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Horschel's Prediction Comes True
Billy Horschel was nothing if not confident heading into the 2013 season. The 26-year-old from Florida also had high hopes for 2012, but earned only $486,177 in 17 starts on the PGA Tour to finish out of the top-125 on the money list. He was forced to re-earn his Tour card for this year at Q-School, where he tied for fourth.
After getting his card the hard way, Horschel boldly predicted he would soon be getting his maiden title. And through 12 tournaments this season, he came close, having made three straight top-10 finishes - and four overall in 11 starts - in the Shell Houston Open, Valero Texas Open and the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town before the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
In the "Big Easy," Horschel finally broke through, enduring two weather delays Sunday, with the second forcing him to retreat to the clubhouse as he was ready to hit his third shot on the par-5 18th. Once the weather cleared, Horschel returned to the course, stroking his approach to 27 feet and then making the dramatic birdie putt for a course-record-tying 8-under 64 and a one-shot victory over D.A. Points.
Horschel admitted that he had tensed up in previous last rounds, leading to a high scoring average (71.55) on Sunday and some disappointing finishes. But all those memories were washed away as the former Florida Gator All-American and U.S. Walker Cup team member secured his maiden title in New Orleans, along with the winner's share of $1.152 million, 500 FedEx Cup points and a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
After an emotional display on the 72nd green following his final birdie that took him to 20-under 268 and in which he first exulted with an air punch and then buried his teary face in his cap, Horshel went to the media center at TPC Louisiana for the following Q&A with reporters. Here's what he had to tell the media.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome the 2013 Zurich Classic of New Orleans champion, Billy Horschel. Billy, congratulations on the victory today. That certainly sounds good. You came into the week here in New Orleans with three consecutive top 10 finishes, and were looking for one better. With an 8 under 64 today, including five consecutive birdies, you did one better, and you got your six consecutive birdies. Not bad you got your first PGA Tour victory. Congratulations on the win.
BILLY HORSCHEL: Thank you. This whole week I felt like I'm going to get my victory here, and I have a friend of mine I met a couple years ago, Thomas Capella. After I almost won in San Antonio, he text me and said, don't worry about it. Your first one will be here in New Orleans, and I was like, I wish it was sooner. Obviously at the Masters and at Hilton Head. I stepped on these grounds and said he must know something that I don't know. So I went ahead and followed through with what he said and just felt comfortable the whole way. I tried not to think too much about it. I just felt like I went out and played my game, did my stuff the way I've been doing it the last couple of weeks. I felt like, you know, it's got to be sooner or later and thank God I finally won.
Q. It seemed like right after the weather delay, the first one, you went out and the next one you got hot. Did that slow you down a little bit? Is that why you think you had the six consecutive birdies?
BILLY HORSCHEL: Yeah, you know, for some reason whenever there's been a delay, growing up in junior golf or college golf or even pro golf, I've always come back from the delay and played really strong. I'm not sure if it's because I go in there and you never know when you're going back out and you're relaxed. I think that's what it is. I'm so pumped up for four rounds of golf and I'm so anxious to play. So for play to have to stop, for some reason it puts me at ease a little bit. To come back out and birdie six straight holes, that was huge. To try to separate myself from the field a little bit. I did my best, but you have to tip your cap to D.A. He played great. He nipped me in Houston, and I got him back here, so...
Q. You've been described by your friends as a pretty antsy guy. How are those 52 minutes in between the second shot on 18 and trying to finish up?
BILLY HORSCHEL: It wasn't too bad. Like I said, you don't know how long your delay's going to be. So you've just got to just go with it and just wait it out and everything. But it was nice that I had two of my good buddies in Matt Every, and Chris DiMarco there to chat a little bit and take my mind off some stuff. Yeah, it wasn't easy, but it wasn't as hard as it could have been. 52 minutes isn't too bad. It felt like we were in there 20 minutes and went back out right away, so didn't feel too bad at all.
Q. Just talk about what the achievement means to you when this is something that you've obviously tried for so long?
BILLY HORSCHEL: This is something that I've wanted since I've turned pro, and I've always felt I was good enough to win out here. I just felt I had to check every box. Some guys get out here and win right away and then they struggle. Other guys it takes longer for them to get to that process. You know, I've had some injuries that hurt me and some other stuff and then I had to deal with my emotions a little bit better, but to finally get the first victory means a lot to me. There are a lot of people in my 26 years - ever since I started playing golf from a little kid until now there's always been someone who has helped me in some way, whether it be big or small. They mean a lot to me. This win is for them too as well as for myself.
Q. Where were you on the first rain delay?
BILLY HORSCHEL: I was sitting at a table with Chris DiMarco, his wife, and a friend of ours, John Campbell and his wife. I was sort of like half asleep, half awake, trying to sleep. I was tired. I haven't slept well at all this week. So just trying to get some shut eye because I knew it was going to be a while before we went out. I was in the players' lounge hanging out.
Q. Where was your ball on the course? What hole?
BILLY HORSCHEL: 17, sorry.
Q. A lot of guys might end up taking a week off after this kind of event in your life. You're on such a hot streak. Are you just going to keep riding it?
BILLY HORSCHEL: No, I made the decision Friday after my round I needed to take a week off. I've only taken three weeks off this whole year, and I was feeling a little tired, but nothing that I couldn't deal with. But playing Charlotte next week, which is a great event, a tournament I love and a great course. I called the tournament director Friday, and said, "Hey, Kim. I apologize. I'm withdrawing from the tournament. I'm tired. I know I'm in the Players, and Players will be my fourth week in a row, and I just need some time off." So I had already planned on taking next week off, and it's going to be nice. I needed some downtime now.
Q. You said you were comfortable walking on the grounds Wednesday. Martin Senn said you told him you'd meet him here today. What was the confidence - I know you've had three top 10, but the confidence coming in? What made you think you were going to win this week?
BILLY HORSCHEL: I think it was more of a stupid comment than anything. It was just me trying to impress Martin a little bit, but I felt confident in the way I've been playing. I like this golf course. I've always felt like I played well on Pete Dye golf courses. He sort of tries to intimidate you with looks and everything off the tee and into the greens. But I think there is more room there than what you see. So I felt confident coming in with the way I was playing, and I saw Wednesday night we chit chatted a little bit, and I said, Hey, my plan is I'm going to see you on the 18 green. I just tried to impress him, and it was somewhat of a dumb comment, but obviously, I lived up to it, so it's not a dumb comment now.
Q. Two part question. What's going through your mind when you see that D.A. has a very makeable putt, and then you possibly are going to be in a playoff? Then the satisfaction of winning a tournament - really winning this tournament by making such a tough putt on 18? Tell me about that.
BILLY HORSCHEL: Yeah, I thought I hit a better shot in there on No. 18 for my third shot. It came up a little bit short. D.A. hit a really good bunker shot. It got a bounce on the green and skipped forward and he had four feet. It was a pretty easy four footer. Kevin Stadler was going to give him the line. I'm looking at my putt and I read it right away. I knew exactly the break on it and everything. I just told myself, I haven't made one of considerable length this week. And I was like, you know, if it's my time, this putt needs to go in.
I just said if I can commit to it and trust what I was doing, hopefully it will go in. Hit a great putt, and about 5 feet from the hole dead-center, I said don't do anything stupid, ball, and it went in. Obviously, you saw my reaction. It was just pure joy to finally do something - to finally win out here, but also the same time I committed to what I wanted to do and I pulled it off which was awesome.
Q. You talked yesterday about enjoying some of the restaurants in New Orleans. Did you get downtown yesterday with your early tee time? Can you tell us the names of some of the other places you might have been to this week?
BILLY HORSCHEL: I've been here for a few years now. So I have a routine with the people I hang out with, the Capella's and Desi Vega. So Tuesday night we go to a pairings party, and go to Besh right near Harrah's. Wednesday we do stuff on our own. But we always wind up going to Desi Vega's Steakhouse or Mr. John's Steakhouse either Friday or Saturday. And whatever night we don't go there, we'll go to Impastato's. Saw Mr. Joe who owns it and runs it. So those are some good restaurants. You get some good food in you, and obviously I guess I'm going to keep on going every year from now on.
Q. Red on Sunday, is that a regular thing for you?
BILLY HORSCHEL: No, I don't have a regular outfit. I just wear whatever I decide to wear that week, and it just happened to be this color. But, like I said, I'm not going to wear this outfit from now on being my first victory. I'll still keep switching it up.
Q. Following up on the restaurant theme, how do you celebrate tonight?
BILLY HORSCHEL: I was planning on flying back tonight. We had me, Matt Every, Chris DiMarco are planning on flying back to Jacksonville, and I think the plane has been delayed for a few hours. I'm not sure what we're doing. I'm sure they're planning everything right now. So, obviously, when I get done here we'll go figure it out. But, yeah, there is going to be some celebration tonight.
BILLY HORSCHEL: Yeah, we've got a house. I tell you what, I haven't done one thing involved in this house process. My wife has done everything. I mean, we decided to start looking at houses in January. So I went out on the West Coast and I was gone for six to eight weeks. She looked at houses. She found a house that she liked. I saw pictures. My parents saw it. We said we'll go ahead and buy it. I have not seen the house except pictures. Then I finally see it, and we're going to do renovations and she takes care of everything. She took care of all of the paperwork, the renovations. She has taken care of everything. My wife is unbelievable, because if I had to deal with any of that, that is just a lot more on my plate dealing with what I'm trying to deal with out here on a week to week basis. I can't thank her enough. She's amazing. It's sad that she's not here, but I'll see her tomorrow night and we'll celebrate.
Q. In retrospect, looking back now, do you think the turning point for you was the tie for second in Houston? You made some comments a week later that we're going to start to see scary Billy now.
BILLY HORSCHEL: That was such a bad comment I made there too. Yeah, that tie for second was huge, because I've been in position many times going into the final round whether leading or being near the lead and not performed as well as I would have liked. Fran Pirozzolo, my sports psych guy, we were talking on the range right before the round, and I said we're going to switch it up today. Told him what I was thinking and he told me something right along the same lines. You know, I did it, and it was unbelievable. I was finally able to do my thing on the final round and not worry about who I was playing with or what the people in front of me or behind me are dealing with. So that was a big turning point. Knowing that I could go ahead and be focused on what I wanted to do and not be caught up in anything else that's going on the golf course.
Q. At any point during the long wait or when you got out there did you think about going for it?
BILLY HORSCHEL: No, I hit a bad - you know, we waited 20 minutes because I guess someone in front of us couldn't figure out to cross or not. So I'm on that tee, and I know I'm not going to hit it now. There's water right, so I snipe hooked it left. There is no chance of me going for it. It was too far. I hit a bad drive. I hit like 250 something to the front, which is no big deal. But the one shot lead. I have the 3 wood, and my wedge game's been really good all week and something I've worked hard on. Said let's just lay up. Let's just trust the way we've been playing with our wedge game and hopefully it will get the job done, and it absolutely did.
Q. Now that you have one and you look back at some of the failures, how much did some of those really hurt?
BILLY HORSCHEL: Say it again?
Q. How much did some of the failures, the not closing the high scores in final rounds when you're in contention, how much did those hurt?
BILLY HORSCHEL: I think 2011 at McGladrey hurt the most. Playing a golf course I played a lot in college, my coach being up there, a lot of family and friends. I didn't play very well. But what hurt most was the way I handled myself on the golf course. It was pretty pathetic in my mind. I got called out on it from family and friends, and I don't like doing anything wrong in front of my family or my friends, and that was a big turning point. All the other close calls, none of them put a scar on me at all. I think it just gave me more motivation to work hard and get that first victory. I took more positives away from all of those than any negatives. So, like I said, there wasn't much scar tissue at all. I played well. It just wasn't my time, like I said. It was nice that today was my time. I think I was close, and it's nice that I'm up here in front of you all talking about my first victory.
MODERATOR: If you wouldn't mind, you had nine of them. If you would, just run us through your birdies today and give us a quick recap.
BILLY HORSCHEL: Yeah, I birdied No. 5, 130 something to that pin. Little three quarter pitching wedge, five feet, popped it in. 7, just pin high left on number 7, the par 5, chipped it to the top. 8, hit a pretty good wedge shot to about 10 feet, made it. 9 was a good swing. A three quarter 6 playing 194, just cover draw it, hit into about 5 feet. 10 was another good swing. That pin you can't go chasing at not with the number I had. I had the little chip pitching wedge again, tried to play it pin high right and hit a good shot.
11, hit another wedge shot to 6 or 7 feet, made it. 12, I got a good break on 12. D.A.'s ball was right next to me. He hit a full 7 iron. I knew he was pretty close. I knew I was a little bit longer than him, and I didn't think 8 was the right club, so I tried to hit a little three quarter 7. Blocked it a little bit, kicked left on the green, and made that putt. Obviously, bogeyed 15, you guys saw that. 16 and 18, 16, I knew I could be aggressive taking over that bunker and leaving myself a short wedge. I hit a good wedge shot in there about 6 or 7 feet, made it.
Then 18, what else can I say? 27 feet in the hole, first victory. You can't ask for anything else. That was, like I said, it's still pretty unbelievable. I saw my reaction on TV when I was about to come down here. Like I said, I knew it was pretty intense. There was a lot going on. Just celebration time now and enjoyment.
MODERATOR: With that, Billy, congratulations.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.