Billy Horschel – History Maker

It’s been quite a year for Billy Horschel, with the 34-year-old arriving in Dubai this month for his maiden DP World Tour Championship well and truly in the hunt for the Race to Dubai title. If he were to the top the season-long Rankings, he would become the first American to do so.

The 2014 FedEx Cup champion started the season strongly with victory at the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play, before playing in the abrdn Scottish Open and Alfred Links Dunhill Championship for the first time.

Sandwiched between those two appearances was a triumphant outing at the Rolex Series’ BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, a place Horschel immediately fell in love with after making his first professional start there outside of the PGA Tour in 2019.

“I absolutely loved playing there in 2019,” said Horschel. “I grew up watching the tournament on TV. It was the first week of the school holidays and I was up early watching it and absolutely loved what I saw from the course to the crowds and just the history of the event.

“I’d always wanted to get over to Wentworth and play, and I was planning on getting over earlier than 2019, but it just didn’t happen. Then when I played in 2019, it was everything it promised to be and more. It was just a blast.”

Horschel with the FedEx Cup.

That would just be the start of his love affair. Having missed the 2020 edition due to travel restrictions, Horschel returned this year firing on all cylinders with rounds of 70, 65, 69 and 65 earning him first title on European soil, while becoming just the second American to lift the coveted trophy after Arnold Palmer in 1975.

“I was speechless after that win, which is very, very rare,” he said. “The crowds were absolutely unbelievable and they supported me when I came over in 2019 and they supported me this year.

“In my mind, the tournament is equivalent to The PLAYERS Championship. That is a great event on the PGA TOUR and I live there and would love to lift that one, but winning the European Tour’s flagship event made me a very happy man.”

The amount of support Horschel received from the galleries might have something to do with the football team he supports. The six-time PGA Tour winner debuted a claret and blue bag in honour of his beloved West Ham at The Open Championship earlier this year, and it quickly won him a number of ‘Irons’ fans across the world.

“So during my sophomore year of college I moved into a new apartment and the cable wasn’t going to be hooked up for a couple of days,” he explained, “so we went to Best Buy and bought a couple of DVDs, one of those DVDs was Green Street.

“I loved the movie, I loved Charlie Hunnam as an actor and the film is about the firms at Millwall and West Ham, from there I started following them.

“When I played at Wentworth in 2019, obviously people knew me as a golfer and everything. But I think when an American comes over to UK and is supporting a football club, and it’s West Ham, when it = could have been easy to pick Man-United or Man City, it gets you respect.

“To pick West Ham, and to have a story behind it; the fans were loving it. It’s taken it to another level. They see that I’m not just a regular American. I understand things over there, what goes on, and they sort of adopted me as maybe a little bit of a stepson.”

Billy Horschel of the United States of America pictured with West Ham United players Declan Rice and Mark Noble during Day Four of The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club on September 12, 2021 in Virginia Water, England.

Whether the West Ham bag makes the trip over to Dubai remains to be seen, but Horschel will forever be blowing bubbles if he were to lift the Harry Vardon Trophy come November 21.

With 12,000 Race to Dubai points up for grabs at Jumeirah Golf Estates, the trophy could, mathematically, go to a host of players in the upper echelons of the Rankings with a win at the DP World Tour Championship. But Horschel is sitting pretty in second place on the Race to Dubai, just over 200 points behind compatriot Collin Morikawa, with both men aiming to become the first player from the US to finish the season as European No.1

“At the beginning of this year, the Race to Dubai, I’ll be honest, wasn’t one of my goals,” he said. “But after playing well in the WGC events and playing decent in the Majors, it became one of those goals, especially after I was in the top five going to Wentworth, knowing if I had a good week, I would jump up. I actually have two goals now for the rest of this year, one of them is to win the Race to Dubai and that’s the big one for me.

“But Fooch, my caddie, said he wanted me to be top 20 in the world by the end of the year before we won the BMW PGA Championship.

“He changed his mind after I jumped up to 18th with the win, and he’s moved the finishing line to see if we can get to the top 10 in the world by end of the year.

“But the obvious goal for me, the big one for is to win the Race to Dubai – be the first American to do that. That’s a special thing to do, as it was becoming the first American to win a Rolex Series event and being the second American to win at Wentworth.

“I’ve had some really nice weeks this year to accomplish some of those things that may not have been goals, but you find out that you’re in elite company, a rare air with some people. The race to be crowned Europe’s No.1 is obviously going to come down to that week in Dubai, and it will go to whoever plays the best out of a bunch of guys at the top of the Rankings.”

Could this finally be the year that we see an American sit at the summit of the Rankings after the Dubai finale for the first time in history? You wouldn’t put it past Horschel or Morikawa, but with fans back at the DP World Tour Championship this year, Horschel will be hoping there’s a few from East London to help him get over the line as he looks to join an elite club of players who have won both the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai.

 

SHARE THIS ARTICLE