Stress-free Horschel advances to final stage

Billy Horschel

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. – On arguably the most stressful day in golf, when mid-life crises can develop on the long walk from the clubhouse to the courtesy car, Billy Horschel lounged near the 18th green and watched his buddies squirm under pressure. Rare is the golfer who plays PGA Tour Q-School for practice – and still succeeds. 

Eight months after undergoing season-ending wrist surgery, and only a week removed from his honeymoon in the Bahamas, Horschel summoned his best golf of the year to, perhaps, salvage his season. 

Results

See who advanced and who missed the cut at the six PGA Tour Q-School second stage sites.

“Not many guys go to the second stage of Q-School and know they’re going to have about 20 events on the PGA Tour next year,” Horschel said, smiling, and that much was true. These four rounds at Southern Hills Plantation Club were supposed to be the last stop during a forgettable first year on Tour, an opportunity to gauge his game entering an abbreviated offseason. 

Only when he made the turn Saturday did Horschel begin to ramp up the intensity for the first time all week. “It was carefree until I started to play well,” he said, “and then I said, ‘You know what, now we’ve got a chance to do this.’ ”

Horschel completed an improbable comeback by shooting a final-round 66 to finish 13th (top 19 and ties advance) and move on to the final stage of Q-School, Dec. 1-6 at Orange County National in Orlando, Fla. 

“I really needed this,” said Horschel, who finished at 6-under 282. “I haven’t felt this in over a year, and to be able to play well and get something out of it . . . it’s been a frustrating year.” 

A year that potentially could get a whole lot better. Horschel, who will turn 24 next month, already has been granted a major medical extension, meaning he’ll play about 20 Tour events next season. But he enrolled at Q-School to try to improve his status and regain his Tour card, hoping to get into more events during the West Coast Swing. 

Horschel’s rookie campaign was cut short after undergoing season-ending surgery on his left wrist in March. He spent the next month “wearing out a spot on the couch” in his Jacksonville Beach condo, watching as fellow twentysomethings Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Jamie Lovemark left their marks on their respective tours. Few players possess as much potential as Horschel, a three-time All-American at Florida, but the wrist injury proved an ill-timed setback.

He didn’t pick up a club until June, and he didn’t compete in a tournament until July. As soon as he was cleared by doctors, he immediately began playing on the Nationwide Tour, making only one cut and earning $2,831. 

“All my buddies are doing well, and I want that success, too,” he said. “I want to feel the heat, the competition, the success. That’s what gets me going.” 

Horschel prepared for the second stage of Q-School in a most unique way: He got married two weeks ago. The newlyweds returned from the Sandals Resort last Saturday, and Horschel played only two rounds this month before the biggest stress-fest of the season – at least for those players who aren’t assured 20 Tour starts in 2011. 

“This was really great to see from my game,” he said, “and hopefully now I can keep it going.” 

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