ATLANTA – Just three weeks ago, Billy Horschel had every reason to start looking ahead to next season.
He had missed the cut in the first FedEx Cup playoff event to fall to No. 82 in the standings. He had only two top-10s all year, scant evidence that he was on the verge of something special. He was weeks away from becoming a father.
What followed was the best golf of his life, and a payoff that was more than he could grasp.
“I’m not sure life can be better than this,” Horschel said.
Horschel capped off his improbable playoff run Sunday at East Lake by pulling away from Rory McIlroy early and holding off Jim Furyk late. He posted his 12th straight round in the 60s – a 2-under 68 – to win the Tour Championship by three shots and claim the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus.
That’s what these FedEx Cup playoffs are all about – who can get the hot hand over the last four tournaments.
Horschel took that to a level only Tiger Woods can appreciate. No one had ever won the FedEx Cup starting the playoffs lower than No. 19. Horschel started at No. 69. But he was the runner-up in Boston, a winner in Denver and he cashed in big in Atlanta.
Those three weeks of prize money and the FedEx Cup bonus were worth nearly $13.5 million.
“I remember flying home and talking with my wife and she said, ‘You’re probably just waiting for the season to be over and start a new season.’ I sort of was,” Horschel said. “But at the same time, I knew my game was in the right shape and I just needed to get out of my own way. I needed to allow my golf game to show.”
Clinging to a one-shot lead, he calmly sank an 8-foot par putt on No. 13 to avoid his first three-putt of the week and stay one shot ahead of Furyk. The biggest blow came at the 16th hole when Horschel drove right into the trees, wisely pitched back to the fairway and saw his approach spin back 30 feet short of the cup.
The putt never looked as if it was going anywhere but in.
“It came off and got up on top of that ridge and I said, ‘This looks good.’ And it went in, and it was huge,” Horschel said. “I knew Jim was nipping at my heels and everything, and that was a big, big putt.”
Furyk came up short with his approach on the 17th and made bogey to fall two shots behind, and he three-putted the 18th trying to force a birdie.
That made it easy for Horschel, who drilled his tee shot onto the green for a two-putt par to finish at 11-under 269.
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