Billy Hurley III - January 6, 2012

By Morning Drive TeamJanuary 6, 2012, 1:11 pm

2004 U.S. Naval Academy Graduate and former Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Billy Hurley III earned his PGA TOUR card for 2012 by finishing 25th on the 2011 Nationwide Tour Money List. One of the things he is focusing on the most is his schedule for the 2012 PGA TOUR season. He had started 2011 on the Nationwide Tour with low status but was able to take advantage of a few exemptions to move up in priority before finishing runner-up in an event in Ohio in July. At that point he was hoping to make it to the final stage of Q-School before eventually earning his card at the Nationwide Tour Championship. Hurley learned that he had his card on the last day of the last event. He spent much of that day seeing what the various scenarios were before in the end getting his card after waiting 90 minutes following his last hole of the tournament. Golf-wise, it was the most stressed he had ever felt because the fate of his 2012 season was literally in the hands of other players.

When it comes to nerves in his life, the most nervous he had ever felt in golf was coming down the stretch in the final round of the 2011 Nationwide Tour Championship because he had to make a few clutch putts to keep the hopes of earning a PGA TOUR card alive. His experience in the Navy and having served in the Middle East gives him life experience and perspective which allows him to properly recognize the value of a putt during a tournament round and know that in the grand scheme of things, it is not really all that important.

He will begin his PGA TOUR career as a member next week in the Sony Open in Hawaii and he was a ship driver in the U.S. Navy in Hawaii as an officer. Being a ship driver teaches you how to react quickly to what is in front of you and he was able to win two awards for his ship driving ability. When he was on the USS Chung-Hoon in Hawaii, he was deployed twice to the Middle East where in his first deployment he helped guard oil units in Iraq as well as do some humanitarian work in the Philippines. In the second deployment, he went to Japan and also drove the ship through the Suez Canal which gave him a lot of confidence in his ability to be a leader. He will be seeing some of the officers that he served with on the USS Chung-Hoon next week when he is Hawaii for the Sony Open and is very excited to see the ship and all of the officers.

Following his year on the Nationwide Tour, he feels that he plays in a similar manner this year on the PGA TOUR he will have a successful rookie season. The trick is that he has to figure how to get his game to a point where he can consistently and confidently play his own game and know that his game and his body will hold up under pressure.

He is most excited to play Harbour Town on the PGA TOUR this year. He knows that he will need an exemption to play in the RBC Heritage this year but he feels that the course sets up well for his game as it is shorter course that requires a lot of accuracy off the tee and from the fairway.

Out of the players in the field at Kapalua, he feels that his game is most similar to David Toms as Toms is a veteran who is not a long hitter but can hit it straight on a consistent basis and obviously Toms has been able to go on to win multiple times on the PGA TOUR and have a great deal of success. He hopes to be able to spend time with a  number of veteran players including Ben Crane and Jonathan Byrd.

He was the first Lieutenant on the USS Chung-Hoon and agreed with Erik and Gary that the nickname of “The First Lieutenant” could work very well.

Starting low on the priority list, he is under a lot of pressure early on this year to play well in order to improve his status in the reshuffle in two months. Since he is starting at the bottom, he figures that there is no way to go but up. It is interesting that he is a card-carrying member of the PGA TOUR but he does not have his choice of events right now although he wants to play well enough early on to change all of that.

Out of the other rookies on the PGA TOUR in 2012, he looks at players like Scott Brown and Jason Kokrak as those who can get off to great starts and turn in strong rookie seasons. Kokrak is a great player and thinks that he can hit it as long as anyone on the entire PGA TOUR, including players like Bubba Watson and Gary Woodland.

Last year, Hurley played in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Pro-Am with Gary Williams and his first piece of advice for Gary when it comes to playing competitive was to be at the first tee on time. Hurley enjoyed playing at Bay Hill last year and getting to meet Mr. Palmer and has hopes of playing there again someday.

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

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“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

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The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

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It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

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Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”