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If Billy Horschel and Sam Burns are in need for walk-up music at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans this weekend, they might want to consider the theme song to The Odd Couple.
The 1970s comedy (based on the Neil Simon play from the ‘60s) was the tale of two men, a neat freak (Tony Randall) and a slob (Jack Klugman) separated from their wives who have to live together despite their differences.
In the case of Horschel and Burns it is more a difference of personality: Horschel has a rep for wearing his emotions on his sleeve while Burns is known to be more mild-mannered. On Tuesday, ahead of the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana, Horschel touched on his fiery side.
“My competitive fire burns the way it burns,” he said. “But I envy Scottie Scheffler and some of these guys that they hit bad shots, they’re not playing well, you can’t tell. They’re just enjoying the game of golf and they’re having fun and laughing.
“I can be that way for a little bit, but it just runs way too hot inside me, and I can’t stand not being able to play to the level that I expect of myself on a day-to-day basis. There’s times that it boils over, and you know what, it happens.”
Added Horschel: “This is going to sound blunt, it’s going to sound bad, but if you don’t like it, I honestly don’t care anymore. I’ve cared enough over the last 13 years of my career to try and please everyone that watches me, and you know what, I can’t do anything more. I’ve done everything I can. If you don’t like me for some reason, I don’t care anymore.”
“If he gets running too hot this week I’ll just go give him a hug and calm him down a little bit,” Burns said with a smile.
How this unlikely partnership was formed is a story in itself. Caddie Travis Perkins, who works for Burns, was moonlighting on Horschel’s bag at the 2020 Masters when the subject of the Zurich Classic, the Tour’s lone official team competition, came up and noted that Burns was seeking a partner. Horschel had previously won the event with Scott Piercy but was interested in teaming up with a rising star such as Burns.
Both players share the services of statistician Mark Horton and sports psychologist Brett McCabe, who agreed their clients would make a good tandem.
“I’m just thankful that he’s a higher ranked player than me somehow so he didn’t kick me to the curb looking for a better player so I’m just thankful for that, like his other friend, Scottie Scheffler, he could have easily gone with,” said Horschel, noting that the World No. 1 and reigning Masters champ are bosom buddies.
Group of Billy Horschel and Sam Burns walk to the 10th green during the first round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. (Photo: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports)
In their debut last season, Horschel and Burns finished tied for fourth, with Burns blaming a watery tee shot at the 18th hole on Friday and Horschel ruing a missed 3-foot putt at the 12th as the only reason they were wearing the champion’s belts on Sunday. Neither player had to do much convincing to keep the team intact.
“Hopefully I don’t hold him back like I did last year,” Horschel said. “I felt bad last year because he played so good, and if this was an individual event he would have won. I have no doubt about it. I just delayed his first victory by a week, and hopefully I can do a better job of not being an 800-pound gorilla on his back weighing him down.”
“You’re so full of it,” Burns said.
The 25-year-old Louisiana native and former LSU Tiger captured the Valspar Championship the very next week and has won twice since including defending at the Valspar, which returned to its more traditional March date.
“I’ve said this for the last 18 months now, he’s so good, and he’s going to do some unbelievable things in this game of golf,” Horschel said. “We know the Justin Thomases and the Jordan Spieths, that little generation, but I honestly believe that Scottie and Sam are these next two guys coming up, and what Scottie has done over the last few months has been unbelievable, and Sam has been right there. It could have easily been Sam than Scottie. A couple putts go in, a couple things go his way, get a couple bounces, whatever it may be, Sam could be up here with four wins in the last seven or six events and holding a green jacket.”