Defending Memorial champion Billy Horschel collapses at Muirfield

Five seconds. Ten seconds. Embarrassed silence. Fifteen seconds. Billy Horschel was a beaten man, brought to the lowest point of his golfing career.

Twenty seconds, which is a long time for a PGA Tour player to stand in front of a microphone, head down, and concentrate on not crying. It says something that it was easier for Horschel, the defending Memorial Tournament champion, to shoot a stomach-churning 84 on Thursday than to hold on when a reporter asked, “Is this a day you hug your kids and move on?”

Golf: Here’s everything you need to know about the 2023 Memorial Tournament

But the question raised another: move on to what? Where do you go when the job you’ve excelled in for nearly 15 years suddenly feels like you’re learning a foreign language. Like an accountant who can’t add. A firefighter who is afraid of smoke.

You go to dark places, it’s there.

Someone reminded the 36-year-old Floridian that earlier this week he explained that he was still struggling with his golf swing, but the trend was up.

June 1, 2023;  Dublin, Ohio, USA;  Billy Horschel hits his tee shot to the left from the second tee during the first round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

June 1, 2023; Dublin, Ohio, USA; Billy Horschel hits his tee shot to the left from the second tee during the first round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

But as of Thursday’s jump, the hoped-for improved swing was nowhere to be found. By the end of a miserable 18 holes, Horschel had entered the Memorial record books as the highest opening-round carder of any defending champion. His afternoon 12-over-par ranked him 118th out of 119 golfers.

“Yeah, I mean it’s hard right now,” he said, pulling himself together enough to speak without collapsing. “I mean, I work very hard, I try to do the right things.”

But …

“My confidence is at a career low; I think never in my entire golfing life.

At that time, only the heartless would feel no compassion for Horschel. But Golf, being heartless, felt nothing. It’s a brutal game. Indomitable. Unbeatable. Undefeated when inflicting misery even on the best players in the world, which Horschel is. But not that day, when his game looked like a landslide in California. On several occasions, Horschel’s hat covered his face more than his head as he pulled it down to conceal his pain.

What high handicapped can’t relate? On any given swing, the vast majority of amateur golfers are about 40% sure where their ball will go. About 80% of the time they are wrong, and rarely to their advantage. But the pros? Guys who always end up with their belt buckle on target and drain 5-foot putts like they’re gimmicks believe the ball obeys their command. This belief is at the heart of their success. But when does it waver? Ask David Duval or Ian-Baker Finch about it. They had it. Lost. And never found it.

I hope Horschel is on a different path. He shows character to shoot 84 and stand in front of the media eager to relive the grenade explosion that unfolded in front of thousands of spectators, many of whom believe they could have shot a better score. (Note: You couldn’t have. Horschel’s horror was exacerbated by brutal conditions: swirling winds, thick, dry fairways that forced balls to roll across fairways into waterways and greens. who were receptive on the front nine and deceptive on the back. The field scoring average of 74 was the highest in a first round since 2000.)

Horschel faced the funeral music as a struggling starting pitcher who gets shot after two innings, but instead of showering and getting rid of Dodge, he stays to answer questions from the media after the loss. Attaboy, Billy.

Golf: Here’s everything you need to know about the 2023 Memorial Tournament

“I’m not able to hit the cup the way I want. I can’t get the ball to start left the way I want,” he explained, once again looking like a pitcher who has lost his fastball. “So when it comes to having to be more precise on a course like this, it’s difficult.”

He almost certainly only needs to be accurate for one more day, because unless he shoots in the low 60s on Friday, he won’t be playing on the weekend.

Not that it can’t happen.

Despite his desperation, Horschel still insists his game is about to rebound. Either way, he’ll do his best, even if it almost kills him.

“As much as I would love to throw in the towel and not go out (Friday), I’m just not one of those players,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys here on tour who would find any excuse to get hurt (and pull out). But I’m going to show up and go out there and give it my all like I always do, and try to find something, try to play well and move on.

And hopefully move on to something better.

roller@dispatch.com

@rollerCD

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Billy Horschel suffers a particularly difficult day at the Memorial Tournament

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