A Players dream for Horschel
Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 12:18 a.m.
Ponte Vedra Beach — The drive used to be such a bummer.
Billy Horschel would make it for the last three years, away from his friends and out of the property. The majestic Tournament Players Course clubhouse would be in his rear-view mirror.
“I'd come out here Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, hang out with the guys on the course,” the former Florida golfer said. “Just chit-chat with them, hang out with them for a couple of hours and go back maybe over to Plantation (a nearby course) and practice for a little while.
“But I didn't get anything out of it. That's probably why I played so bad the following week. I was sorta bummed out.”
For Horschel, who moved to Jacksonville Beach when he joined the PGA Tour and recently moved into a new home in Ponte Vedra Beach, there was nothing more frustrating than having one of the biggest tournaments in the world in his backyard when he wasn't eligible to play in it.
That changed this year. Horschel's win at the Zurich Classic last month cemented what seemed inevitable even before his birdie putt rolled in on the final hole. Finally, he's in the field for The Players Championship, which begins today.
But even when he was not, it was too much to just sit at home wondering what everyone else was doing a few miles away.
“I can't sit at home,” he said. “I just wanted to get out. And I like chit-chatting. I love talking, obviously. So to come here and talk to all the guys, that's what I got out of it. I just came here to talk with them and hang out.
“At the same time, I was upset that they were … I wasn't upset at them that they were in the field. I was upset at myself that I wasn't there in the field. It ticked me off. I was upset. I didn't like it.”
When play begins today, Horschel will be considered one of the favorites because of his course knowledge and his good play of late. Horschel is 48-under par for his last 16 rounds and is third in the FedEx Cup points.
“I know where you can miss on the golf course,” he said. “I'm very excited to be playing in The Players for the first time and be in this field with the best field in golf. To be in front of all my friends and family and Gator Nation and trying to play the best I can this weekend, to get all the support I can, it's going to be exciting.”
Horschel is in one of the feature pairings for the first two rounds playing with Dustin Johnson and Ernie Els. They tee off at 8:29 a.m. off the 10th tee.
“I don't think I'm any different than what they are,” Horschel said. “Do they have more credentials than I do? Sure. But if you think of yourself as inferior to what they are, then you're already behind the 8-ball.
I think I'm just as good as those guys. I'm not intimidated by them. It comes with the territory of what I've done.”
Horschel is one of 21 first-time players in the tournament. Among that group is Ted Potter Jr. from Silver Springs.
“I'm definitely excited to be here,” Potter Jr. said. “It's a pretty amazing course.”
Potter Jr. said he usually caught The Players on the tube when he wasn't part of the field.
“I definitely wanted to try to be here last year,” he said. “It's something I definitely always wanted to do. I'd watch it, pieces of it, maybe 20 minutes at a time. I'm not one to sit and watch an entire tournament, but you want to know what's going on. It'll be nice to be playing and knowing all of the people back home are going to be rooting for me. Hopefully, I can play well.”
Potter tees off today at 1:07 p.m. off the first tee. Former Florida golfer Matt Every goes at 12:46 p.m. off the first tee and former UF golfer Brian Gay, who is 19th in the FedEx standings, tees off at 8:29 at the first tee.
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