Billy Horschel win of WGC-Dell Match Play—that goes down as his biggest coup since claiming the FedEx Cup in 2014—
The 2014 FedExCup champion now has six TOUR wins after WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play victory.
By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, Horschel and Scheffler weren’t at their best, and though neither would admit it outright, it looked like a classic case of mental and physical fatigue as the sun set on a long week.
“I think it wasn’t pretty,” Horschel said afterward. “I feel sorry for the fans watching the coverage because they didn’t see any great golf shots or very few of them at that. They saw a lot of sloppiness. They saw a lot of pars win holes and I think I made a birdie and I’m not sure if Scottie made a birdie.”
Scheffler, the 2018 University of Texas grad who the crowds were mostly pulling for did actually have one, and it came because Horschel bombed out of the second hole and conceded it.
Nevertheless, for fans of this unique event, the quality of the final is never the headline. To win the trophy, a player must handle playing seven matches in five days, and that requires three basic elements: Skill, luck and endurance. That latter includes surviving missed opportunities and the occasional bout of bad play, all while marching through the picturesque but very steep hills of Austin C.C. Sure, Horschel could have closed out Scheffler earlier, and adrenaline led him to overcook a pair of approaches after Scheffler found the water on 12 and the dreaded “native area” on 16, resulting in a pair of frustrating halved holes. But Horschel, 34 and an 11-year PGA Tour veteran, held on through those blunders, played intelligent tactical golf even when certain shots deserted him, and Scheffler helped him at the right moment with a critical missed four-foot birdie try on 14.
Endurance, followed by luck, and a deserved victory.
f anything, breaking through this year was unexpected. Horschel considers himself a perfectionist, but uniquely, his preparation for this event was light. After a missed cut in Bay Hill and a mediocre T-58 showing at the Players, he decided his best way forward wasn’t hours spent on the range, but a family vacation in Melbourne, Fla., in which he didn’t touch a club for seven days. The former University of Florida All-American came in with lowered expectations, which benefited him until Thursday, the moment when he thought he had cracked the case.
“I showed up thinking, ‘Hey, I’ve got this figured out. I can, I’m swinging good, everything feels good,’ ” he said. “And I just had a bad mentality and I played really bad because of that and J.T. [Poston] played good and beat me. So I just had to sort of check myself again Thursday night, and came out with a much better attitude Friday morning.
From then on, Horschel was untouchable, starting with his win over Collin Morikawa—a bit of revenge for their final round pairing at the WGC-Workday Championship in Bradenton a month ago—and lasting through Sunday afternoon. It’s his sixth career PGA Tour win and his first individual win since the 2017 AT&T Byron Nelson. It was also his first WGC title, and he’s not afraid to admit that he wants more—major victories, a Players Championship, and even a future Ryder Cup captaincy.
Coming into 2021, he felt he was ready to make the most of his talent and have a career year, and if Austin serves as a springboard to greater things, he’ll remember these five days as more than a feat of endurance with a rickety ending. He’ll remember it as the start of his prime.