BEHIND THE SCENES
Billy Horschel Makes 'Pitch' for Oakmont June 15, 2016

Billy Horschel is always glad to sign autographs and take photos with fans. (USGA/Darren Carroll) 

Billy Horschel isn’t impressed with Jason Day’s motion. From the pitcher’s mound, that is.

“I was at the Pirates’ game where he threw out the first pitch,” Horschel said. “He was OK, a little high. He got it to the plate, but I know that I have a better fastball than him.”

Horschel’s good-natured trash talk with his friend was part of a lovefest with Pittsburgh – and Oakmont – during Horschel’s appearance at the USGA Member Clubhouse at the 116th U.S. Open.

“I love the Steel City,” said Horschel. “I grew up in a blue-collar family. It’s nice to be around people who work hard for a living, who love their sports teams and appreciate a place like Oakmont. I really like Pennsylvania. I had some success in Philadelphia [Horschel hit all 18 greens during the second round of the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, where he tied for 4th], so maybe Pittsburgh will bring me luck.”

As a sophomore at the University of Florida, Horschel shot an 11-under 60 in the first round of stroke play of the 2006 U.S. Amateur, a USGA championship record. His second-round 68 earned him medalist honors that year. Horschel was a member of the victorious 2007 USA Walker Cup Team that included Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Webb Simpson. He turned pro in 2009, after graduating from Florida. In 2014, Horschel earned his first professional victory at the Zurich Classic, followed by wins at the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship, which clinched the $10 million bonus for winning the FedEx Cup.

He knows that no course he has played this year can prepare him for the challenge of Oakmont. “I played the front nine Sunday and fell in love with the golf course. I am a big architecture fan, like Mackenzie, Tillinghast, Seth Raynor and when I saw Oakmont, it just felt right. I am happy we are here, I can see why this is the ninth U.S. Open to be played here.

“I have been a fan of the U.S. Open since I can remember,” he said. “This is the major I want to win more than any other. To win it here would make it mean even more. I just love it.”

Horschel told a young boy who asked him about feeling pressure at the U.S. Open, “It took me a long time to understand it, but there are a lot bigger things going on than whether I had a great round of golf. I learned to realize that it is not life and death. I hope I can use that attitude to help me keep some perspective.”

When asked if he had to choose between winning the FedEx Cup and the U.S. Open, Horschel joked, “Well, I already have a FedEx Cup. I guess I will take that Open now!”

Horschel marveled at the challenges Oakmont presents. “The 8th hole is a beast,” he said. “And the only way I will be reaching the [667-yard, par-5] 12th hole in two is if someone puts cement cart paths in the middle of the fairway!”

Members had plenty of questions about Horschel’s sartorial flash during major championships, a trend that started at Merion, when his sponsor, Ralph Lauren, asked Horschel to wear a pair of pants some might consider too wild, even for the golf course.

“They called me up about a month before the U.S. Open and asked if I would wear a new pair of ‘Octopus’ pants. I said sure, thinking that it was, like, a different cut or something. The rep said, ‘How about if I send you a photo before you agree?’ I said, You are my sponsor and my partner. If you want me to wear it, I will wear it.’ And then I saw the photo…,” he said with a laugh.

“My wife, Brittany, said, ‘I think you can get away with it. Then I put it out there on social media and almost everyone was cool about them, so I went for it,” said Horschel. “At first, I was supposed to wear them Thursday or Friday. Then I made the cut and they asked for Saturday, then Sunday. I still have them, but I won’t wear them again.  But you know what, Ralph Lauren sold out every pair they made, so someone’s still wearing them!”

Horschel wouldn’t say if he’d be pulling any crazy slacks out of his garment bag on Sunday. The only thing he cares about is wearing them in the final pairing.

David Chmiel is manager of member content for the USGA. Contact him at dchmiel@usga.org.