Former Navy Lt. Hurley leads on Fourth of July

By Jason SobelJuly 4, 2014, 5:41 pm

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – Inside the front gates of The Greenbrier which were draped in red, white and blue bunting, past the lampposts each adorned with two small American flags, nestled amongst this little slice of nostalgic Americana, a patriotic tale unfolded on this Independence Day.

At the eponymous PGA Tour event that bills itself as “America’s Resort,” there is a real American hero atop the leaderboard. Not one deemed as such simply because he’s popular or owns a nice smile or has earned lots of money, either.

Billy Hurley III is the only current player who has served military duty, attending the Naval Academy, then commissioned in the Navy for five years. He’s also the only player to successfully traverse this course in a mere 131 strokes so far, giving him the tournament lead on a perfectly fitting day.

“Anytime you play good, it's great,” says Hurley, who followed an opening 68 with a 63. “But certainly, there's special days of the year for our country. … Fourth of July has always been a special day for me just growing up, and kind of what it means for our independence. So it's kind of pretty cool, I guess, to shoot 7 under on the Fourth of July.”

The Greenbrier Classic: Articles, videos and photos

From a young age, Hurley knew two things about his future: He wanted to attend the Naval Academy and he wanted to play on the PGA Tour. The problem, of course, is that those two things weren’t always intertwined; one doesn’t seamlessly lead to the other. The truth is, they were two very separate, independent dreams.

None of which stopped him from trying.

He applied to only one school and was admitted to the Naval Academy in 2000. He graduated in May of 2004, having won Patriot League Player of the Year honors and becoming one of the world’s top amateur golfers, then spent six months on the U.S.S. Gettysburg in Mayport, Fla., in between representing the United States in the 2004 Walker Cup and 2005 Palmer Cup.

Hurley turned professional in 2006, and while still on active duty competed in seven PGA Tour events on sponsor’s exemptions and through Monday qualifiers over those next two years. During that time, he submitted paperwork to be transferred to the Navy Reserve – “kind of like David Robinson,” he says of the ex-NBA center – but his request was denied.

And so he continued serving full-time. He spent two semesters teaching an Intro to Economics class. He served for two years on the U.S.S. Chung-Hoon, twice deployed during that time. In the Persian Gulf, off the coast of the South China Sea, through the Red Sea.

“[That was] probably the highlight of my days on the ship,” he beams. “I was actually the officer of the deck driving the ship through the Suez Canal, which was awesome.”

As you can imagine, driving a ship through the Suez Canal isn’t exactly conducive to honing a golf swing.

“Not working on the game that much, no,” he admits. “I tried to just kind of work out as much as I could, which wasn't even as much as you want to. It's completely a 60-70 hour a week kind of job.

“I was a recreational golfer. I probably averaged one round a month.”

Upon fulfilling his five-year commitment in the summer of 2009, Hurley set out to fulfill that other childhood dream. He played mini-tour golf for a year-and-a-half, then reached the Nationwide Tour in 2011, claiming the 25th and final spot for a promotion to the PGA Tour the next season.

As it turns out, maybe those two dreams weren’t so independent after all.

“The PGA Tour was the goal for me pretty much the entire time I was in the Navy,” explains Hurley, who still makes his home in Annapolis, Md. “That said, golf was completely a secondary kind of thing. I was a Naval officer first, and if you ask the people that I served with, they'd say that's for sure.”

They’d also probably say there’s a lot of pride in watching one of their own, a former lieutenant who once drove a ship through the Suez Canal, not only enjoying a successful career as a professional golfer, but leading on a day that means so much to the country.

During his round on Friday, he never stopped to realize the connection between his own patriotism and leading the tournament on the Fourth of July. He never allowed himself after any of his seven birdies to consider the significance of his performance.

It wasn’t until after the round was over that Hurley gave himself a chance to think of these things and the journey which has gotten him to this place.

“I don't have any regrets about the way that I did it,” he says. “I'd do it all over again the same way.”

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.

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While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm