Hurley produces a heartwarming win

By Will GrayJune 27, 2016, 12:13 am

As sports fans, we look for storylines to accompany our results. They make the box score easier to digest; they make the final minutes of crunch time that much more compelling.

By cruising to victory at the Quicken Loans National, though, Billy Hurley didn’t just offer up a single storyline. He provided enough to fill a naval fleet.

Hurley’s win was another coup for the prototypical journeyman, following in the footsteps of Vaughn Taylor and Jim Herman earlier this season. At age 34, Hurley finally has a PGA Tour trophy on his shelf, and the two-year exemption that goes with it.

But Hurley’s story goes deeper than a player breaking through at the right time. Much deeper.

Not only did Hurley win, but he did so in Bethesda, Md. – a short drive from Annapolis, where he attended the U.S. Naval Academy. Hurley becomes the first graduate of a U.S. military academy to win on Tour, and he does so at an event that specifically honors military veterans, a nod by tournament host Tiger Woods to his late father, Earl.

In fact, Hurley was on active duty in the Navy when the first edition of the then-AT&T National was played at Congressional back in 2007.

But Bethesda is also about 35 miles from Leesburg, Va., which Hurley once called home. It was there that he learned the game from his father, Willard Hurley Jr., and it is that bond that gives this win even more meaning.


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One year ago, Hurley used this tournament’s platform and reach to make an impassioned, emotional plea. His father had gone missing. Hurley stood in front of a room full of cameras at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, living out one of the darkest points of his life in a very public setting.

Willard Hurley Jr. was found a day later, on July 31, but on Aug. 13 he was discovered dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 61.

Hurley carried his grief with him in the weeks that followed. He tried to tee it up days after his father’s death at the Wyndham Championship, a last-ditch effort to save his Tour card, but he missed the cut.

The next month, he had a chance to regain full status at the Web.com Tour Championship in Florida. But Hurley hit a wedge approach into the water on the 16th hole of the final round, ultimately missing his card by $394 over the four-week Web.com Tour Finals.

That near-miss left him to cobble together a schedule spliced between the two circuits this season, contingent upon sponsor exemptions like the one he received this week.

It also makes Hurley’s understated words in the minutes after his win, spoken through a faltering voice as he tried to hold back tears, all the more poignant.

“It’s been a hard year. It’s been a really hard year,” Hurley said. “So it’s nice to have something go well.”

At No. 607 in the world, Hurley wasn’t supposed to even contend this week. He hadn’t cracked the top 40 in 13 worldwide starts this year, and he was ranked ahead of only Arjun Atwal among the 120 men that began the tournament.

But sometimes, it takes only one good week.

We saw it with Taylor at Pebble Beach, and with Herman in Houston. This time it was Hurley’s turn, the next player to step up in a situation where conventional wisdom suggested he would falter.

With his victory, Hurley now has berths in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Open Championship and PGA Championship. He’ll play the FedEx Cup Playoffs that he missed out on a year ago, and he’ll take a trip to Hawaii in January for the winners-only event at Kapalua.

His playing schedule, which just days ago resembled a patchwork quilt, is now set through the 2017-18 season. And oh yeah, he’ll take a trip down Magnolia Lane in April for his first Masters appearance.

One year ago, Hurley stood before his PGA Tour brethren a broken man. He was looking for answers amid a situation where solace and comfort were hard to come by.

But this week, despite all of the pain and turmoil of the previous 12 months, Hurley walked off the final green a champion. He had reached the pinnacle of his career, and he had done so at the tournament which, for him, perhaps means the most.

It’s a compelling turnaround, and one that brought with it a flood of congratulatory messages from fellow Tour pros across social media. Even in a sea of storylines, Hurley’s win stands out above the rest.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


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“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


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Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


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J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''