Billy Horschel inched himself closer to his Ryder Cup dream with victory at the WGC-Match Play in Texas yesterday, defeating local favourite Scottie Scheffler in the final.
A 2&1 victory, during which he made only one birdie, was good enough for Horschel to win his sixth PGA Tour title and first WGC event, and with it he moved up seven spots in the Ryder Cup points list to 11th.
In 2014 Horschel was the hottest player in the world as the Ryder Cup teed off at Gleneagles without him.
The Floridian had won back-to-back events in the PGA Tour’s Play-offs, but Tom Watson’s team was already locked and the picks were made meaning the red-hot Horschel missed out.
“I want to make the Ryder Cup team,” said Horschel. “I would be stupid to say I don’t want to make the Ryder Cup team or not be aware of it.
“I feel like I should have been on Ryder Cup teams before, but that’s my fault because I haven’t done what I needed to do to take care of that.”
“But maybe this year is the year – I don’t know. We’re still six months away from the Ryder Cup, so there’s still a lot of golf left to be played and we’ll just have to see how the rest of the year plays out.”
Horschel has Walker Cup experience having played on the same side as Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson and Rickie Fowler at Royal County Down in 2007 and has a victory in the 2018 Zurich Classic in New Orleans when he teamed up with Scott Piercy to win.
“I feel like I’m a really good partner to pair up with a lot of people because I love that format. I love having a team-mate there,” added Horschel.
“I’ve played the Walker Cup team. I’ve played the Palmer Cup team, I’ve had successes in those formats. I love playing for America. I love playing for USA.”
Horschel, 34, still sits way outside the top 6 automatic qualifying spots and knows he has work to do to make the team, but a win in the only elite Match Play week of the year will have no doubt impressed American captain Steve Stricker.
Defeated finalist Scheffler, a Texas University graduate, took some notable scalps as he made his way through the competition, winning matches against European Ryder Cup stars Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm.
And the 24-year-old’s week didn’t go unnoticed as Stricker was enjoying the action from afar.
Scheffler moved up eight spots in the ranking, from 22 to 14, thanks to his runner-up finish and the prospect of a Scheffler/Schauffele pairing at Whistling Straits is already giving the TV commentators sleepless nights.
Meanwhile Europe’s biggest mover was Frenchman Victor Perez, who was knocked out in the semi-final by Horschel, as he continues to impress in the big events.
Since qualification restarted in January, Perez posted a top-5 at the Saudi International and a top-ten at The Players.
His fourth place finish in Austin enhanced his standing on the European points list, and barring a stunning loss of form is in line to qualify for a Ryder Cup debut.