Billy Horschel makes a run in Boston

Billy Horschel is hoping to extend his FedEx Cup Playoff run with a strong showing at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Billy Horschel is hoping to extend his FedEx Cup Playoff run with a strong showing at the Deutsche Bank Championship. ( Getty Images )

Saturday, August 30, 2014

NORTON, Mass. – A year ago, when he entered the FedEx Cup playoffs sitting rather robustly in sixth place, Billy Horschel knew that he’d have to stumble quite a bit to miss out on the Tour Championship. Lo and behold, he didn’t. This year, though, he’s on the other side of the bubble, sitting at 82nd entering the Deutsche Bank Championship, and needing to make a decent move if he is to extend his 2013-14 season to next week and beyond.

“I’m not going to be going to the BMW if I don’t play well,” he said Saturday at TPC Boston after a second-round 66 moved him just one shot behind co-leaders Jason Day and Ryan Palmer. “There’s no doubt about it. Last year was different. . . . This year, I just gotta let it go.”

On Saturday, that’s what he did. He let it go. Horschel ranks sixth on Tour in greens in regulation this season (69.44 percent), but sits 112th in strokes gained putting, a telling statistic in which he ranked inside the top 30 a year ago. He said it’s not as if he feels he’s putting poorly this season, but he certainly has not made enough putts in the 10- to 20-foot range, and it’s cost him. In 24 starts, Horschel has two top 10s – six fewer than he had a year ago.

So what has led to his turnaround this week outside Boston? A pro-am round, of all things. He finally watched a few putts fall in, and it helped bolster his confidence.

“You can putt all you want on the putting green,” he said. “I tried to take the pro-am a little more serious on Thursday. I saw some putts finally go in from the range I was missing from, and it was like, ‘Hmmm, I might be onto something.’ It’s been great the last two days.”

Horschel made six birdies Saturday, sinking a 20-footer on No. 14 (his fifth hole) and adding a 12-footer at the par-5 seventh (his 16th). Horschel could have knocked in his sixth and final birdie at the par-4 ninth with the grip end of his putter; he’d knocked his approach with a 9-iron to a foot.

At 7 under heading into the last two rounds, he knows he can make a big move this weekend, even jumping into the top 30 to help set up a return trip to East Lake. Saturday’s fluctuating projections had Horschel moving more than 50 spots, into the high-20s.

“There’s no back against the wall,” he said. “There’s 100 other guys who’d love to be in my situation right now. I’m just trying to embrace it, and I’m just trying to get better. I haven’t played as well this year as I would have liked, and it’s frustrating, because I feel that I’ve gotten a lot better as a player, just that the results haven’t shown up on the golf course.”

And the consolation if his playoff run were to end? He and his wife, Brittany, are expecting their first child, a girl, in a few weeks.

The due date?

“Ryder Cup Saturday,” Horschel said with a grin. “I haven’t played well enough to talk about it (being a conflict). But it’s Saturday of the Ryder Cup, and it’ll be a great day.”