BLAINE, Minn. — Billy Horschel knows he has work to do.
The 2014 FedEx Cup champion is on the verge of missing the playoffs all together. He sits at 119th in the standings with two events left in the regular season.
Only the top 70 make the FedEx St. Jude Championship.
Horschel needed a strong start Thursday, and that’s what he got. The 36-year-old shot 5-under 66 in the opening round of the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities, placing him in a tie for seventh after the morning wave. He sits three shots behind leader Lee Hodges. Although it’s only one round of golf, it feels like it has been a long time coming for Horschel, who admittedly has struggled most of the year.
“I feel like I’ve been playing this way for the last month or so, I just haven’t made, you know, the putts or got the momentum going,” Horschel said. “And I honestly didn’t make a lot of putts today, I made one putt outside 15 feet and that was on No. 2. Just played a really solid round of golf.”
Horschel started on the 10th hole and carded birdies on Nos. 11, 12, 16 and 18 to turn in 4-under 32. He made another birdie at the par-4 second before dropping a shot at the third. He bounded back with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 sixth and made three pars to finish his round.
To say this season has been a struggle for Horschel may be putting it lightly, considering his pedigree. He has missed nine cuts in 20 starts and hasn’t finished better than T-30 in a solo stroke-play event in 2023. (Horschel made the Round of 16 at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and finished T-11 at the Zurich Classic, a team event). His best finish this season came in his first start, a T-7 at the CJ Cup in October.
Heading into the 3M Open, Horschel said he felt as if things were starting to click, even if his scores hadn’t shown that yet. On Thursday, it finally came together.
“It just validates everything we’ve been doing,” Horschel said. “Sometimes when you’re working hard and you see the results in practice and you feel like you’ve prepped well leading into a tournament and it’s not transferring over or you’re not seeing that in the tournament or seeing all the good work you’ve put in, it sort of can be a little frustrating at times.
“But I think it’s just more of a validation that we’ve been doing great stuff, and it was just a matter of time, as long as I didn’t become impatient, that we were going to start playing some good golf sooner or later.”
Lee Hodges leads after the morning wave, carding an 8-under 63, one off the course record. Hideki Matsuyama, Brandt Snedeker and Tyler Duncan are tied for second at 7 under.
Although Horschel isn’t leading, he’s in a strong position after the opening round. It’s a place he hasn’t been in some time, but he knows what needs to be done to make the playoffs. Thursday’s round was just the start.
“It could have been better, but I’m pleased with the way the game’s been trending the last month,” Horschel said. “I’m not shocked that I was able to play a quality round of golf today.”