At the conclusion of this September’s Presidents Cup, Billy Horschel was reflective. His appearance at Quail Hollow was his first time on a U.S. team as a professional, after all, and he was a late-blooming rookie at the age of 35. He admitted he wasn’t sure if he’d be back. These teams are tough to qualify for, after all.
“I’m getting up there in age and there’s a lot more younger guys out on Tour, so it’s weird to think I’ll be 36 here in a month’s time and now I’m one of the older guys on Tour and one of the veterans,” he admitted on Tuesday.
But that doesn’t mean Horschel is content with what he’s accomplished in his PGA Tour career. And ahead of this week’s World Wide Technology Championship, Horschel admitted that his remaining professional goals are actually, uh, still pretty ambitious.
“I still have a ton of drive in this game and I haven’t come close to accomplishing everything I want to do in this game of golf. So until that happens, I’ll keep pushing forward,” he said.
Luckily a reporter followed up to ask what, exactly, Horschel meant by that. What does he want to accomplish?
“Yeah, I would love to get the No. 1 player in the world,” Horschel said. Wow! Okay. He clarified slightly: “I mean, that’s a goal of mine, but the bigger goal being I want to become the best player I can be. If that means I get the No. 1 player in the world, I get to No. 1. If that means the best I get to is 4, that’s 4. But I just wanted to achieve, you know, my full potential.”
In fairness, his next goal actually felt much more achievable.
“I want to make a Ryder Cup team,” he added. “I’ve made a team finally, but to sit here and tell you the truth, I want to make a Ryder Cup team. That’s always my No. 1 goal. So I still have a few more years to try and make one and hopefully be a part of more than just one.”
Then he revisited Dreamtown.
“To tell you the truth, I mean, I want to win all the majors. That’s always been a goal of mine. Now, is that realistic? I don’t know, but it’s a goal.”
Yowza! Now we’re cooking. Horschel clarified that he really just wants one major, but hell — he wants all four of ’em, too.
“And then the last goal I think would be getting multiple or double-digit wins on the PGA Tour,” he concluded. “I think today in our age of golf and the generation we’re at and on the PGA Tour, I think if you can say you won 10-plus times on the PGA TOUR, you’ve had one hell of a career. You’re not going to see many guys get to 20 wins anymore.”
In case it wasn’t clear, Horschel has given this some serious thought. We’ll let him reiterate:
“To summarize: 10-plus wins on the PGA Tour, win at least one major, make the Ryder Cup team and maybe get the No. 1 player in the world. Those four goals, that’s it.”
Love it! It’s rare that we see a golfer lay out what he wants in such explicit — and unlikely — terms, so it’s worth evaluating when it happens. First let’s break down why, exactly, Horschel’s goals are ridiculous, from least to most absurd.
4. Making the Ryder Cup team.
This one’s easily the most doable. Horschel got as high as No. 11 in the world after his victory at the Memorial this summer and cruised his way onto the Presidents Cup team. Another hot stretch come next summer plus some good play in the majors — we’ll get to that — and there’s no reason Horschel couldn’t be one of the top 12 Americans. That’s the good news. Who’s to say he couldn’t come in No. 12 in your Ryder Cup power rankings, right behind the 11 most obvious choices as things currently stand: Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Sam Burns, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Cameron Young and Max Homa.
And again, we’re almost a year out. Not that ridiculous.
3. Get to double-digit wins.
Horschel has seven wins in his PGA Tour career, which means he only needs three more to crack double digits. It’s not like his victories are ancient history, either: He won last year’s WGC-Match Play and this year’s Memorial Tournament, not to mention last year’s BMW PGA on the DP World Tour. It’s very conceivable that he could pick off a few more wins, given the fact that he’s playing at arguably his highest level yet. Not that ridiculous!
2. Reach World No. 1.
Very ridiculous. Horschel has yet to crack the world’s top 10. Like, ever. And in a dozen or so seasons playing PGA Tour events, he’s only finished two years inside the top 30 in the world (he’ll make that three this year). World No. 1 seems like a dream.
1. Win all four majors.
If Rory McIlroy wins the Masters, he’ll own the career Grand Slam. That seems doable. If Jordan Spieth wins the PGA Championship he’ll own the career Grand Slam. Also doable. If Billy Horschel wants to win the career Grand Slam, just remember he has to win the Masters, the PGA, the U.S. Open and the Open Championship. All four of ’em! In the post-Bobby Jones era that would put him in pretty limited company: Sarazen, Hogan, Player, Nicklaus, Woods. Propose this to your sportsbook of choice and see what odds come back; I suspect they’ll be juicy.
They’d be juicy for anyone without a major, of course. But there’s also the unfortunate reality that the majors have been Horschel’s worst events. In his first major as a pro, the 2013 U.S. Open, he finished T4. Since then he has finished inside the top 15 exactly zero times in 34 tries. Zero times! His lone top 20 in that span is a T17 at the 2016 Masters. His 2022 major results were 43, 68, MC, T21. He has not been knocking on the door — nor even in view of the driveway — even if the goal is just to pick off one major.
But that’s enough slag tossed in Horschel’s direction. I love that he’s open with his goals, even if they’re ridiculous. I love it especially because they’re ridiculous. They don’t give out extra strokes for self-doubt; on Tour it actually works the opposite way. Show me an athlete with irrational confidence and I’ll show you another reason he’ll beat the daylights out of you. And while Horschel has the awareness to recognize he’s shooting for the stars, he’s also been around long enough to shrug at people’s reactions.
“Some people may call me crazy because they may not think I’m good enough, but I don’t really care what they think,” he said.
Quotes from two other golfers come to mind. The first is Patrick Reed, who called himself a top-five player when there was no evidence he belonged in that conversation. As one respected online commentator put it: “anyone at that level who doesn’t think of themselves like that has no chance.”
The other quote comes from Padraig Harrington, 51, who still dreams of winning his fourth major.
“Oh, I dream of it,” he said. “Who cares about reality? Somebody sitting at home. But what gets me up in the morning is another major. What gets me out practicing, the reason I work so hard at this game is another major…the chance of winning a major is everything.”
So good on ya, Billy. Add me — somebody who is very much sitting at home — to the doubters: I think it’s a long shot that you’ll achieve any of those goals.
But I’d love to be proven wrong.