CHARLOTTE, N.C. — About time. Say those words as you would with a sense of relief, almost exhaling it. About time. [Breath]
And say them, too, with some soul, and with a curse word, and in a bold font. About damn time.
And now you’re speaking like Billy Horschel.
The heart-on-his golf-shirt-sleeve 35-year-old has been a pro for 13 years, and he had yet to make one of these team events, until he did, when this week he’s among the dozen who will play for Team USA at the Presidents Cup. Even just to say that makes him feel things. And, of course, that’s before any golf ball has been put into the air at Quail Hollow, though if his Tuesday session with reporters is any sign, this weekend is gonna be some kind of hoot.
It all hit Sunday night, he said. He had one of those look-all-around-and-soak-it-all-in moments. Team U-S-A.
About time. [Breath]
Then he started rewinding.
About damn time.
“Eight years ago [at the 2014 Ryder Cup] you were the hottest player in the world and you didn’t get selected,” a reporter began. “I realize it was a close call in the timing and all of that. How did that whole experience feel?”
“I had a kid two days later, so I couldn’t have cared less, honestly, that I didn’t make the team,” Horschel said Tuesday. “It did suck when I watched the Ryder Cup the following week and the U.S. not play very well and understanding that I felt like I could have helped. Whether my presence and me being there could have helped us win, I don’t know.
“Yeah, watching it, it sucked not being part of the team, but I had a newborn baby in my arms and I was a happy man.”
“Did it make you want to make these teams more?”
“No,” he said.
Surprising, but remember who you’re talking to here. Let’s continue.
“You already wanted to?”
“You’ve got to understand, my desire burns so hot that I can’t go any higher,” Horschel said. “I’m always — to make these teams, to get better in the game of golf, to achieve the things I want to in the game of golf, the desire to do this and motivate me is the highest it could possibly be. There’s no higher ceiling. There’s nowhere else for it to go.”
Let’s talk LIV Golf now. Everyone is these days, it seems. And though these golfers tell you they don’t read and hear things, we’re not naive here and these guys don’t all live in a bubble. And the chatter Horschel heard was that he wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for a host of players leaving the PGA Tour for the Saudi-backed series, banning them from Tour events and the Presidents Cup, a Tour-owned entity.
“I know there’s been a lot of chatter about it on both sides, at least the players who went to the LIV Tour,” Horschel said. “Then as Max [Homa] sort of indicated Sunday after he won, there was a lot of people on social media that like to chime in.
“What he’s heard, I’ve heard as well, I only made the team because the LIV guys left the Tour. I mean, those are just people that don’t know what the F they’re talking about. If they would have seen the points list when they left the Tour, Max and I were clearly in the top 12. So it doesn’t bother us one bit.”
We’ll stay with LIV. And another online topic, though a few weeks ago, on Claude Harmon’s podcast, renowned instructor Butch Harmon even suggested the thought.
“Billy, you give honest answers,” a reporter started. “If there were ever a PGA Tour-LIV team event, would that interest you?”
“There was this conversation, I don’t know when it was, and it was discussed,” Horschel said. “Yeah, I wouldn’t mind playing in it, but at the same time, you’ve got to look at things — what would the PGA Tour benefit from that? Nothing. If we win, we’re supposed to win. If we lose, it looks bad on the PGA Tour. So it’s really a lose-lose for the PGA Tour in that situation, and LIV’s got everything to gain from it.
“But as a player, we’re all competitive, and I have great relationships with a lot of those guys and I would love to compete with them. I was looking forward to playing the Presidents Cup and maybe getting paired against Cam Smith, who’s a really good friend of mine. If somehow there was a little LIV-PGA Tour competition, I would love that. I would love to play against Cam Smith or one of my good friends, Ian Poulter or something like that.
“Like I said, I’m not the one who makes that decision. There’s more that goes into a decision like that. I wouldn’t fault the PGA Tour or anyone saying this doesn’t benefit us going forward. I see that side of it, and I’m fine with that.”
Back to the golf golf. And Horschel golf. And a question you’ve maybe been wondering about from a player who enjoys a good club slam. Thing is, he knows you’re wondering. Horschel’s answer, at first, is bland, then he knows what the questioner is trying to unearth.
“Have you thought what Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday is going to be like on that 1st hole with the build-out and what that emotion for you is going to be like?”
“Yeah, it’s going to be really cool,” he said. “I think what everyone — you’ve got to understand. And what everyone’s been building — I’ll say this in a nice way. It’s not a bad way. I’m not trying to make me look good.
“But everyone has been building me up because of how much energy I have and some of the celebrations I have on the course at times, but a lot of that is organic. A lot of that’s natural. It comes to me, and then it just is a natural reaction to things. So when [captain] Davis [Love III] says, we’ve got to rein Billy in with his energy or we want Billy on the 1st tee pumping everyone up, I’m like you’re killing me here. You’re like pumping me up — not to fail.
“Are you going to pump the fans up at all?”
“Guys, I don’t know what I’m going to feel like on the 1st tee,” Horschel said. “It’s different. I mean, if you get me out into a Florida Gator stadium on the field before a game with 90,000 fans, yeah, I’m going to go crazy. There’s 90,000 fans there. It hits me, and I kick into a little different gear.
“I don’t know what I’m going to feel, but I’m like, man, everybody’s pumping me up to be this energizer, like this cheerleader type player for the team and everything. I can be like that. But I want you to understand it may not happen because we may not need it. I don’t want to let everyone down because they’re not going to see the energy, the celebration.
“I’ll tell you one thing I won’t be doing. I won’t be shotgunning any beers or drinking in the stands with the fans. That’s one thing I won’t be doing. Not that I fault the players in the past, but it’s just not my style.”
We’ll end things this way, with a back-and-forth on the journey.
And why, when you finally make one of these team events, after 13 years as a pro, at the age of 35, you feel things.
About time. [Breath]
About damn time.
“You make the choices you make for your career, and you have your support system, they get it, you’re doing the right things for your career. Despite all that, is there any part of you that struggles with personal guilt? Saying I know I had to do this, I know the people around me get it, yet I still feel guilty for missing X or making X decision or whatever.”
“I’ve got three kids at home,” Horschel began. “You know what, I completely get it. That’s why what my wife went through in her addiction and her alcoholism sort of brought a new light to a lot of things, and I’ve become — we both — my wife, Brittany, and I both have become better at being more present when we’re around each other, when we’re around the kids.
“I’ve done very well at, when I go home, making sure I leave golf at the golf course and not thinking about how do I get better the next day? What do I have to do to get better? Just the constant of trying to improve.
“But, yeah, it’s tough for them, and I thank my family and friends enough because there are times that I sort of get in my own little bubble and forget where I am at times. It’s crucial to make sure that, when you have that time, you’re present. And that’s why, even at 35, I’ve already got — and I’ve had these feelings for a little bit now.
“I don’t know if I will play this game past the age of 45. I don’t know if I’m going to play the Champions Tour because my kids are going to be at a certain age and I want to be around them more. I want to be at sporting events more.
“We all have sacrificed a lot in this game of golf. I’ve missed going on trips with my friends and our couple friends and going overseas and doing all these adventures. At some point missing all that and still continuing to play golf sort of weighs on you. And it’s like, you know what, I want to go live my life outside the game of golf.
“That point will come for me down the road, and I’ll enjoy that next stage of my life when that happens.”