Patience is Virtue Horschel is Trying to Possess
Co-Leader Hits Every Green in Round of 67 to Tie Mickelson
By Dave Shedloski
ARDMORE, Pa. – Billy Horschel fired a 60 at Chaska Town Course near Minneapolis on the first day of stroke-play qualifying for the 2006 U.S. Amateur, the lowest 18-hole score in United States Golf Association history.
“That was easy compared to this,” he said with a big smile.
This is the U.S. Open. This is Merion Golf Club. This isn’t supposed to be easy.
But Horschel, a 2007 USA Walker Cup player who has been on a tear of late on the PGA Tour, sure made his second round in the 113th U.S. Open look easy Friday at Merion’s East Course. The former Florida All-American hit all 18 greens in regulation on the way to a sterling 3-under-par 67 and a share of the 36-hole lead.
Playing in just his second U.S. Open, Horschel, 26, stood at 1-under 139 after playing 29 holes on Friday due to Thursday’s weather delays. Five-time U.S. Open runner-up Phil Mickelson birdied the 18th hole just before sunset to salvage a 2-over 72 and also completed 36 holes in 139.
Horschel converted four birdies against a three-putt bogey at the short par-3 13th, and he didn’t even know he had been perfect in the greens-hit department until he signed his scorecard. He is the first player to hit every green in the U.S. Open since at least 1989, which is when the statistic was first tracked.
And, trust him, it was far from an easy day. He shook his head just thinking about it.
“No, I was not in the zone, trust me,” he said. “This golf course, even though it's soft, is still a tough golf course. I know what ‘in the zone’ is for me. I don't get nervous. I just see the shot and go. And I saw the shot, and I went with it, but I was still nervous with a lot of them. Your misses here can be bad if you miss in the wrong spots.”
He hasn’t missed much. He leads the field in greens in regulation, hitting 31 of 36 overall, and 12 of the 21 fairways he’s found came in Round 2.
It was impeccable golf on an implacable layout. While Horschel was carding 67, the field was averaging over 75 amid Merion’s myriad encumbrances.
Typical golfer, though, he wanted more. “Yeah, 66 sounded better, but I three-putted 13,” was his first comment afterward.
Horschel came into the week having finished in the top 10 in five of his last seven events. His first PGA Tour title at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April came after near misses at the Shell Houston Open, where he tied for second, and the Valero Texas Open, where he was joint third.
An admittedly impatient person and golfer, Horschel has been working on the mental side of his game for the past year with sports psychologist Fran Pirozzolo. Patience is always an integral factor in a U.S. Open examination.
“I've acquired some patience, not as much as I wish I had,” he said. “But I just think that the older I get, the more mature I get on the golf course, the more understanding that if I do have a bad stretch of holes, it's not that I don't hit the panic button, I just don't press right away.”
He won’t have to press heading into Saturday’s third round. But he will face the pressure of leading the national championship for the first time. He didn’t seem fazed. Or, rather, he wasn’t yet letting himself think about the position he has put himself in.
“It's another tournament,” Horschel averred. “I know it's a big event. I know it's a historical event. But one thing that me and Fran have worked on is limiting the distractions. I get distracted too easily out there on the golf course and off the golf course. So it’s more or less just focus on what I do, don't worry about anybody else.
“Don't worry about the crowd noise. Don't worry about what your playing partners are doing, just focus on what I'm trying to do. I'm not going to think about any of that. I'm just going to think about trying to execute every golf shot from here on in for the next 36 holes. If I can do that, we'll see what happens on Sunday.”
It all sounds so easy. But, of course, it isn’t – even if you’re playing in the zone you say you’re not in, exhibiting the patience you say you don’t have.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on usopen.com.