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‘Ticked off’ by Ryder Cup call snub, has Billy Horschel earned the ‘13th’ pick if Team USA needs a fill-in?

September 12, 2021

Billy Horschel was all smiles after winning the BMW PGA on Sunday, a far different mood than he was in a few days earlier after the U.S. Ryder Cup team was announced.

Richard Heathcote

You can forgive newly crowned BMW PGA champion Billy Horschel if this all feels awkwardly familiar. In 2014, the fast-talking Florida native didn’t hear his name listed when captain Tom Watson revealed the American Ryder Cup team he’d be taking to Gleneagles. Horschel then proceeded to win the Tour Championship at East Lake, after a victory at the BMW Championship a week before, and claimed the FedEx Cup title. Having a player with so much momentum missing from the U.S. team—one that would get beat handily by the European squad that year—caused officials who oversee the American selection process to push back making the final captain’s picks for subsequent Ryder Cup teams a few weeks should another “Horschel situation” arise.

Fast forward then to 2021, and did another “Horschel situation” indeed arise, and in the form of Horschel himself? Once again, the 34-year-old PGA Tour veteran didn’t hear his name listed among Steve Stricker’s six captain’s picks for the American team that will be playing in two weeks at Whistling Straits. And once again he went out and used it as motivation to claim a big title, joining Arnold Palmer as only the second American to win the European Tour flagship event.

“Listen, I didn't play well enough to make enough points to be an automatic qualifier,” Horschel said in his post-victory press conference from Wentworth Golf Club. “I didn't play consistent enough over the last few months to really give myself a great chance to be picked.”

That, of course, was a humble view of the end of Horschel’s season. But that doesn’t mean he was happy with the ultimate outcome, or at least how things finished up last week. After all, he did win a pretty significant event in 2021 (WGC-Dell Match Play in March, his sixth career tour title), was inside the top 20 of the final Ryder Cup points list and sat 28th in the World Ranking after finishing ninth in the Tour Championship.

“There was a little added motivation. I thought I was going to get a phone call,” Horschel said. “Didn't think it was going to be a phone call that said I made the team. But it was a phone call saying, ‘Hey, you had a great year, obviously we talked, but we're going to go in a different direction.’ I didn't get that phone call. I was a little upset. I was a little ticked. Gave me a little bit of fire in my butt or my arse, to be nice to really not show anything, but you know, just gave me a little fire, not that I needed it.”

Horschel played a bogey-free final round on Sunday at Wentworth to become the first American to win one of the European Tour’s Rolex Series events. He actually played the final 29 holes bogey free.

So did Horschel deserve a thanks-but-no-thanks call? He has a decent argument considering he missed just once cut in a PGA Tour event since March (U.S. Open at Torrey Pines). And he lurked during the final round at East Lake, but a closing 70 kept him from being a real factor in winning a second FedEx Cup title.

Given his performance at Wentworth, however, you could argue Horschel deserves renewed consideration from Stricker if a “13th” pick is needed for Team USA. Brooks Koepka withdrew from the Tour Championship with a wrist injury, and if he wasn’t available, the U.S. captain could name an alternate for his spot. Suffice it to say, Horschel will keep his phone close by in case a call does come in over the next few days.

“I don't know what's going to happen. I know Brooks had to withdraw last week at the Tour Championship. He's an unbelievable player, and it would be a big blow to the United States team if he's not able to play. If somehow a phone call comes my way that says Brooks had to withdraw and I got picked, I'd be over the moon. I mean, I'd be up there faster than, you know, the speed of sound to get there.

But we'll see what happens. Like I said, I haven't … there's rumors and sometimes you can't always believe the rumors but as far as I know they have got 12 guys that are healthy and ready to play golf and I'm ready to sit on the couch and wear my red, white and blue and support the team.”