There's a reason why Tour players and ex--Tour players make superior golf analysts, caddies and rules officials. They know golf. To wit, when Lucas Glover, the soon-to-be first-time father and 2009 U.S. Open champion, was discussing his two-shot, 54-hole lead in New Orleans, he was deeply realistic. "Guys played great today," he said last Saturday night. "They've got momentum. I've got a big bull's-eye on my back. They're going to have guns a-blazing."
Guns a-blazing indeed! Poor Luke was too prescient for his own good. Playing in the threesome ahead of Glover, Billy Horschel shot a kick-ass, weather-interrupted 64 that took eight hours and 37 minutes to complete, 1st tee to final green.
On that final green he made a 27-foot birdie putt to win, at 20 under par, by a shot over playing partner D.A. Points, who had beaten Horschel by one in Houston. Horschel, who is 26 but looks and sounds much older, celebrated with some crouching, WWE-style fist-pumping that confirmed what you suspect and he knows: He's intense.
Horschel is a Floridian with huge talent, no body fat, a perfectionist's instincts and—at last week's Zurich Classic, anyhow—a red shirt for Sunday. It might all sound familiar, but there are no swooshes on this guy. He's a Ping man, just like fellow Gator Chris DiMarco, 18 years older than the winner. DiMarco watched Horschel seal the deal from over the 18th green, while standing in the rain. In victory they had a whole conversation, from a distance of 40 feet, in the language of fist-pumping. And they say men can't communicate.
Horschel stayed downtown last week, at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, a convention hotel where a lot of the caddies and some of the players put down their bags. He hit restaurants around town. He met, he said, "great people." It was nice to hear. Jack Nicklaus used to play New Orleans for the oysters.
The Zurich is held at TPC Louisiana, a pleasant, flat, no-tricks Pete Dye course that does not seem to inspire the lodge brothers to poetry. Neither does it draw great crowds. The course is a long 15 miles from the intersection of Bourbon and St. Ann. There are some players who would rather fly coach than venture into New Orleans by night. Horschel is not among them. He rattled off the names of some of his downtown spots: Desi Vega's Steakhouse, Mr. John's Steakhouse, Besh Steak, "near Harrah's," he noted. Sushi is safe in the man's presence.
There's a collection of romanticists, urban renewalists and golfheads who are hopeful that the old New Orleans stop will find its future in its past. The tournament has been played 14 times on a public course in New Orleans's magnificent City Park, but not since 1962. Zurich is signed on as the title sponsor through 2019, but the commitment to TPC Louisiana ends in 2016. There are plans for a $25 million overhaul of the lone surviving City Park course (there used to be four), which could host the Zurich.
Horschel said he feels comfortable on the Dye layout, but if the tournament moved downtown, he'd surely be fine with it. Bigger crowds. A shorter commute. More steak ops. Same great vibe.