Billy Horschel hasn’t quite had the year he had in 2013 when he made $3.5 million and notched his first win on the PGA Tour at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans. So far this year, he’s made less than half that and been in decline since he missed the cut at the British Open: T58, T47 and missed the cut in last week’s Barclays.
But Sunday, the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, his ship came in, a 67 to go with his 69, 66 start which got him to 11-under and one shot behind the leader, Russell Henley. They’ll be paired together in Monday’s final round.
“Yeah, played pretty solid today. I had to be patient out there, I didn’t hit it nearly as good as I did the first two days, at least in my liking. And I just knew — if I just kept making pars, not making any mistakes, I knew I was going to get some birdies somewhere in the round and it just happened to be the last two holes. I played really solid.”
“Me being patient today was hopefully a sign of me maturing a little bit and growing up as a golfer. So that’s a good sign for me and hopefully I can keep doing it tomorrow.”
So did he think that people would be surprised to find him in second place? Was he surprised to find himself in second place? In his response, we get a sense of just how driven he is as a player:
“I’m not surprised to be here in second. If people are surprised that I’m in second place, then they must not know what kind of person I am. Obviously my season hasn’t been anywhere near as good as last year, but I’m a guy that’s going to keep working hard, keep grinding until they tell me the season is over and I can’t play anymore.”
When Tour players discover a problem with their games, they stop looking backward and keep looking forward:
“If you look at my stats they’re not much different than last year, except for one glaring area, and that’s just strokes gained putting. And it’s not because of any lack of work or times put in. I’ve put a lot of time in the last couple of months, and it’s just now starting to pay off. And at least it’s sooner than later.”
So when he began the Playoffs at the Barclays last week, it was with high expectations. So it was a blow when he missed the cut. It was one of those, “Get me outta here moments.”
“So I played early Friday and, missing the cut, I had a chance to go home. And I spent all day Saturday and Sunday at home. And kept my clubs in the travel bag, which is a little unusual for me, especially seeing how bad I played last week. But it wasn’t anything that was mechanical, technical, it was more just a mental approach that I changed; thought about some stuff that I’ve done the last couple of months and why it hasn’t turned out better.”
And so he brought that new perspective to this week’s effort with the help of his wife, who has specialized expertise in these matters: she played golf at their Alma Mater, the University of Florida:
“And sort of just tried to do what I figured out at home this week. And it’s nice. I haven’t seen my wife in three weeks, we’re expecting our first child in a little under four weeks. It’s nice. And my wife is a golfer, she played golf at the University of Florida, I was able to bounce a couple of things off her to see what kind of advice she may have.”
And this is what they decided he needed to do differently:
“Yeah, it’s simple stuff. I just have been a little too much emotional, too much getting upset at shots that don’t turn out, especially if I don’t hit a good one. Getting in my own way. Something that I did a good job of getting out of my way last year. And I think the last couple of months I’ve gotten back in my own way.”
“I played a good stretch of golf, at the Memorial, St. Jude, U.S. Open, Congressional. Played well at British Open, but got on the wrong side of the draw [and missed the cut].”
“And ever since then I’ve got upset at things and haven’t been patient enough. I’m sort of learning, slowly, that when — I can stay calm and not let things affect me. Obviously I get over it, but it carries on during the round that I play better when I can just let things go and not get upset.”
It’s very interesting how this new insight has had an impact on his television viewing habits; he’s given up watching golf on television.
“I have stopped. I did a good job of that the first six months last year of not watching a lot of The Golf Channel, Golf Central, any kind of golf. And it helped me not worry about things and think about things.”
“And then I sort of got back in that mode of watching, because I thought I could. I love watching. I love watching PGA, LPGA, Senior Tour, Web.com Tour. But I’ve sort of stopped watching PGA Tour. I watched Web.com, because there’s some guys [I know].”
“I try not to watch anymore, it just doesn’t do me any good to see how guys play and I get upset. I’m like, man, I want to be [in the heat of battle] so bad, I want to be in that opportunity, to win a tournament, I want to be where they are. And it’s not anything bad, just motivates me, and probably pushes me a little too much over the edge.”
But his resolve is something new; it began just this last weekend.
“I just made this decision just this past weekend (laughter.) Obviously I could have sat on my couch all Saturday and Sunday and watched golf, because I did nothing. I sat on the couch, I did a couple of things, but it was just a relaxation time. And any other time I would have been watching golf from the first time it came on on Golf Channel to when it went to NBC, I would have watched it.”
“And it was tough for me not to watch at least five minutes of it. But I did a good job. I was able to show some will power a little bit. And maybe it helped a little bit. I don’t know. It’s more me than anything else.”
So in all of his previous watching, was he able to pick up any keys to success, things that make a difference when the leaderboard is bunched and it’s time to go for it?
“I think I’ve learned enough in the five years I’ve been out here on Tour, I feel like I’m a quick learner and I try to pick up on things from other guys. Like I said, I’ve watched golf since I was a little kid. So I pay attention pretty well. I’ve seen what guys do. And I’ve had opportunities to play with some of the best players in the world in the final rounds and just see what they do a little bit and pick their brains and just watch them”
“And I don’t think I need to watch anymore golf to learn anything else. I think I’ve got enough stuff that I learned over the years and I’ve got a great team around me and that gives me great advice and I listen to them just tell me to keep it simple and not over think stuff. That’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
So far so good. But playing with a hot Russell Henley in the final round, will it hold up?
It’s why we watch.