No way anyone saw this coming.
Not even Billy Horschel.
“Four missed cuts and I come in here with nothing that says I’m gonna play well,” said flabbergasted Billy after he watched the improbable unfold in front of him on the 73rd hole of the Byron Nelson on Sunday.
He was right about one thing, there was absolutely nothing that gave any indication that Billy Horschel would contend, much less win at this final go-round at Las Colinas for the Nelson. He finished in a tie for 55th in Houston then went home early after the Heritage, the Texas Open, the team event in New Orleans and then The Players.
Horschel was wallowing in the mire of golf limbo.
Then something happened starting last Thursday. Billy Horschel started making putts, making them the way he did that magical month of September back in 2014 when he won the BMW then the Tour Championship a week later, winning him the $10 million FedEx Cup.
That was the last we heard from Billy Horschel in the winner’s circle.
Horschel found himself locked in a three-horse race with nervous James Hahn and one of golf’s ultimate thoroughbreds — Jason Day.
The three had eliminated everyone else on Sunday at the Nelson.
Horschel, Hahn and Day were all 11-under at the turn.
Hahn jumped ahead with birdies at the 10th and 11th. He was 13-under, two ahead and still nervous enough to make three straight bogeys to take himself out of it, turning it over to Day and Horschel to decide a champion.
Horschel looked like he shot himself in the foot when he bogeyed 12 and 13 but then at the difficult 14th, he’d do something that would change the course of his day and season. He lined up a birdie putt from 60 feet out. A two-putt would be great. He started his ball on its way, seemed like it took two minutes to get to the hole, when it did, it had just enough steam to fall in the bottom for birdie to get him back to 11-under.
Day birdied 15 to get to 12-under and surely Day would handle the par five 16th. He didn’t, Horschel did and they were both 12-under through 16 holes.
Pars at 17 and 18 would send it to overtime but not before Hahn locked up third place by nearly holing his second at 18. It just missed going in and that would have bought him a piece of the playoff. Still, he made a lot of money with that solo third.
That left Horschel and Day to duke it out in overtime.
Both hit the green, Day was 30 feet out, Horschel about 18. Day’s putt ran four-feet by while Horschel narrowly miss ending it with his birdie attempt. But his tap-in put the heat back on Day.
Horschel stood next to his caddie, thinking like the rest of the onlookers that he’d be headed back to 18 in a moment. Day, who had gone 72 holes without a three-putt, did the inexplicable. His par putt didn’t touch the hole.
Horschel stared for a moment in disbelief, lowered his head, then grinned as he hugged his caddie. A long drought had just ended.
“I didn’t wanna win like that,” he said.
But he did win like that and he was happy to take it anyway he could get it.
Billy Horschel was lifted out of golf limbo thanks to Jason Day’s miss.
He’ll take it, darn right he’ll take it.