Horschel tries to keep hot streak going

The last time we saw Billy Horschel, he was hoisting two trophies.

Horschel, who captured the Tour Championship last month to wrap up the FedEx Cup, will start his 2014-15 season this week in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas.

“I’m going to play … Vegas (and) I know I’m playing (the CIMB Classic) in Malaysia and (the WGC-HSBC Champions) in China,” said Horschel, who earned in excess of $11 million for his double victory at East Lake in Atlanta.

“I’m playing, I think, a perfect amount. It’s a couple events in the fall schedule, I can spend enough time at home and I’ve got enough time where I feel enough competitive that when I do start the season in January (in the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii), I don’t feel like I’m rusty because I haven’t played enough golf.

“Maui is another great place I’m looking forward to. That was a goal. I wanted to get back out there.”

Horschel, 27, went through a life-changing event, and it had nothing to do with the fact that he steamed through the final three weeks of the PGA Tour playoffs, tying for second in the Deutsche Bank Championship before winning the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship.

Two days after he won in Atlanta, he was on hand as his wife Brittany gave birth to their first child, Skylar Lillian, at a hospital in their hometown of Jacksonville, Fla.

“It’s still pretty surreal what’s happened the last few weeks, and to put the cherry on top, my little girl Skylar being born,” said Horschel, who posted a picture of his young family on Twitter to announce the new arrival.

“She’s beautiful. She’s a princess. Mom is doing great. Brittany is doing great. I couldn’t be happier. It’s the greatest feeling I’ve ever had. I can’t compare it to anything else, being a dad right now.”

Johnny Miller, the CBS golf commentator and part owner of Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif., hoped to land Horschel in the field when the season-opening Frys.com Open was played there last week.

Horschel wasn’t ready to leave Florida just yet, but Miller was effusive in his praise of the man who authored one of the best stories on the PGA Tour last season.

“Billy Horschel, I’m not sure you’re not seeing a star in the making,” Miller said. “This is not a fluke. The guy is just good. He hits a decent distance. He’s accurate. The irons are fantastic.

“You can sort of knock on the door and you’re trying to be confident and all of a sudden you get this run and you say, ‘This is really me. I can keep this up.’ He might be hot for a couple, three years. You never know. He might be the best player in the U.S. right now in this run, and maybe he’ll keep it going.”

Horschel didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. He was a four-time All-American at the University of Florida, was selected Southeastern Conference Player of the Year in 2007 and 2009, and posted a 3-1 record to help the United States win the 2007 Walker Cup matches.

After turning pro in 2009, it took him four years to reach the PGA Tour, but he broke through to win the 2013 Zurich Classic of New Orleans as a rookie.

Now he seems to be on the verge of superstardom.

“It gives me that confidence that I’ve always felt like I’ve been one of the best players in the world, and I have a lot of confidence and belief in what my talents are and what I’m able to do on the golf course,” said Horschel, who held off world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and Jim Furyk in the Tour Championship.

“For it to show up in the spotlight that is the FedEx Cup, against some of the best players in the world, and to come out on top, like I said, I think that just gives me that little extra belief that we all need sometimes that we can get the job done when we’re playing the biggest tournaments in the world.”

The media tried to build up some bad blood between Horschel and McIlroy, and the two did have something of a dust-up when they first ran into each other in the Walker Cup seven years ago.

However, the American said all that remains is perhaps the makings of a healthy competitive rivalry.

“Obviously, we had a little issue at the Walker Cup, but listen, he was 18, I was 20, we were immature, we were young adults,” Horschel recalled. “We were still learning to grow up, and some comments were said.

“But Rory and I have been very friendly since that, since I got out on tour. We’ve both been very supportive of each other. We’ve played practice rounds together. …

“This is hopefully just the start of many battles between us for big titles down the road, because like I said … he is the best player we have in the game right now.”

For now, Horschel simply wants to become one of the best of the rest.

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