Billy Hurley III‘s bank account became $1.2 million richer as he stared down a talented field replete with intriguing storylines to win the Quicken Loans National by three strokes over Hall of Famer, three-time major winner, and PGA Member-For-Life Vijay Singh. It was the first career win for Hurley III, a local resident who enjoyed a tremendous amount of crowd support.
“I said it yesterday, I couldn’t think of a better tournament for my first PGA Tour win, so I’m just thrilled to have gotten it done today.” said the 34-year-old Hurley III.
His first win is an undeniably great story: he was in the midst of a terrible season. He had no finishes higher than a T41, he had missed six cuts in 12 events, and he was a mile back of relevancy on the FedEx Cup Standings (198th to begin the week). His poor season was a microcosm of his career, which had been largely defined by difficulty in keeping status and qualifying for tournaments. Heck, the only thing that qualified him for this event was a sponsor exemption from Tiger Woods.
Hurley III’s 17-under par winning score is an eye-popping number at a course (Congressional Country Club) that traditionally plays very tough. Rain early in the week softened the course, and nobody was able to take advantage of the favorable conditions more than Hurley III. He was the co-leader after 36 holes and from there, never let up. He was the solo leader by two going into the final round, and despite the intense pressure, never broke. After a birdie on the first and a bogey on the second, Hurley pared 10 of his next 12 holes, keeping his round amazingly steady while his closest competitors were wearing out their pencils with squares and circles.
The leaderboard tightened up as the final pairing of Hurley III and Ernie Els were reaching the middle of the back nine. Then came the shot of the tournament: a 35-yard pitch-in for birdie at the par-4 15th. He followed up that amazing birdie with another birdie, rolling a tough putt in from 27 feet away. By the time he reached the 18th tee, Hurley’s triumph was a foregone conclusion.
Just behind Hurley III on the leaderboard was a number of players with tremendous storylines of their own. There was Ernie Els, the winner of the ‘97 U.S. Open at Congressional, who with 19 career PGA Tour victories, was just one short of a Lifetime Membership. Els struggled to find any consistency and finished at 12-under, good for solo-fifth. There was Jon Rahm, the 21-year-old rookie sensation who at times looked unstoppable in his first professional tournament. Rahm got to within one of Hurley III’s lead late, but couldn’t close the deal. He finished 13-under, tied with 2013 winner Bill Haas. And maybe most unexpected, was the round of -6(65) put together by the 53-year-old Singh. Vijay would have become the oldest winner in PGA Tour history, but had to settle for solo-second at 14-under par.
It has been a difficult year for Hurley III. In addition to his poor results on the PGA Tour, he lost his father a year ago. Hurley III made headlines at this same tournament last year when he asked for help finding his missing father, who had been suffering from severe depression, during a tournament press conference. He was found, but two weeks later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“It had been a hard year, a really hard year,” said Hurley III while trying to hold back tears. “It was nice to have something go well.”
In the end, Hurley III received the ultimate approbation: the tournament trophy handed to him by Tiger Woods: PGA Tour legend and idol of everyone who grew up playing golf. In a career with myriad struggles, Hurley III finally has a victory that can never be taken away.