Billy Horschel actually pulled it off. In his new disguise as a calm, patient player that he put together after missing the cut at the Barclays, he won the Tour Championship and the FedExCup and the $11.44 million that comes with them. He beat Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy by 3 shots and Justin Rose, Jason Day and Chris Kirk by another. Rickie Fowler had a tough, three-hole stretch on 5, 6, and 7 that took the steam out of his promising beginning and he slid to 8th.
Horschel managed to keep it together for all four rounds of the Tour Championship and that was the difference for him:
“I woke up this morning and I just had this sense of calm over me, which is a little bit unusual, but I was just so calm waking up, and I wasn’t nervous at all, and got to the course and felt so relaxed out there.”
“You know, I warmed up pretty well and got off to a pretty solid start, had three good looks on the first three holes, and just kept playing solid.”
“Unfortunately, maybe the back nine could have been a little bit cleaner, but it was good enough to get the job done, and I’m thrilled to be the FedExCup champion and the Tour Championship champion at that, too, especially with the year I’ve had.”
“The Playoffs, besides the majors, are the four biggest events we have on the PGA Tour and that’s when the light shines the brightest, and I was able to rise to the occasion and get the job done.”
“And it just gives me so much confidence, so much thrill to accomplish something like this, especially with the guys I was going up against.”
One of the media members had been following Horschel on the opening holes and said that he actually noticed how relaxed he was. In that kind of situation where the player hasn’t won something that big before, he was struck by how Horschel was joking around and having a good time:
“I’ve been relaxed this whole week. I’ve been focused the whole time on what I needed to do, and the drive Rory hit on No. 1 was just dumbfounding. I sort of went over to Roger [Maltbie] and Billy Casper, and I said you guys hit it that far in your guys’ heyday, right? And Roger said something, you know, I hit it that far when I nicked it a little bit. It was just funny. We were cracking up about it.”
“But I play the best when I’m relaxed. I play the best when I’m having fun out on the golf course, but at the same time I am focused on what I need to take care of on the golf course. So in between shots, I’m going to be focused but I can joke around and have a conversation, and then when it’s my turn to play my shot, I get back into my little zone. Especially the last three weeks, that’s what I’ve realized I need to do better, and it’s turned out really well.”
There were two really nice things that happened on the 18th hole after Horschel’s tee shot to 29 feet on the 225-yard par 3 made clear that the tournament was his.
The first was that as soon as he saw that the shot was a good one, McIlroy and his caddie started walking off the tee and down the hill to the green. Horschel was enjoying the sight of the ball in the air and once it stopped, he and his caddie, Micah, followed. At the bottom of the swale, McIlroy turned to congratulate Horschel with a handshake and pat on the chest.
When credentialed, inside-the-ropes observers and volunteers are following the players, the etiquette is always to let the players lead the processions through the bottlenecks. Since they were in the last group, they had a pretty good gaggle of followers behind them. So when Rory stopped to congratulate Billy, everything came to a halt.
And then, as Billy passed them on his way up the hill to the green, Rory and his caddie remained stopped. As the portable camera up at the green picked up Horschel and is caddie striding up the hill, you could see that Rory and his caddie were still holding everybody back with their presence, operating as a bulwark to Horschel’s glorious moment.
This courtesy and deference to the winner routinely happens on the final hole, but it’s normally just the two players and caddies in the fairway by themselves without a parade behind them. This was so pronounced because McIlroy took it a step further and subtly stopped the parade. It was a classy thing for him to do because he waited much longer than customary.
The other nice thing that happened in the moment was as that as Horschel and Micah were coming up the hill, Horschel was engaged in a very happy, expressive conversation with him.
And we learn in the media room that the conversation was about how Horschel occasionally has predictive dreams and one such dream early in the year was that he was going to win the FedExCup:
“There’s certain things throughout my life that have come true, and I’ve sort of seen it beforehand when I sleep at night. I just sort of, you know, have a premonition or whatever you want to call it.”
“I was hit in the eye with a baseball bat at an All Star practice when I was about 10 years old, and I think I remember the adult saying I wasn’t crying, I was saying I saw this coming. Like I remember, I had a dream saying I was going to be hit in the face with a baseball bat.”
“There were certain other things through my life that has come like that. And I just remember something like that in December or January. I just had this‑‑ you know, I woke up and I wasn’t sure if it was real or not because it was very faint, but I remember holding up the FedExCup trophy. And as the season went along, I never thought about it, but I just said, well, maybe it was just a dream that wasn’t real.”
“And obviously being in the position where I was, I thought about it last week after I won. I’ve thought about it this week a little bit that maybe this is actually something that is supposed to happen. And maybe that’s why when I woke up this morning I was calm knowing that this is my chance to win the FedExCup trophy.”
“And like I said, it may sound crazy. People may think I’m insane, but I honestly don’t care now.”
Some years ago, I meet a man at friends’ cocktail party who developed special powers as a boy that went beyond Horschel’s dreaming experience. His father was a lawyer and he was very attached to him. So when he became interested in his father’s work, he started badgering his father to go to work with him. But his father felt that having a young boy in that environment wouldn’t be appropriate.
And so the boy would have his father on his mind all day long. And ultimately, this intense focus allowed him to see in his mind what his father was doing throughout the day. When the boy began sharing the details of the father’s day with him, his father was shaken. How was this possible?
I do not remember the outcome other than that the man was comforted by knowing that he had this gift in much the same way that Horschel was.
My conversation with the man came up because we were sharing notes about some success I had had with a psychic healing workshop I had attended.
So while Billy may think his prophetic dream story sounds crazy, I know two people who don’t. And I know that there are many more who don’t either.
This is relative to our discussion of golf mastery here because it suggests that these startling experiences — discovered mostly when our minds are still and quiet — are innate talents that are resident in all of us.
And if that’s true, what’s the possibility of bringing that larger sense of ourselves to this business of learning the game of golf?
It’s not just about the swing. It can’t be. We are creatures too magnificent for it to be just about that.