- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A lieutenant in the U.S. Navy who was stationed aboard a destroyer from 2007 through 2009, Billy Hurley III once missed a connection in London that forced him to find a hotel and rebook a flight to Bahrain.

The ordeal cost him a night and left him with little more than a headache. By the time he leaves next week, Hurley is hoping this stay in England goes much better than the last.

The Leesburg, Virginia, native will play in his first British Open beginning Thursday — a reward he earned for finishing tied for fourth at the Greenbrier Classic on July 6. It will be just the second time he’ll have competed in one of golf’s four majors, and it will happen only a month after he played in the U.S. Open for the first time.

“I got a taste of the major feel at the U.S. Open, and I want to play a lot of those, but to rattle off No. 2 right after it is kind of exciting,” Hurley said.

The British Open revamped its qualifying criteria this year, and for the first time, as many as four players who finished in the top 12 at two events — the Quicken Loans National and the Greenbrier Classic — were offered exemptions to play in golf’s most prestigious tournament.

Hurley tied for eighth at the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda on June 29, shooting a 1-under 283, but narrowly missed out on a trip across the Atlantic when he finished sixth in the qualifying standings.

He played even better the following week, holding the lead after the second and third rounds of the Greenbrier Classic. A 2-over-par 73 in the final round left him tied with six other players for fourth, but he claimed the final Open exemption on the strength of his standing in the Official World Golf Rankings.

The British Open will be the sixth consecutive week Hurley has played in a tournament — a feat he’s never before tried.

“[The following] Monday, Tuesday, it was kind of like, ‘Holy cow, there’s a lot going on,’” Hurley said. “But I’m obviously excited to play The Open Championship, to play another major.”

Hurley had never before held either a 36- or 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event before doing so at the Greenbrier, which was won by Angel Cabrera after he shot a 7-under 64 in the final round.

With a goal of always trying to learn something each time he plays, Hurley’s frame of mind was tested by playing in the final pairing each day. To him, Cabrera’s victory didn’t so much mean that Hurley lost the tournament — just that he didn’t win it.

“I would have had to play great just to tie the guy,” Hurley said. “I think if I had shot 3-over and lost by two, it would hurt more than it does, but knowing that I would have had to shoot 5-under, I guess, to win, there wasn’t a 5-under out there for me that day.”

Hurley, in his second full season on the PGA Tour, entered the year wanting fewer top-50 finishes and more top-30 finishes. Despite an early exit Friday at the John Deere Classic, where he shot an even-par 142, Hurley has made the cut 15 times in 22 events and has finished in the top 25 five times.

Royal Liverpool Golf Club will provide a completely different test. It wasn’t until arriving in England that Hurley began thinking about how he’ll attack the par-72, 7,312-yard course, which last hosted The Open in 2006.

He does, however, already know his post-tournament plans. Given the taxing schedule, Hurley will skip the RBC Canadian Open in suburban Montreal and the Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nevada, as he waits to see if he qualifies for the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, beginning Aug. 7.

And, considering he’s already in England, he and his wife, Heather, will stay there for a few days to do some sightseeing — things he couldn’t see the first time he visited.

“We kind of got most of that figured out now, and so now it’s about trying to get back in and play a golf tournament,” Hurley said.

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