Let’s start with the money. It’s where everyone else starts these days. Every reporter knows to follow the money.
Throughout our day together, and for the 338 days prior to it, Horschel is asked variations of the same question.
“What did you spend it on?”
“Did you splurge on anything?"
“What’s one item you made sure to get?"
I assume a lot changes when a 27-year-old earns $13,477,333.33 in three weeks. At least one thing stayed the same for Horschel; he will talk at length, offering opinions and analysis, about almost any subject you bring up, but he has never liked to discuss money. His 2014 season, specifically his three weeks of near-perfect golf surely didn’t make it any easier. He’ll tell you that his late-season windfall made it easier to pay cash for the house he and his wife Brittany were building in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. He’ll tell you that he took care of his parents and his in-laws, but anything beyond that is off-limits. It’s a rare bit of requested privacy for one of the TOUR’s most open and honest players.
"No one needs to know what I do with my money,” said Horschel, who repeats time and again that the money is simply security. He’s said in the past that he has no interest in playing professional golf into his fifties. The money gives him even more of a safety net to call it quits on his terms. Thoughts of early retirement are not something he grew up expecting. His parents “worked their butts off to make ends meet” for the family in Grant, Florida.
"Some people out there come into money like this and go shout ‘look at what I bought.’ And they get 5,000 people on Twitter hammering them because they look like a self-absorbed prick who does whatever they want. Obviously that’s not always the case. They have worked hard and that’s what they’ve rewarded themselves with. Some people don’t understand that."
Of course, that doesn’t stop people from asking. He even gets questions when he goes to the mailbox. As soon as he made par at East Lake’s 18th hole last September, he became a much more savvy investor, at least in the eyes of the companies that started contacting him.
“I think there were about 30 companies that sent letters and emails and anything else asking me to invest with them,” he said with a laugh. “I ripped them all up and threw them away."
For everything he kept private, there was one fantastic financial detail that came out last year, and it dates back to a conversation Horschel had with his caddie, Micah Fugitt two years ago. Before the Playoffs started in 2013, a year before he would win them, Horschel made a promise to Fugitt: In keeping with the traditional 10 percent caddie fee, Fugitt could expect $1 million if they were ever to win.
From there, the two had an unspoken agreement about bonus money. It didn’t come up over the next year. It didn’t come up when Horschel was in the final pairing with Rory McIlroy Sunday at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. It didn’t even come up when the final putt dropped.
"I just told my accountant to put another 1 million dollars in his account,” Horschel said. "That was it. He knew it as soon as we won. If I say I’m going to do something, I do something. That’s all."
For Fugitt, having the agreement was one thing. Seeing the money – real, tangible money - in his account was another.
"Shock, happiness, joy, you have such a wide range of emotions,” Fugitt told Golfweek. "He’s always been great about showing gratitude to people like that."
Gratitude. That's exactly the word Horschel has been looking for this year. The way to describe how he feels about the life-changing run that is responsible for days like today.
Horschel showed his gratitude to the PGA TOUR immediately last fall. After winning the final two events of the season and the FedExCup, Horschel was in high demand to play one-off events on other tours, and he could expect to collect plenty of appearance money along the way. Instead, he teed it up in Las Vegas and Malaysia and more, helping to support events that were part of the PGA TOUR's still new wrap-around season.
“I felt like the TOUR has done so many great things for the players in creating the FedExCup that it was my duty as FedExCup champion to support those events however I could,” he said. “And even the ones I didn’t play in by saying, listen, I’m not playing your event, but I’m also not going and playing any others. Without all the sponsorship, the FedExCup would never have happened and I never would have won it and been where I am."