• Golf

I'm glad Horschel won't play in Ryder Cup, says McIlroy

Bob Harig
September 15, 2014
Billy Horschel had just two top-10 finishes before the PGA Tour's play-offs © AP

The guy playing the best golf over the past several weeks won the FedEx Cup on Sunday. Not the guy who won the most majors or the guy who had the best summer or even the best year.

Billy Horschel was barely a factor in the biggest tournaments in 2014, his name hardly registering. And prior to the PGA Tour's play-off events he had posted just two top-10 finishes, none since June.

So give the man credit for good timing.

Not only did he manage to survive the week at the Tour Championship with his wife, Brittany, avoiding going into labour with the couple's first child, but he picked an excellent occasion to play some of the best golf of his career.

Watson could not know Horschel would go on this run - and yet, he might wish those picks had come a couple of weeks later

Playing with the world's No.1 player, Rory McIlroy, over the final 36 holes at East Lake Golf Club, Horschel held his own, shooting a two-under-par 68 on Sunday to claim the Tour Championship along with the FedEx Cup. He defeated McIlroy and Jim Furyk by three strokes.

"I was able to rise to the occasion and get the job done," Horschel said. "And it just gives me so much confidence, such a thrill to accomplish something like this, especially with the guys I was going up against."

Sunday's double victory was worth £7 million and capped an incredible three-week run in which Horschel tied for second at the Deutsche Bank Championship, won the BMW Championship and then won the Tour Championship for his third PGA Tour victory.

And he even dreamed about it.

Along the way, he pocketed £8.3m.

Or here's another way to look at the financial haul. Heading into this week, Horschel's career earnings were £4.9m - which included the £885,675 he made last week in Denver. On Sunday, he made £7m - £885,675 for winning the tournament, another £6.2m for the FedEx Cup bonus.

Of course, where the timing isn't as good relates to the Ryder Cup. Horschel said again he didn't believe he earned a spot on the US team that will compete in Scotland in two weeks or even one of captain Tom Watson's at-large picks that were announced on September 2.

Watson certainly must have some pangs of wonder at this point. Horschel is currently the hottest American player and Chris Kirk - who tied for fourth after winning the Deutsche Bank Championship - is the second hottest.

Neither was picked for the team. Instead, Keegan Bradley - who didn't qualify for the Tour Championship - as well as Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson were the at-large selections, giving the Americans experience in an event in which they've had mostly disappointing ones.

And then there is this: Mahan and Simpson never broke par at East Lake and tied for 23rd in a 29-man field. In fact, six of the 10 US players finished tied for 17th or worse at East Lake.

Watson could not know Horschel would go on this run - and would have never picked him with just a second-place finish as his best in months. And yet, he might wish those picks had come a couple of weeks later.

At least Jim Furyk showed some form, tying for the lead with four holes to go, only to bogey the last two holes - just as he did at Medinah two years ago in Ryder Cup singles - and finish tied with McIlroy in second.

Rory McIlroy was three shots behind Billy Horschel at the Tour Championship © AP

"There's a few guys I'm glad I'm not going to see at Gleneagles," McIlroy said of the Ryder Cup. "Him [Horschel], Ryan Palmer [who finished seventh here], Chris Kirk. There's a few guys who are playing well who aren't on this US team that obviously had a great chance to make it."

Or be picked.

In fairness, Horschel would have been a long shot for the Ryder Cup regardless. Although he maintained this week that he would not withdraw if his wife went into labour given the circumstances and what was at stake, he also knew she is not due for two more weeks. To go to Scotland under those circumstances and be that far away from his Florida home? Unlikely.

As he walked toward the 18th green, his tee shot safely in play and victory all but assured, Horschel told his caddie, Micah Fugitt, a story about having dreams that occur in real life. It seemed strange enough that Horschel was asked to explain - and did so sheepishly.

There was the time he dreamed as a kid he'd get hit in the head with a baseball bat - and did. And then there was the time months ago that Horschel woke up in a fog, having dreamed he had won the FedEx Cup.

"It was very faint, but I remember holding up the FedEx Cup trophy," Horschel said. "As the season went along, I never thought about it, and figured maybe it was just a dream that wasn't real.

"But I thought about it last week after I won. I've thought about it this week a little bit that maybe this is supposed to happen. And maybe that's why when I woke up this morning I was calm knowing that this is my chance to win the FedEx Cup trophy."

Not only that, but he captured the Tour Championship in the process, winning for the second time in two weeks and third time overall.

And that is the stuff of dreams.

This article first appeared on ESPN.com

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