TROON, Scotland — The inward nine is where the Old course at Royal Troon shows its teeth. Yet Billy Horschel bit back Thursday. The 29-year-old Florida native was one of just two players to play the back side bogey free through the midpoint of the first round, shooting a two-under 33 and posting a four-under 67 total to sit one off the lead at Open Championship.
The score matched Horschel’s career-low round at the Open, having shot a closing 67 last year at St. Andrews. Save for his T-30 finish there, Horschel’s Open record isn’t all that inspiring with missed cuts in his two other starts in 2013 and 2014.
Offsetting that bad karma are the good vibes Horschel has been brewing in 2016. The 29-year-old Florida native has missed just one cut in 14 starts, that coming in January at the CareerBuilder Challenge. While winless, his three top-10s have given reason him reason for optimism.
“I feel close. I feel like there’s something special happening,” Horschel said. “It sort of reminds me a lot of 2014 since I played fairly well in 2014 but just got nothing out of my rounds the entire year.”
You’ll recall that he did win the FedEx Cup title in 2014, so things couldn’t have gone that badly. Nevertheless, Horschel sees this week as a possible springboard to another season-ending run.
“In my mind I’ve got the Open, I’ve got PGA, I’ve got Wyndham, and then I’ve got the FedExCup,” Horschel said. “So roughly I’ve got seven more events. Hopefully something special happens and I can get on a little train, a little momentum because obviously in the past, my history shows that once I get some momentum, the train keeps going.”
That’s not to say he isn’t focused on the here and now. Horschel knows that his name isn’t always mentioned with the other top twentysomethings Americans on the PGA Tour, in part because he hasn’t been in contention in many majors. It’s a storyline he hopes he can change soon.
Horschel knew in particular it was important to get off to a hot start on Thursday given that the weather was as good as he’s seen since arriving in Scotland. After hearing the local forecast predict the next few days would be bringing more wind and rain, Horschel felt particularly motivated to get things going early.
“I knew today was going to be the best weather we had all week, and it’s always crucial to get off to a good start especially in a major in the first round. Knowing the weather could be nasty in the next three days … [I] needed to keep trying to make some putts, make some birdies, because I know the next few days is going to be tough. I know the next few days some bogeys could pop up.”