Emotional Billy Horschel opens up after 84, ‘lowest confidence’ of career

Billy Horschel says his confidence has never been lower on the golf course, but added that he feels close to turning the corner.

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It can be so easy to obsess over numbers in this game, particularly from the outside looking in. Really, in golf, the only thing that matters is numbers, no? 

Every score on every hole leads to strokes gained or lost. When those add up to an 18-hole total that begins with a 6, it’s a good thing. When it begins with a 7 it can be both good and bad. When it begins with an 8, hoo boy, that’s no good. But between the gambling and the leaderboard scrolling, it can be all we care about. Did you see Billy Horschel shot 84?

It’s true — Horschel carded one of the worst rounds of his Tour career Thursday at the Memorial tournament. His name was way down there at the bottom, second-to-last. But there’s always more to the story than just the digits on a scorecard. The tricky part is that we just rarely ever hear the context surrounding a number like that. 

Players who card rounds in the 60s often get interviewed after their rounds. Players who shoot in the 80s often go right to the range to set themselves straight. That normalcy was reversed a touch Thursday as Horschel — the defending champion, no less — offered some time to reporters on site. The first question had nothing to do with him. Rather, it was about his alma mater, the University of Florida, winning the NCAA men’s golf championship this week. 

His next answer was preceded by a deep exhale and a 20-second pause. You could see the tears welling up in Horschel’s eyes. And then he gave us a window into what he’s been going through

“I mean, it’s tough right now,” Horschel began. “As I said, I mean, I’m working really hard, trying to do the right things, and the team’s doing everything really well. It sucked today. Yesterday, sort of thought I didn’t hit it very good in the pro-am and even after the round it wasn’t bad. I mean, on video it looks good. Technically it’s not that far off.

“But I’m not able to hit the cut the way I want. I can’t get the ball to start left the way I want. So then when it comes down to having to be more precise on a course like this, it’s just, it’s tough. Yeah, I mean, I’ll keep working. As much as I would love to throw in the towel and not come out tomorrow, that’s just not in me. I’m just not one of those players. There’s plenty of those guys out here on Tour that would make an excuse about being injured and everything.

“But I’ll show up and I’ll go out there and give it my all like I always do and try and find something, try and play well, and move on. I mean, it’s a day and I’ve had plenty of these days this year. Not this bad, but it’s just a day. We’ll get by it.”

On another day, Horschel’s inability to hit his go-to cut shot might be masked by an easier golf course. But Muirfield Village can be as punishing as any course the pros visit annually. The low round of the day was Davis Riley’s 67, which no one else matched. There were seven other pros who failed to break 80. There was probably context behind their numbers, too.

Horschel has been struggling for much of 2023 after having a banner season last year. He won the 2022 Memorial tournament by four shots. He made the United States Presidents Cup team and cracked the top 15 in the world ranking. But something hasn’t been right this year. It started with a first-round 76 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January and has continued through an up-and-down spring. One round is above average. The next is below. The next, above! The next, below. A first-round 69 at the RBC Heritage was followed by a second-round 74. Then a first-round 71 at the PGA Championship with a second-round 75. 

He was asked Thursday evening about how difficult it can be to keep composure (and keep pace) when golf gets hard and the bad numbers start piling up.

“I mean, listen, I’m making a big number on every single hole it seems like,” Horschel said.  “I’m struggling every hole. Listen, the group in front of us played quick and we got, I was taking a lot of extra shots than what we normally would do. I mean, we got warned at No. 13, but we I think we were back in position by number 15 tee. They were still on the hole when we got there. So, yeah, listen, my confidence is the lowest it’s been in my entire career. I think ever in my entire golf career.

“So it’s funny, as low as it feels, it feels like I’m not that far off at the same time. Which is insane to see when you see me shoot 84 today. It doesn’t — it wouldn’t make sense to a lot of people. But I don’t think I’m that far off. I just need, I need the swing to be a little bit better, I need to do a few more things a little bit better. I just need to see a few more quality golf shots and that’s just what I haven’t had. And it’s tough when you come to a course like this and you need to be precise tee to green and I’m not really precise right now from tee to green. Around the greens I put myself in awful positions trying to get up-and-down. And my putting’s tried to bail me out as much as it can. 

“But, yeah, it’s a challenge out there, there’s no doubt about it. But like I said, I’ll keep plugging away and I’ll keep pushing forward and I’ll keep grinding hard I’ll keep working hard and hopefully it f—-ing comes around soon. Sorry.”

No apology needed, Billy. If anything, we should be thanking you. Not only do we rarely hear from pros who fail to break 80. We rarely get them as transparent as Horschel has been all week at Muirfield Village. He first explained his emotional toll on Wednesday during his defending champion’s press conference. As much as it clearly hurt him to acknowledge in the moment, that honesty was quickly championed by fellow pros online. Check them out below. 

Sean Zak

Golf.com Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine, currently working on a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews. You can read about those travels here and catch his latest thoughts on the Drop Zone Podcast:

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