- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 25, 2016

BETHESDA — Billy Hurley III has navigated a Naval ship through the Suez Canal and he’s guided his tee shots down the narrow fairways at Congressional this weekend. While one task undoubtedly carries more risk than the other, the Leesburg, Virginia native approaches both tasks with the same fierce focus.

That focus was the driving force behind Hurley’s four-under 67 he shot in the third round of the Quicken Loans National on Saturday, which gave him the lead at 15 under entering Sunday’s final round.

Hurley played the round without a bogey and birdied three holes on the front nine and another on the back. Often times he made his putts look easier than they  were, such as the 15-footer he sank on hole 14.

“Mental toughness is kind of a big thing,” Hurley said when asked what lessons he’s taken from the Naval Academy. “You either learn it at the Naval Academy or you’re not there very long, so that definitely helps in adversity on the golf course.

“Then focus, too. You just kind of always have to be — when you’re driving a ship, it is, you know, driving a ship through the Suez Canal, it’s like all eyes ahead focused on exactly what we’re doing. Land on each side, you’re trying to keep it in the middle. Focusing on the task at hand is definitely something I’ve learned as well.”

The crowd at Congressional supported Hurley all throughout the round, constantly shouting his name or ‘Go Navy!’ after every shot. To record his first PGA Tour victory this weekend would be meaningful for Hurley, especially since the event, hosted by Tiger Woods, celebrates the military.

“Can’t think of a better one for me to win to be my first win on Tour,” Hurley said. “It would probably be the best one of kind of the regular-season Tour events for sure.”

The Quicken Loans National is the 12th event Hurley has played in this season. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open last weekend at Oakmont and tied for 41st and 52nd, respectively, at the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic and the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Before those two tournaments, Hurley had missed the cut in four of his last five events.

Hurley said he’s felt his game coming on strong in those last three events, a momentum he’s been able to roll into this weekend at Congressional.

“I’ve started to hit it really good for the last — maybe not as good as I have this week but going in the right direction, probably going back to Byron Nelson,” Hurley said. “And then the Open qualifier, I medalled at the Open Qualifier and played that day with one bogey or something like that. That was probably a big turning point. It’s been kind of on the horizon for a better part of a month or so.”

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