Billy Horschel: On fate, Ryder Cup, young guns and making the hole look bigger

Billy Horschel who first won at the 2013 Zurich Classic, was back in New Orleans to see if he could resurrect the old magic. And in the course of a wide-ranging conversation in the media center, he gave up some mastery gold.

It began when somebody asked him what it was like on the last day of the FedExCup and Tour Championship which he won by three over Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy. It wasn’t a cheap victory in any sense. And in fact, what might have made it a priceless victory were the calm premonitions he had on Sunday: 

Yeah, I can’t tell you the feelings I had walking up 18 because I don’t remember.  I sort of — good things that have happened to me I sort of embrace it in that moment and a couple days after and I can’t remember what it’s like because I’m on to the next big thing.  I don’t want to become complacent.

And here’s the surreal part of that experience. It makes the case for holding your visions close. The winner is the one who can make his vision the most vibrant and then hold on to it the longest. Pay attention to all of the detail he painted into his vision:

But the thing I do remember the most is waking up that morning and having a sense of ease, a sense of relief going into the final round.  I felt like no matter what happened that day, it was going to be a great day of golf.

At the same time, I knew I was going to win.  I just felt like I wasn’t anxious.  I wasn’t nervous.  I wasn’t moving fast.  It just felt like I was in this bubble, this surreal, different place where everything just felt like there was no worries in the world.  Everything was going to be okay, and it doesn’t matter what happened today, everything was going to turn out okay.

The conversation turned to the Ryder Cup and how disappointed it was that he hadn’t made the team? He not only won the both the FedExCup and the Tour Championship in Atlanta, he had won the BMW in Chicago the week before! The best thing that comes out of his answer is his rational thinking about not making the team. Rational thinking because while emotional thinking can fuel many a fire, it also runs the risk of the boiler pressure going over the red line into overwhelm:

You know, I think any American wants to play on any team that they can represent their country on, and I was no different than anybody else that didn’t make that team.  It was disappointing to sit at home and watch the Ryder Cup and see that we got our butts handed to us.  That’s never fun to watch anything like that if you’re American.

Was I disappointed?  You know, I didn’t play well enough to make the team.  There are obviously guidelines that were set, and I knew what the guidelines were, and I didn’t make the team.  So I was home enjoying life, enjoying my new little baby girl, Skylar, and it was done and over with.  I was never upset.  I wasn’t upset that I wasn’t on the team.  I was upset that I wasn’t there helping.

As to the young guns like Reed, Spieth, Justin Thomas and him coming into the bright lights at the top of the game, once again logic prevailed. He likes that they have all begun to gather at the top of the leaderboards, but to bear the mantle of the game, you have to be a winner:

I think it’s huge.  We were looked at as the next guys to carry this game of golf, and that’s a big honor to have.  But to be able to carry the game of golf, you’ve got to be a winner.  No one is going to carry the game of golf if you finish Top 10 every week but you don’t win.  It doesn’t matter who you are.

You’re not going to carry this game of golf or be getting more fans.  You’ve got to be winning.  People like to root for winners.  People like to see someone dominate the game or at least do something special in the game of golf and to do something special, you have to win.

The thing that made the difference for him in his romp through the BMW and FedExCup was putting. Here he talks about how putting integrates into the rest of his game and why it’s so important:

Yeah, it’s the putting.  It’s funny how my game lives and dies by my putting.  I’m such a really good ball striker.  My short game has gotten a lot better.  Maybe stats may not show it right now, but my short game has gotten a lot better.  The putting just comes and goes in waves.  It’s just like anybody.  I feel like I’m a good putter.

I’m top 50 or maybe something like that in putting this year, which isn’t too bad.  But being such a good ball striker, when I’m really confident with my putting and I see a lot of putts go in the hole, I seem to make a lot of birdies and not make a lot of mistakes.  I have a lot of opportunities from 10 to 20 feet every round.  I just don’t make — I probably am a little greedy in the sense I feel like I should make every one of them.  But I need to at least make two or three of those a round if I’m having five, six, seven opportunities from 10 to 20 feet.

But it’s just the putting.  I felt really good with my putter.  We switched the grip up a little bit.  We worked on speed and what we’re going back to a little bit.  I sort of got away from that, and I just started making a lot more putts and I became confident.  I felt like I could make it from anywhere on the green, and that is a great feeling to have.

It went by a little fast — pun intended — but his comment on speed turns out to be key. Here he goes into the detail and how proper speed of the putts can make the hole look bigger:

This year I’ve actually been putting halfway decent.  I just haven’t been making a lot of putts.  I’ve only been making three or four birdies a round on average, and that’s not bad, but there is not that one or two rounds where I’m making six, seven, eight birdies a round like I did when I won here.  So I feel like, like I said, it’s not far off.  If I can see some putts go in early in the week, I think that’s going to build my confidence.

I think we’ve been working on speed last week too.  I’ve been hitting my putts a little too hard over time, and we’re trying to get the speed of the way the ball is rolling so it gives the ball a little bit better chance of going in the hole and making the holes a little bit bigger.

It’s true that he was probably talking about putts dropping making the hole look bigger — we’ve all had that experience — but they also look bigger when you’ve been able to modulate your speed and more do go in. When you know that you are able to confidently get the ball by the hole without blowing it by the hole, more of of them will go in. There’s less anxiousness and thus, more accuracy, in that kind of putt.

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