Late Sunday night, Billy Horschel slumped into the couch of his hotel room in Texas and called up a video that was spreading across social media.
Through the wonders of technology, there was his daughter, Skylar, who was born two days after Horschel won the 2014 Tour Championship, the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus bonanza, jumping for joy in the family’s Florida home in celebration of her daddy’s victory earlier that day in the AT&T Byron Nelson.
“It brought a huge smile to my face, tears to my eyes,” Horschel said. “I still watch it now because it’s such an adorable video.”
The next day another post on social media was equally moving. His wife, Brittany, whom Horschel first met while playing junior golf and married in 2010, wrote an emotional tribute to her husband on Twitter while sharing with all her battle with alcoholism.
“I am an alcoholic,” she wrote, and admitting that to herself, family and friends “saved my life and my marriage. … This weekend marked one year sober for me, but also marked a hard fought year for Billy. He deserved to soak in the glory of his win yesterday, throw his feet up and just let out a long, deep breath.”
“She’s a strong woman,” Horschel said in a phone interview Monday with USA TODAY Sports. “She has overcome a lot and there is still a long journey ahead and a journey that will never end. But she’s very strong and she’s on the right path.
“I’m really, really proud of her.”
Keeping the matter private was not easy for passionate, rarely speechless Horschel, who is playing in this week’s Dean & DeLuca Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. Instead, he was consumed with supporting his wife and family. He took on sole responsibility of Skylar while still playing on the PGA Tour when Brittany spent two months last summer in a treatment facility. And during this time the family moved into a new house.
The battle at home also coincided with his struggles on the golf course, where his stellar ball striking and putting stroke deserted him. While it proved difficult to concentrate on the task at hand on the golf course, Horschel plowed through the strain with every bucket of balls and every round played.
Ahead of the Byron Nelson he was winless since the 2014 Tour Championship, and his world ranking had tumbled nearly 70 spots in two years. He didn’t qualify for this year’s Masters, though his disappointment disappeared when Brittany gave birth to the couple’s second child, daughter Colbie, three days after Sergio Garcia won the green jacket.
Horschel only decided to play the Byron Nelson and Dean & DeLuca in hopes of qualifying for the U.S. Open by way of world ranking. He arrived at the Byron Nelson having missed three consecutive cuts and the cut in the Zurich Classic, a two-man team format featuring match play.
“To say I didn’t have any doubts about my game would be a lie,” Horschel said. “But my practice sessions at home and early in the weeks of tournaments were great. They just weren’t transferring over to the course. There were those minute seconds where I wondered if I was doing the right things. But you have to look at things from the outside, and I always kept coming back to the same thing — we were doing the right things.
“It was very frustrating. I am a perfectionist. I know perfection is unattainable, but it’s a goal you have to try and achieve. It’s the only way for me to go forward. It was frustrating that I wasn’t seeing the fruits of my labor.”
But he didn’t whine, and, true to his DNA, he kept working and listening to his coach, Todd Anderson, who stressed a smoother, slightly slower swing tempo. He also changed putters.
Everything clicked in Texas as he shot 68-65-66-69 and defeated Jason Day on the first playoff hole, a win that qualified him for the U.S. Open. Horschel, who moved up to No. 44 in the world rankings, gave no thought to withdrawing from this week’s event. His family will join him next week at the Memorial in Ohio; he chats with his family on FaceTime every day he’s on the road. He’ll also play in the FedEx St. Jude Classic the following week and then the Open the week after, making for a stretch of six events in six weeks.
“I like what I have coming up,” he said. “I like the momentum I have.”
And he likes where his wife and family are heading.
“This has made me a stronger person,” Horschel said. “I had to change to support her. I changed for the better. I’m still changing, still trying to improve myself as a human being. All is going great.”
PHOTOS: 2016-17 PGA Tour winners