A tight PGA Tour event turned into a relatively stress-free victory for Billy Horschel, who claimed the 2022 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village by four strokes. With the leaderboard expanding and contracting like a living organism throughout not only the weekend but also during the back nine on Sunday, the Florida product was able to fend off Aaron Wise and Joaquin Niemann en route to his seventh career victory on the PGA Tour and first in a stroke-play event since 2017.
Punctuated by an eagle on the par-5 15th -- Horschel's first ever in 573 holes played at Muirfield Village -- the 35-year-old's consistently stellar form has finally been rewarded as he has been one of the most underrated players in 2022. Arriving in Dublin, Ohio, with two runner-up finishes this season, it was his poor performance at last week's Charles Schwab Challenge that lit a fire underneath Horschel -- as if he needed it.
"We didn't do that well the last two weeks [go through his process], and Fooch [caddie Mark Fulcher] and I just had a conversation after Colonial after we missed the cut last week," said Horschel, who claimed $2.2 million for his Memorial victory. "We were both really ticked off about it, missing the cut, so we said, 'We just need to get back to what we do best, and if we do that, then it's giving us the best chance to succeed on every shot.'"
He has always been a player to thrive on momentum, but this triumph is markedly different from those in the past. His run in the 2014 FedEx Cup Playoffs was the definition of snowballing one strong start into another, and the same came can be said of his win at the 2021 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Even last fall, Horschel arrived at the Tour Championship at 29th in the standings, started 10 strokes behind Patrick Cantlay and proceeded to claw his way to ninth-place by week's end. He was then not selected for the Ryder Cup -- not even receiving a call from captain Steve Stricker -- and decided to play the BMW PGA Championship, the DP World Tour's flagship event.
"I didn't get that phone call. I was a little upset. I was a little ticked," said Horschel after his victory at Wentworth. "Gave me a little bit of fire in my butt or my arse, to be nice to really not show anything, but you know, just gave me a little fire, not that I needed it."
So, maybe it isn't all momentum but rather a dash of added motivation which propels Horschel in these moments. Feeling slighted, as if he is not receiving the attention he deserves, has proven to send him to victory more than once at this point. That should no longer be an issue for the man who is projected to reach No. 11 in the Official World Golf Rankings, surpassing the likes of Xander Schauffele, Hideki Matsuyama and Will Zalatoris.
Horschel already moved to 10th in the FedEx Cup standings while locking up exemptions to the 2023 Masters, Sentry Tournament of Champions, PGA Championship and Players Championship.
One shouldn't be surprised if Horschel receives a call this fall for the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow as the United States will look to reload and replace potentially half of their squad from Whistling Straits. While that is surely at the top of Horschel's goals for the year, the next line likely reads a major championship victory and his best opportunity in a long time just so happens to be in two weeks. There is motivation, there is momentum, and there is a real chance Horschel plays a factor at the U.S. Open at The Country Club in two weeks. Grade: A+
Rick Gehman is joined by Greg DuCharme and Mark Immelman to recap and react to Billy Horschel's victory at the 2022 Memorial Tournament. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Here are the rest of our grades for the 2022 Memorial Tournament:
T3. Joaquin Niemann (-7): Many will point to his double bogey on the par-4 14th as a sign of his around the green game still needing work, but I tend to disagree. Niemann was able to rebound with birdies on his next two holes, and after losing strokes on approach in consecutive tournaments, his iron play came back to life. It was a disappointing finish as the 23-year-old came close to completing the G.O.A.T. double by winning both Tiger Woods' and Jack Nicklaus' events. The young Chilean possesses all the skill in the world, and if there are any outstanding shares available, I will be buying them at the opening bell tomorrow. Grade: A-
T5. Max Homa (-6): It was a "what-if" final round for the four-time winner on the PGA Tour as Homa was flawless for 16 holes. Carding a pair of double bogeys on his back nine, it is worth wondering how those behind him on the golf course would have reacted if they saw 10 under posted in the clubhouse. Still, it was another impressive outing on a difficult golf course for Homa, and he will now turn his attention to the U.S. Open. Having finished in a tie for 13th at the PGA Championship, maybe he has finally figured out major championships as they had previously been troublesome for him. Grade: A-
T5. Will Zalatoris (-6): A letdown at the Charles Schwab Challenge felt inevitable after his playoff loss at the PGA Championship. We will let that missed cut slide as Zalatoris' typically strong ball-striking returned at Muirfield Village and propelled him to a top-five finish. All signs point to him continuing his strong play in major championships at The Country Club. The last time the U.S. Open was in the Northeast, he finished in a tie for sixth in his championship debut. Grade: B+
T10. Jon Rahm (-4): A final-round 69 pushed the Spaniard inside the top 10 in a manner that would make even Rory McIlroy proud. Surprisingly, it wasn't Rahm's short game which disappointed him but rather his off the tee performance as he cited being uncomfortable throughout the week with his swing and sight lines. He hit only 29 of 56 fairways and lost strokes to the field off the tee for the first time on the PGA Tour since the 2020 Charles Schwab Challenge -- the first start out of the COVID-19 restart. Grade: B