HOYLAKE, England — When the tee times were released for his first British Open, Billy Hurley III considered his fate: a 3:55 p.m. start local time in Thursday’s first round, the second-to-last group.
“I was joking with somebody saying I needed to go to class or something,” Hurley said. “The last time I teed off at 4 p.m. was after school.”
When he finally completed his 1-over-par 73 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, it was nearly 9 p.m., and the light was low as he rolled in a 10-footer for birdie at the 18th. The Leesburg native and Annapolis resident, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 2004, survived a breezy afternoon with a respectable round.
Hurley is here because he tied for fourth at the Greenbrier Classic earlier this month, a tournament he led headed into the final round. But he shot 73 and lost to Angel Cabrera.
“Just a building block, I guess,” Hurley said. “Obviously I didn’t play well Sunday, but I don’t feel like I lost the golf tournament. . . . I hate to call it a consolation prize, but it kind of was nice, afterward, to be able to say, ‘Good, we got something out of it.’ ”
Hurley traveled here on the PGA Tour charter from Silvis, Ill., site of the John Deere Classic, and walked the course Monday before playing practice rounds Tuesday and Wednesday — his first rounds in the United Kingdom. This is his sixth tournament in a row, but he said fatigue will not be an issue as he tries to make the cut Friday.
“I’m excited,” he said.
Ernie Els, a four-time major champion who won the 2012 British Open, got off to a horrific start at the first, sending his tee shot well left, where it hit a spectator in the face.
“There was blood everywhere,” Els said. “I felt pretty bad about it.”
Els could not shake the moment. He missed a two-foot putt for bogey. Worse, as the putt slid by, Els went to backhand the ball in, barely waiting for it to stop. He missed that, too, and opened his day with a triple-bogey 7 en route to 79.
“I was kind of finished,” he said. “. . . It was a nightmare, so I’d like to put it behind me. I just hope the gentleman feels better because he looked really bad when I left him there.” . . .
Tiger Woods twice stopped mid-swing on his approach shot at 18.
“There was a lot of cameras out there,” Woods said. “We were backing off a lot of shots and a lot of people moving around. It was tough.”
Within two hours, the R&A sent out an update on their cellphone policy, urging fans to keep their phones on silent and reminding them there are no photographs allowed. Woods said some professional photographers, who normally don’t take pictures until a player has made impact with the ball, were “getting on the trigger a little early.” . . .
Defending champion Phil Mickelson opened with a 2-over 74 in the afternoon wave, when the wind was up.