Planet Golf — 15 September 2014 by GW staff and news services
Horschel coasts to Tour victory

ATLANTA — When Billy Horschel was 10 years old he had a dream that he was going to get hit in the eye playing baseball. It came true.

When he was in college, he dreamt that he would marry his then-girlfriend Brittany and later did.

Sunday at East Lake, he lived out another premonition.

After dreaming earlier this year that he would hoist the FedExCup trophy, Horschel shot a 2-under 68 to win the TOUR Championship  by three strokes over Rory McIlroy and Jim Furyk and claim the FedExCup and its $10 million bonus.

“I’m not sure life can be better than this,” Horschel said.

Over the last month, no one was better.

Following a missed cut in the first event of the Playoffs, Horschel caught fire, finishing second at TPC Boston before winning outside Denver and then at the finale.

No player had ever won the FedExCup beginning the Playoffs lower than No. 19. But Horschel, who started at No. 69, played his last dozen rounds under par to shatter that mark.

Always a superb ball-striker — Horschel led the field in greens in regulation at East Lake — it was his putter that helped pave the way for the biggest payday of his life.

Clinging to a one-shot lead over Furyk, Horschel sank an 8-foot par putt on No. 13. Three holes later, after hitting his drive right into the trees and pitching back to the fairway, his next shot spun back 30 feet short of the flag.

Horschel’s putt raced toward the cup and fell in.

“It came off and got up on top of that ridge and I said, ‘This looks good.’ And it went in, and it was huge,” Horschel said. “I knew Jim was nipping at my heels and everything, and that was a big, big putt.”

So big that Horschel’s wife, at home due in two weeks with the couple’s first child, leaped off the living room sofa, screaming.

“That’s when I kind of knew (it was over),” she said. “I just wanted him to play the best golf he could and he did. I’m so proud of him. I have always known the player he is and I wanted him to show everybody else.”

Afterward, he showed plenty of emotion, too, sharing a tearful hug with his parents. Horschel’s road was a long one in more ways than one.

Before his dad would even take him to a golf course as a kid, Horschel had to prove he could hit the ball far enough for it to fly 100 yards over a creek in their backyard.

In college, he was a walk-on at the University of Florida before earning a scholarship and eventually becoming a four-time All-American for the Gators.

But not long after turning pro, Horschel suffered a season-ending wrist injury and later had to regain his card by going to q-school.

The experience humbled but hardened him. He became a better player and has improved every year since.

“I don’t think anybody’s given him anything,” Horschel’s coach Todd Anderson said. “He had to earn everything since junior golf.

“He’s always had a little chip on his shoulder and he always wants to show people that if you have desire and believe in yourself and talent, you can get where you want to go. If you tell him he can’t do something, he’s going to try to figure out how to do it.”

Sunday at East Lake that included pulling away from the No. 1 player in the world (McIlroy) and holding off a veteran and former FedExCup champion (Furyk).

“He played awesome,” Horschel’s caddie Micah Fugitt said, fighting back tears. “He was calm all day.”

It showed with mostly mistake-free golf, something that hasn’t always been the case for the often emotional Horschel.

“He’s a confident guy,” Anderson said. “He feels he can hit every shot, but he’s learning he doesn’t have to be aggressive on every shot.”

It helped that Furyk came up short with his approach on 17 and made bogey to fall two back, then three-putted 18 trying to make birdie.

Horschel breathed easy and two-putted for par to clinch the win, something just a month ago he had a hard time envisioning after wishing what to that point had been a disappointing season would be over with.

But there was still the matter of that dream.

“There’s certain things throughout my life that have come true, and I’ve sort of seen it beforehand,” Horschel said. “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.’”

 

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