PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Billy Horschel put his time to good use during the global pandemic.
Spent an abundance of quality weeks with his family under shelter-at-home guidelines, helped feed the hungry with his charitable arm. Grew a mustache he’s since shaved off, frequently posted a variety of snapshots into his life on various social media outlets. Moved his family cross country from the Sunshine State to the land of the Rocky Mountains.
And changed the tools of his trade.
While time seemed to come to a standstill these past few months because of COVID-19, Horschel, the 2014 FedExCup champion, accelerated his timeline to resolve his critical switch of clubs as he eyed the PGA Tour’s hopeful return June 11 with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.
Thus emerged a silver lining during these dark days, and without rushing, Horschel eventually clocked into work and dialed in his new sticks.
“My plan was to keep playing with the PXGs and mess around with some other clubs,” Horschel said as he sat in a golf cart at TPC Sawgrass, home to The Players Championship, the PGA Tour’s flagship event. “Then this break changed everything.”
Back before the coronavirus stifled the world and halted the PGA Tour, Horschel split with PXG just two months before major championship season. For the first time in more than four years, Horschel, who won two of his five PGA Tour titles with PXG equipment, took to the first tee earlier this year at the Honda Classic sans the PXG logos.
Horschel said there is no ill will directed at PXG, adding “certain things come to an end and not everything lasts. There were no bad feelings toward each other. I hope all the best for them.”
So he began his search for a new fit. For professional golfers, it’s often a journey accompanied by trepidation; these, after all, are the moneymakers. And Horschel, who is very loyal and puts a lot of trust in those in his inner golf circle, would need to develop stronger relationships with equipment reps for the clubs he eventually would put in his bag. He was going to do just that the rest of the year but then COVID-19 upended the world and changed his mind.
One thing, however, that tempered any anxiety Horschel was feeling was the golf ball – he wasn’t looking to make a change there. So the Titleist Pro V1 remains in his bag.
“If you know what your ball does, then it’s easier to fit the irons to the ball,” said Horschel, 33, whose bag was filled with 13 PXG clubs before the split – with the putter being the exception.
At the Honda, however, he put in three Titleist wedges, and the following week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he switched out the longest club in his bag and started using a TaylorMade SIM driver.
“I was set on using PXG irons the rest of the year but then I had time to start testing, enough time to do it right,” Horschel said. So about seven weeks after the PGA Tour shut down March 13, Horschel began experimenting in earnest, with his swing coach Todd Anderson often by his side, at TPC Sawgrass in northeast Florida.
Titleist, TaylorMade and Ping irons were the options. Over the course of a week, he put all three brands through rigorous examination before deciding on the Ping irons. Horschel used Ping irons for four years in college and was a member of Ping’s Tour staff for six years, when he won three tournaments, including the 2014 Tour Championship.
“There were just little subtle differences between the irons,” he said. “And then honestly the Pings won just for the sole fact they launched a little higher, which has something to do with the soul of the club. I think I could have easily gone into playing Titleist or TaylorMade but I would have had to have done a little bit of work with the soul of the clubs to get to the turf interaction I wanted.
“Without the vans and the equipment reps and the time to work on them, I just couldn’t do it. The Pings were perfect for what I needed. Once I reached that point, it was just a matter of a few days of dialing them in with the spin rates and lofts we needed. I could easily do that at the (PGA Tour) Performance Center (at TPC Sawgrass).
“All good now.”
Horschel will head to Colonial with Ping Blueprint irons in his bag – the 3-iron and 5-iron through pitch wedge. He also has three Titleist wedges in the bag, the TaylorMade driver and a Titleist 3-wood. The Ping B60 putter, which he’s been using the past 18 months and is the same putter he used to win the 2014 FedExCup, is still in the bag. He will decide whether to put in another long iron or hybrid to fill out the bag.
“I’ll play some rounds in the wind, at altitude, so if anything comes up before Colonial, I can tweak,” Horschel said. “I’m not apprehensive because I know the clubs will do what I ask them to do.
“I’m very excited about the restart. There still is that little unknown, but the PGA Tour has put in every precaution and every protocol you can put in to limit as much risk as possible. I know everyone wants to move forward at a much faster pace, but as long as we safely put one foot in front of the other and not rush things and build some momentum, I think we’ll be fine.”
Sounds like the same approach he took to finding his new equipment.