WGC-Match Play champ Billy Horschel proves he belongs on Team USA

Mar 28, 2021; Austin, Texas, USA; Billy Horschel holds the Walter Hagen Cup after winning the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play golf tournament at Austin Country Club over Scottie Scheffler. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Billy Horschel showed this week that he excels in match-play. It should be enough to give him a spot on the Ryder Cup team

WGC-Dell Technologies champion Billy Horschel has one word to describe his mentality on the golf course: “bulldog.”

A bulldog never quits. A bulldog believes they’re in every fight and can overcome any opponent. They are tenacious and determined even in the face of adversity. And so was Horschel this week at Austin Country Club on his way to defeating Scottie Scheffler 2 & 1 in Sunday’s championship match.

Sunday was a day made for a player like Horschel. With the wind howling, birdie opportunities were few and far between for both players. More than three hours elapsed by the end of the match since Horschel and Scheffler made a birdie in their final match. But that was just fine with Horschel, who’s come to recognize the nature of match-play competition and how he’s built for the pressure.

“I’ve got the mentality that I’m never down, I’m never out, until you tell me I can’t play anymore,” he said at his post-victory press conference. “So I think that’s a perfect mentality for match play. I’m a bulldog. I fight hard. I never give up, and I always think I can win.”

The WGC-Match Play is the only opportunity for most PGA Tour players to compete in match play throughout the year. Unless, of course, they make the Ryder Cup team, an honor that has so far eluded Horschel in his career despite winning six PGA Tour events and a FedEx Cup.

He’s come close to pulling off that big victory in this event that would’ve revealed his match play credentials before. In 2014, he lost in extra holes to Jason Day; Day went on to win the tournament. The next year, Horschel had a chance to win his group but lost in 20 holes to Rory McIlroy, who also went on to win. Then, in his last appearance in 2019, he was two up with three holes to play against Jordan Spieth only to leave with a tie, losing the group by half a point.

Horschel, though, is a team player. He won the Zurich Classic in 2018 with partner Scott Piercy, his last PGA Tour title before this week. He’s played on Walker Cup and Palmer Cup teams. He’s now the champion of the premier match-play event on the golf calendar. He just hopes it’s enough to catch the attention of Team USA Captain Steve Stricker.

“I think if you looked at some of the other formats, how I played in team events…I feel like I’m a really good partner to pair up with a lot of people because I love that format. I love having a teammate there,” he said.

Runner-up Scheffler is also hoping for the call from Stricker in September. He’s been on the tour for only a year but already has a round of 59, a top-five finish in a major championship, and this run to the finals on his resume. He took down English Ryder Cup legend Ian Poulter in the Round of 16 and World No. 3 Jon Rahm in the quarter-finals; Stricker even wrote on social media that he was paying attention.

Horschel and Scheffler were competitors on Sunday. In September, they may very well be teammates.

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