Billy Hurley III shot the lowest score in the field during the third round of the AT&T National on Saturday, making six birdies en route to a 5-under 66 that left the Naval Academy graduate and Annapolis resident two shots behind leader Brandon de Jonge at Congressional Country Club.
A local crowd favorite the first two days of the tournament hosted by Tiger Woods, Hurley’s following was greatly diminished the afternoon following a storm that left the golf course a mess and compelled PGA Tour officials to keep fans and volunteers away for safety reasons.
That serenity around the course allowed Hurley to focus on keeping the ball in the fairway, a necessity with the heavy rains the night before rendering the already gnarly rough that much more penal.
“Playing good any day is good,” Hurley said. “It was a lot of fun out there. I played pretty steady and never really got it in a bad spot.”
Hurley’s only mistake was a missed five-foot putt at No. 11 for par. Otherwise, he took advantage of receptive greens to make birdie three times in four holes on the front side and concluded with birdie on 18.
Hurley said he did notice the absence of fans, save for family and friends of the players, but that the wreckage around the course, from fallen branches to tree split in half, was jarring.
“It was a different experience,” he said. “I don’t know that I’ll ever have that again. I don’t think anyone’s ever had it before. It was a little strange. . . . At the same time it was sort of peaceful out there.”
Beau Hossler, the 17-year-old amateur who made the cut in his first PGA Tour event, has played his last round of the tournament.
The PGA Tour conducts a cut after 54 holes if more than 78 players make the cut at the midway point of the event. Eighty players advanced to the third round on Saturday — the top 70 and ties — so that brought into play the second cut.
Hossler shot 77 in Saturday’s third round, missing the right to play in Sunday’s final round by one stroke.
“I’ve been trying to grind it out,” he said afterward, before the cut was determined. “But it was tough for me today.”
Erik Compton, who has had two heart transplants, shot a 1-over 72 Saturday to move up into a tie for 44th. Nick Watney, who won last year’s AT&T National at Aronimink Golf Club outside Philadelphia, shot his best round of the week with a 69 to move into a tie for 12th.