PITTSFORD — Billy Horschel is arguably the hottest young golfer in the world, but he isn’t content with that title.
He made it clear Thursday he wants to be the best golfer in the world. Period.
“I’m not satisfied. I’ll never be satisfied,” the 26-year-old University of Florida graduate said after shooting a 1-under-par 69 at the PGA Championship. “The day I’m satisfied is the day I’ll give up golf, and I’ve said that my whole life and I’ve said that this whole year. The day I don’t want to work hard and get better at it, the day I think I know everything, is the day I’ll step away and take time away from the game.”
Horschel’s No. 38 world ranking is deceiving. His game has skyrocketed this year. He won the Zurich Classic in April and tied for fourth at the U.S. Open in June. His goal is to win two more PGA Tour events this year.
Horschel has seven top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year, one third-place and one second-place in addition to the Zurich Classic win. He has missed only two cuts in his 21 events played.
“He’s a great, talented player,” said Hunter Mahan, who is paired with Horschel and finished one stroke behind him at even 70. “I think his fire and his focus is probably his best attribute. And then he wants to be great and he wants to work hard at it, wants to see what his ceiling is, so he’s one of those great guys who represents golf well.”
So, what has changed in Horschel’s game of late? Where has this burst been all along? For one, he is finally over a lingering wrist injury from 2009. He competed in only four PGA Tour events in 2010 and did not make a single cut.
Horschel also said his short game, specifically putting, has seen the biggest improvement. His wedge game from 120 yards and closer has been another big-time change.
By day’s close Thursday, he was tied for 22nd, four shots back of leaders Jim Furyk and Adam Scott.
“I hit a lot of good shots, hit a couple bad ones, but all in all I did a good job of getting the ball in play off the tee and where I could at least be able to control the ball going into the green,” Horschel said. “A couple putts could have fallen, but overall this is a tough course here. Not going to go too low, I don’t think.”
Horschel has become known for his outfits, and his patriotic red, white and blue garb was eye-catching Thursday, but he promised there are more exciting things to come — he’ll wear a pink polo and camouflage pants on Sunday.
Before people cared about his outfits and Horschel emerged on the national golf scene, he could be found playing in the Porter Cup at Niagara Falls Country Club, where he competed from 2006-08.
“I love the Porter Cup,” said Horschel, who finished 40th in his first Porter Cup before finishing in ties for third and then fifth. “It’s a great event. They put on a fun time, and it’s one of the best amateur events all year and it’s a good course. And that whole staff, with Steve Denn and all the families that take care of the players and everything, just a really good event.”
In April, CBS Sports ranked Horschel No. 4 in its PGA Tour Power Rankings.
His progress can be at least partially attributed to the help of his coach, renowned instructor Todd Anderson, the 2010 PGA Teacher of the Year. Anderson and Horschel have developed chemistry over a five-year relationship.
“Todd has been a great friend, teacher, everything in between, mentor,” Horschel said. “He’s just been a great guy, has a lot of knowledge of the game, isn’t overly technical, doesn’t try to make you swing a certain way, takes what you have and just makes you better. He understands how to take a player from one point to the next point.”
Indeed, Horschel has gone from one point to another. He has gone from an unknown to a golfer commanding attention. But he’s still not at the level he wants to attain.
He’s still not The Golfer Commanding Attention.
“I still want to get better. I still want to be the best player in the world,” Horschel said. “I’m not there yet and I’ve got a ways to go. There’s one big guy in the way and several other guys in the way, so that’s my goal. I’m never going to be complacent.”