds bad, but I’m not as selfish as I should be sometimes. I think doing — not that reading articles is going to make me selfish or not selfish. But it just takes away from focusing on what I need to do. I need to be a little bit more selfish out here. Not always talk a lot to everybody I see. I can talk your ear off for days and days.
So whenever I see somebody, not going over there and talking 20 minutes while they’re practicing and I’m not. So it’s more or less just me focusing on what I need to do and taking care of my business and just go about it that way.
But the thing is, Tiger not only looks like he’ll be ready too, but he sounds like it; it’s his short game that has that sparkle in his eye:
Well, it feels good. That’s something that I needed to work on, and as you saw toward the end of last season, it started coming around. Basically, I just continue doing what I’ve been doing with it, and I haven’t had to hit as many golf balls, so I’ve been able to dedicate more time to my short game and consequently, it’s better.
There is also a lot of confidence in his step and he knows why:
Well, I think the practice sessions more than anything. I’ve had beautiful practice sessions at home. If I can do it there, I can do it out here. Even though last week I only played two days, I felt like I hit the ball well enough to shoot a better score than I did. The golf course was a little bit tricky, so just keep doing what we’re doing. I had a couple days at home to work on it, and I came out here and felt pretty good about it.
There was something very subtle in that last sentence that points to the joys of traveling in your personal Gulfstream G550. He misses the cut in Abu Dhabi on Friday, leaves that night, sleeps on the plane, gets home to Jupiter, Florida, practices for two days and flies to San Diego in time for Tuesday practice rounds and the Wednesday pro-am. You couldn’t do that flying commercially.
And now he leads the tournament. And best of all for him, he’s excited:
As I said earlier this week, I’m excited about this year. I had a good year last year. I won three tournaments and was in contention in a few others, and that’s a pretty good year. I felt that understanding the game a little bit better, and I’m really excited about this year.
That’s the best way to play golf because it is so optimistic and puts you in a state of expecting good things to happen. Expect the best and take what you get.