Joy of Golf: Horschel shows again why golf’s a mind game

Joy Chakravarty 15:48 25/05/2017
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What Billy Horschel did on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson was amazing, but what his wife Brittany did the next day was even more astonishing.

The American, who won the 2014 FedEx Cup Playoffs ahead of Rory McIlroy in sensational fashion – he missed the cut at The Barclays, finished second at the Deutsche Bank Championship and then won the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship in a fourweek stretch – turned around his wretched form that saw him miss three straight cuts immediately before the tournament.

The American can at times be highly-strung but is generally a happy-go-lucky character. And he is someone who is outspoken about any issue bothering him – remember how he took on the USGA on using Chambers Bay as a venue?

So, his emotional reaction when he beat Jason Day in the first playoff hole on Sunday came as a bit of surprise. Perhaps it was because of how he struggled on the Tour for two years since winning the FedEx Cup.

For someone who seemed to be on the verge of making a massive impact in the game, just three top-five results in the past two years was unusual.

Horschel refused to divulge any details later in the press conference, saying: “Life gets in the way sometimes. I’m not able to talk about it right now. But it’s just a lot of stuff happened in the last year and this is just – this is nice.”

It was only after Brittany posted on Twitter that one came to know what the player and his family have been going through lately. Brittany revealed she was a recovering alcoholic, who has been sober for the past year.

She also said she spent more than two months last summer in a treatment facility, leaving her husband to take care of their 18-month-old daughter while playing full-time on the Tour. It was a brave revelation; one that Brittany hopes will raise awareness on the issue and help other families going through a similar situation.

It is often said that golf is played on a five-inch course – the distance between your ears. Horschel is just one of the many players we have seen on Tours recently who have struggled when they have other things on their mind.

In 2014, Rory McIlroy was unable to get a win until the time he decided to call off his wedding plans. That week itself, at the BMW PGA Championship on a Wentworth course he is not very comfortable on, he triumphed.

That led to the incredible summer when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship back-to-back, followed by consecutive runners-up finishes in the Tour Championship, Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the DP World Tour Championship.

Or, take the example of Day this year. The world No1 has fallen to No3, but for someone who dominated world golf from the Open Championship in 2015 until his injury at the 2016 Deutsche Bank Championship, 2017 was proving a comparative struggle.

Day finally revealed during the WGC-Dell Match Play about his mother’s illness. Now that it is off his chest, and she is getting good care, the Aussie is showing signs of his best form again and finished runner-up in last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson.

Of course, there are times when the opposite holds true as well. Henrik Stenson’s win last year at the Open Championship is a good case. On the eve of the tournament, the Swede came to know about the death of his good friend Mike Gerbich.

Even though he thought of Gerbich throughout the 72 holes, those memories seemed to galvanise Stenson as he became the first male Swedish major champion. India’s Jeev Milkha Singh showed terrific grit when he won the Japan Golf Tour’s season-ending JT Cup the same week he and wife Kudrat lost their baby in the seventh month of pregnancy.

And then there was the stoic Darren Clarke, who played exceptionally well to help Europe win the Ryder Cup in 2006 at K-Club just weeks after the death of his wife Heather. The mind works in unique ways and experts believe that the greatest athletes are the ones who can harness its power the best.


Jason Day

The Australian has endured a tough start to the year, distracted following the news of his mother battling with terminal cancer.

He has dropped from world No1 to four, so a play-off loss at Byron Nelson to someone who wasn’t even ranked inside the top-75, would surely hurt. But he had a great week with the putter – except for the three-putt in the play-off hole – and that would lift his morale.


Jordan Spieth

Things are definitely not all right in the Spieth world. The Texan missed the cut at the Byron Nelson, following a round on Friday in which he hit two balls out of bounds and posted a nine on the hole.

Everyone is entitled a bad week here and there, but the American has now missed three cuts in last four starts. That’s a bit of worry, but he reckons he is not very far off from his best form. So, let’s wait and watch.


Billy Horschel

Winner, AT&T Byron Nelson Driver: PXG 0811X (9 degrees) 3-wood: PXG 0341X (15 degrees)
5-wood: PXG 0341 (18 degrees)
Irons: PXG 0311T (3, 5-PW)
Wedges: PXG 0311T Milled (52-, 56- and 60-degrees)
Putter: PXG Bat Attack
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x


PGA Tour
Dean & Deluca Invitational Course: Colonial Country Club Fort Worth, Texas
Purse: $6.9 million
Defending champ: Jordan Spieth
European Tour BMW PGA Championship Course: Wentworth Club Virginia Water, England
Purse: $7 million
Defending champ: Chris Wood

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