PINEHURST, N.C. — This U.S. Open is the first major for Billy Hurley III, so there could be an element of awe to everything that’s happening at Pinehurst No. 2. Except at 32, awe isn’t really allowed.
“Just playing is not the goal anymore,” said Hurley, who grew up in Leesburg, graduated from the Naval Academy and still lives in Annapolis.
So Hurley’s first Open experience has been about learning. He made the cut on the number and shot 75 on Saturday to sit at 10 over par heading into Sunday’s final round.
“Playing in these type of conditions, I’m just learning more and more what I need to do in my game, the different shots I need to be able to hit,” Hurley said. “Some of them I don’t have as good as I need to, as consistently as I need to.”
There was never a guarantee Hurley would get this far. During his mini-tour days, he thought he might quit and concentrate on raising his family, which now includes three children. But he hung in and now has his PGA Tour card.
His plan after finishing the Open is to play the next four events — including the Quicken Loans National at Bethesda’s Congressional Country Club — and try to make it to the British Open.
Saturday’s round included a double bogey at the par-3 ninth, where he hit his tee shot well left, and a birdie at 18, which helped him walk off with a smile.
“You want to get that experience, and I think that’s what I’ve been able to do this week is get a little more experience,” Hurley said. “There’s been a couple of shots where I think experience got me a little bit, yesterday and today. I’ll just keep learning.”
Rickie Fowler’s PGA Tour season has been uneven — third at the Match Play Championship and tied for fifth at the Masters but with seven missed cuts along the way. He has never finished under par at a U.S. Open, and his best in five appearances was a tie for 10th last year at Merion.
On Sunday, though, Fowler will play in the final group of the Open because of the 67 he shot Saturday, one that matched Erik Compton as the best round of the day and left him five back of Martin Kaymer.
“It’s definitely the best my game has been,” Fowler said, “and it’s only going to keep getting better from here.”
Fowler’s Masters finish matched his performance at the 2011 British Open for his best in the 17 majors in which he has played. . . .
Phil Mickelson, who will turn 44 on Monday, has become rather self-aware in recent years. After a so-so 72 Saturday that left him at 5 over for the tournament, the six-time U.S. Open runner-up was asked what his approach would be Sunday. “Just try to go play a good, solid round,” Mickelson said. “If I play well — if I hit it better and make some putts, I think I can shoot 4 or 5 under par, end around even and finish second again.” . . .
Fran Quinn, a 49-year-old Massachusetts native still grinding away on the Web.com Tour, was one of the best stories of the first round, when he opened with a 68 to tie for second. But on Saturday, Quinn made nine bogeys and a double bogey to shoot 79. He sits at 11 over.
“To do what I did today is really disappointing,” he said.