The fans following Billy Hurley III looked like they belonged at a Navy football game instead of a golf tournament.
The Naval Academy graduate drew a crowd at Congressional Country Club on Sunday for his fourth round in the Quicken Loans National. Hurley, who grew up in Leesburg and lives in Annapolis, had an even-par round to finish 1 under and tied for eighth.
Chants of “Go Navy!” and “Beat Army!” followed him from hole to hole. The gallery was colored with Navy apparel and logos.
“It’s fun to play in front of a lot of people who are rooting for you,” Hurley said. “Lots of times I’m in the opposite boat. I’m in groups where everybody’s rooting for the other guy.”
Hurley was within two shots of the lead after the front nine before he ran into trouble. He bogeyed 12 and then 13, where he needed two shots for an eight-foot putt. He alternated between birdie and bogey for the next four holes, sinking a 34-foot putt on 14, then just slightly misjudging a six-foot putt on 17.
“It’s really, really hard,” Hurley said of the back nine. “It’s long and you have to hit a lot of good shots. Unfortunately, I just hit it in the rough on three of the last four holes, and that just kind of hurt.”
Hurley was in the middle of a congested group trying to qualify for the British Open, but four players ahead of him on the leader board were steadier as he fell a stroke short.
Competing in his first major, Hurley made the cut at the U.S. Open to finish 11 over par. He’ll play the Greenbrier Classic next weekend in West Virginia and then the John Deere Classic for two more chances to go to Royal Liverpool.
If he were to qualify for the British Open, it would be his sixth tournament in a row. Hurley is also playing in a pro-am Monday before heading to Greenbrier. It has been a challenge to balance time practicing with time resting.
“It’s been a grind,” Hurley said. “It’s been a lot of golf. I’ve played three in a row now, and I’ve played six out of seven before that. We’ve played a lot of golf the last 11 weeks, and I’m going to play two more. It’s a lot.”
Before Hurley teed off, he introduced himself to the starters, members of the armed forces. One of the starters, an active-duty Marine, told him it was inspiring to see the former naval officer succeed at golf. It wasn’t just fans from Leesburg, Annapolis and the Navy who found him easy to root for.
“It’s a great story,” said Brendan Steele, who finished tied for fifth. “He’s a wonderful guy, so that’s really what makes it a great story. He’s always a very kind and genuine person, so it’s really cool to see him playing so well.”
Note: Attendance for Sunday was 36,678, more than 1,000 more than last year’s final round, which also took place without Woods. The total for the week was 151,064, the most at Congressional since 2009, when Woods won and 194,073 showed up over the course of the week.