Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series on players making their first appearances in the Bridgestone Invitational.
BETHESDA, MD.: Billy Horschel loves that some of his fans and perhaps some of his foes might be wondering what he will wear next.
The 2009 University of Florida graduate showed up for the final round of the U.S. Open sporting navy pants with white octopuses on them and became an instant Internet sensation. The outfit seemed fitting for the 26-year-old from Jacksonville Beach, Fla., who has such a lust for life that he told Golf Digest he doesn’t need to drink coffee in the morning to get going.
Horschel explained that the pants were a tribute to 1934 U.S. Open champion Olin Dutra, who won that championship at Merion wearing octopus socks. When the idea was raised by his sponsor, Ralph Lauren RLX, Horschel said he thought the pants were a new cut.
“They sent me a picture and I realized there’s actual [octopuses] on them. They asked if I’d still wear them and I said, ‘Sure, no problem,’ ” Horschel said last month before the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club.
“I’ve caught a lot of grief from guys out here. All the fans have been unbelievably nice and love ’em. I got a lot of [Internet] hits and a lot of good stuff from it. Any press is good press, right?”
The pants drew critiques from bloggers who might not normally venture into golf. They were a hit with Marty Hackel, Golf Digest’s fashion editor.
“There’s no question that Billy Horschel not only has game, he’s also willing to go bold with his clothes,” Hackel wrote in his U.S. Open review on golfdigest.com. “I’m still getting emails about the octopi. Good for him! PS — I’m starting to hear a lot of people say he probably won’t be wearing those pants on Sunday ever again, but when was the last time an octopus made a 4-foot putt?”
Making his first appearance this week at the $8.75 million World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, Horschel might not be wearing anything as flamboyant. For a practice round at Congressional, he was outfitted in plain navy slacks.
Ralph Lauren RLX scripts all his outfits for the majors and leaves the rest to him. Before the British Open, he tweeted sketches of his fashion lineup @BillyHo_Golf.
“Those are probably just a one-time gig,” Horschel said of the octopuses. “But we do have a couple things in the works, some pants that might spice things up on Sundays.”
Fashion advice from wife
When he’s on his own and on the fence about his choice, Horschel said he relies on the input of his wife, Brittany.
“I’ve tried to get some stuff by her, and she won’t go for it sometimes,” Horschel said. “She was cool with octopus pants.”
As for his golden rules, Horschel said, “You don’t want to clash your colors. I’m always cautious of that.”
Walking a fine line
His outside-the-box fashion sense seems to fit the intense, aggressive style of Horschel, who fought his emotions on the course after turning pro in 2009.
“I still beat myself up a lot,” Horschel said at Congressional. “The less I can beat myself up, the better I play. It’s still tough. I’m not a complacent guy. I don’t want to say, ‘I’ve got a win, let’s go out there and free-wheel it’ because then you start making mistakes and I start getting angry because I’m playing stupid.
“But there is a fine line between me being free and playing with ease and me being uptight and worrying and too much into what I’m trying to do. I’ve got to find that boundary a little bit and I’ve been pretty good at that so far this year.”
He’s got the results to prove it.
After finishing 147th on the money list in 2012, Horschel had to return to qualifying school to regain his card. This year he recorded his first career victory at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. He has earned more than $3 million, ranks fifth on the FedExCup points list and has seven top-10 finishes in 20 events.
“I’ve always felt I was good enough to win out here. I just felt I had to check every box,” Horschel said in New Orleans.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.