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.


Quicken Loans National: Articles, photos and videos


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.

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McCarthy wins Web.com Tour Championship by 4

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.

''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.


Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.

Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.

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LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

“We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

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For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

“His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

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For Woods, is this only the beginning?

By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.


Final FedExCup standings

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He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

Why go through all of that rehab again?

Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

Woods has put the golf world on notice.

It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

But that’s a talk for a later date.

Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

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Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

“I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.