Billy Horschel wins PGA Tour event amid historic finish, but there’s a catch

Eleven months ago, after the first round of the Memorial Tournament, Billy Horschel stood in front of the media and fought back tears as he talked about his lack of confidence.

He had just fired a 12-over 84, which served as a metaphor for his struggles throughout the 2023 season. Horschel missed 10 cuts a year ago, which led to him missing out on the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

As such, Horschel did not meet the qualification requirements to play in this week’s RBC Heritage—the fifth Signature Event of the 2024 season. But he still wanted to play, knowing that his game was trending in the right direction.

So, he teed it up at the Corales Puntacana Championship in the Dominican Republic, an opposite full-field event.

The decision paid off.

Corales Puntacana Championship

Billy Horschel hits his drive from the 18th tee.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Horschel began the final round three strokes behind Wesley Bryan, but he stormed past him and all the others to win by two. The former Florida Gator signed for a 9-under 63, which tied the course record, to win for the first time on the PGA Tour since the 2022 Memorial.

“This game of golf is so fickle. I think you can put a lot into it and get everything you want out of it,” Horschel said after his win on Sunday.

“But I knew in my 14 years, 13 years previously on the PGA Tour, that I had the ability, I had the talent. I just needed to continue to work hard, do the right things, and continue to believe that good stuff was going to come to the forefront at some point in time.”

Even though his victory did not come against the likes of Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Rory McIlroy, or any other elite PGA Tour players, Horschel still holds this win—and other opposite field events—in high regard.

“The PGA Tour has a lot of tournaments, and it’s tough for every tournament to get its due. Opposite-field events have been crucial for many players coming up the ranks,” Horschel explained.

“Look at Tony Finau, Viktor Hovland winning in Puerto Rico, Matt Wallace won this. So listen, it’s another opportunity to play, it’s another opportunity to become a better player, to get that win on the PGA Tour. These events are crucial to the PGA Tour in the sense of the growth of the development of the players on the PGA Tour.”

Horschel’s victory in the Dominican Republic vaults him from 76th to 45th in the FedEx Cup rankings. The top 70 players earn entry into the FedEx Cup Playoffs, so yes, this win carries significant weight.

But Horschel would not have been able to finish the job without his strong psyche and ability to handle pressure down the stretch.

“I don’t like talking about myself but growing up, I always wanted the ball when I was a pitcher; I always wanted to be the guy at battle trying to drive in the winning run; I always wanted to have it on me,” Horschel explained.

“I think growing up and having that mentality, I have grown into Ioving being in the lead. I love having that spotlight on me; I love having everything on me, knowing that if I mess up, it’s my fault, and I am the one who can control my destiny. I’ve always been really good up near the lead, and today, I showed that a little bit.”

Horschel made five birdies on the front nine to soar toward the top of the leaderboard at the midway point of his round. True to himself, he did not fold down the stretch, but rather, he thrived. His eagle at the par-5 12th gave him a two-shot lead with six holes to play, and he never relinquished it.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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