Eleven months ago, Billy Hurley III spent an emotional week at the Quicken Loans National. The tournament was being played at a temporary home at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, just a short drive from Hurley’s childhood home in Leesburg.
Hurley learned on Monday of that week that his father, Willard “Bill” Hurley, had gone missing. On Tuesday, before assembled media, he delivered a tearful plea for help locating Bill. Billy still played the event, and his father was found during the second round of the tournament, watching on a public computer in Texas. Billy finished tied for 46th.
A few weeks later, his father would go missing again. This time, he was found in a car along the Potomac, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The collateral damage of a family tragedy is impossible to quantify. But one effect for Hurley was professional — the loss of full-time status on the PGA Tour. With conditional status, the Naval Academy graduate plays when there is room for him in the field, which is the case this week at the Quicken Loans National, now at Congressional.
With memories from the ordeal of last year not far from his mind, Hurley finds himself tied with first-round leader Jon Rahm atop the leader board, firing a 6-under-par 65 on Friday to place him at 11 under through two rounds.
Throughout his second round, the gallery shouted support Hurley’s way, even chanting “21412,” the Naval Academy’s zip code.
“It’s always nice to have the support,” Hurley said. “It definitely helps with momentum. It helps kind of keep your spirits up, even if things aren’t going great. But at the same time, it can put some extra pressure on you, so I’ll have to deal with that. Pressure’s not anything new to me, so I’ll kind of get after it on the weekend.”
Hurley and Rahm were grouped together with Sam Saunders for the first 36 holes. The leaders, three shots clear of the rest of the field, will be paired again Saturday.
“We played great golf,” Hurley said. “Even Sam Saunders is like 11th. Kind of got lapped today by us, almost feel bad for him. There were just so many quality shots hit in our group over the last two days. Kind of felt like if you didn’t hit it to 10 feet, you were doing something wrong.”
Hurley said he is excited to play with Rahm for the third straight day.
“It’ll be fun,” Hurley said of the pairing. “He’s a nice young kid. He has a great golf game.”
More than a few big names are chasing the duo. Vijay Singh, 53, is alone in third at 8 under. Ernie Els is among a group of four at 7 under, and Rickie Fowler is among three at 6 under.
For a fleeting moment, Singh led the field Friday, though it didn’t look very pretty toward the end.
As soon as Singh teed off on the 18th hole, he grimaced. His drive nestled in a bed of pine needles under trees to the left of the fairway.
His second shot on the 523-yard par-4 flirted with the water that surrounds the green. The ball was safe. Singh’s stance, however, was dicey.
“I was unfortunate it went that far in,” Singh said. “I was fortunate that it stayed out. I kept sinking when I got into the water. I started off with just my foot in the water, and then it started getting up to my ankles.”
So he rolled up his slacks.
“The more I moved, the deeper I went,” Singh said. “I had to play a very safe shot.”
Singh chipped on and two-putted from about 30 feet for bogey.
“I got away with a bogey,” Singh said. “I think bogey is a very good score on the last hole.”
The Fijian is in contention to break a PGA mark that has stood since 1965. The oldest player to win a Tour event was Sam Snead, who was 52 years, 10 months and 8 days old when he won the Greater Greensboro Open in 1965.
It’s been nearly eight years since Singh last won a Tour event, and it’s not something he sounds as if he’s expecting.
“I’m not thinking about that right now,” he said. “It would be good to win, but it’s only halfway. I need to focus on my game tomorrow and see what happens.”