BETHESDA, Md. — A few observations from Sunday’s play at Quicken Loans National, where Billy Hurley III shot 69 to win his first PGA TOUR title by three shots. For more on the final round at Congressional Country Club, click here to read the Daily Wrap-up.
HURLEY CAPS OFF DREAM WEEK WITH WIN
Billy Hurley III realized a dream on Sunday afternoon, winning the Quicken Loans National for his first PGA TOUR title.
What made the win even sweeter was that it came at his hometown event with his friends and family in attendance.
Hurley, who lives in nearby Annapolis, Maryland, put on a show during the final round, holing out for birdie from just off the green on the 15th, and converting key putts over the final six holes to end up in the winner's circle.
"I think this has been the culmination of about the last probably six months every day working on my game really," Hurley said. "I've worked really hard this winter. We built a new house and put about 600 square feet of a golf room and a gym in the basement. So over the winter I really worked hard on my swing hitting into the screen there."
Leading for only the second time in his career after 54 holes, Hurley looked like a seasoned veteran who was used to setting the pace. He opened with birdie on the 1st and added another with a 6-footer on the 9th to turn in 35.
A three-putt bogey from 23 feet on the 12th threatened to derail his momentum, but he minimized the damage, making a 10-footer for par on the 13th that set the tone for a memorable finish.
"I knew I was in the lead but I knew it wasn't very much," Hurley said of the par on 13. "It really felt like to make that one to stay in the lead and kind of feel like I was staying in control. So it was definitely an important putt."
After making par from a sand-filled divot in the middle of the fairway on 14, Hurley all but closed the door on the next hole two holes, starting with an emphatic chip-in from 35 yards on the 15th that landed at the top a ridge, checked up and tracked right into the cup.
Hurley celebrated the moment by punching the air in delight.
"When the ball disappeared on 15, it took me by surprise," Hurley said. "That's probably the most emotion I've ever shown in my life. The people who know me and served with me actually will tell you that's probably true."
Hurley would add another birdie on 16 that extended the lead to three shots and allowed him to take in the improbable victory.
Coming into the tournament, Hurley was ranked 607th in the Official World Golf Ranking and had not finished higher than 41st in 11 previous events. With one stellar weekend of golf, he went from a limited schedule to TOUR winner in the blink of an eye.
"Just being a part of the event on the PGA TOUR that does the most to honor our military here at Quicken Loans National, just couldn't script a better one for me to win my first TOUR win."
ELS, SINGH COME UP SHORT
Ernie Els and Vijay Singh had the opportunity to win again on the PGA TOUR after going nearly four years and eight years since their last victories. Both came up short but walked away with positives from the week that made them believe they can still contend on TOUR.
Els began the day two shots back of Hurley and managed to get within a shot of the leader during the round, but a lack of consistency throughout the day caught up to the South African, who made only one par over his first 9 holes but somehow turned in 2-under 32.
Els's struggles off the tee would eventually catch up to him on the back nine. His tee shot on the 10th hit the embankment just in front of the green and rolled back into the water, leading to a costly double-bogey.
He would only reach two holes in regulation the rest of the way, en route to a back nine 38 that left him five shots back at 12-under.
"I love the game," Els said. "I want to still play at a high level. I still feel like I have something to offer the game and maybe squeeze something out of it before I'm really over the hill. But I feel physically fine and the technical side is coming back."
Unlike Els, Vijay Singh mounted a charge up the leaderboard throughout the afternoon, posting four birdies in his first nine holes to go from outsider to in the mix.
With momentum on his side, Singh missed two makable birdie putts inside 11 feet on Nos. 10 and 11 that seemed to take away that momentum. When his 6-foot par putt on 17 slid by the hole, Singh knew his tournament chances were over.
Even with the miss, he still closed out his week in style, hitting a 129-yard approach to 6 feet before converting the birdie putt for 65. It was one of only nine birdies on the day at the difficult closing hole.
The $745,200 Singh earned by finishing solo second at Congressional was nearly as much as he pocketed in 23 starts ($752,462) during the 2014-15 season.
"I played well," Singh said. "I take nothing away, I hit the ball great all week and today was the best I've hit it and made some putts so it made it easier.
"I feel as strong as I did when I was playing well five, six years ago. Plus, I work pretty hard on my game as well. It's nice to see Ernie — we were joking around, but we've been around for a while. I think experience played a pretty important role in [our success this week]."
CALL OF THE DAY
RAHM SHINES IN DEBUT
When Jon Rahm announced he was turning pro at Quicken Loans National, he gave up his spot in the field at The Open Championship that was awarded to him when he won the Mark H. McCormack medal.
It only took Rahm one week as a professional to earn his spot back in the field at Troon and then some. The 21-year-old from Spain shined in his TOUR debut, finishing T3 at 13-under, just three shots behind Hurley.
"I really wanted to play at Troon and I knew I had the exemption as an amateur but I gave it up to get my PGA TOUR career started," Rahm said. "I'm just so happy I played good today and I got my spot at Troon."
In addition to The Open ticket, Rahm earned $400,200 in his first start, which puts him well on his way to earning special temporary membership, which is awarded to players who equal the FedExCup points of No. 150 on last year’s standings. That status would allow him to accept unlimited sponsor exemptions for the remainder of the 2015-16 season.
Rahm still has seven sponsor's exemptions remaining after finishing inside the top-10. He plans to play next week at the Barracuda Championship.
Rahm got off to an inauspicious start on Sunday when his tee shot on the 4th hit a spectator in the head. He still managed to make par but admitted after the round that the moment stuck with him for the next few holes.
"I had like the chills on me," Rahm, who shot 70, said of the incident. "I was shaking after 5 still. I think it went away once I hit the shot one the green on 6, but I kept thinking about it. I kept thinking about what I could do for the guy."
Rahm somehow made par and didn't record a bogey until the 17th — his lone blemish on the card. There was also the putt on the 15th that somehow didn't find the cup, rimming out at the last second and leaving Rahm in disbelief.
"I still don't know what happened," Rahm said. "From my perspective, I thought it was dead center honestly. I could not believe it didn't go in for how slow it was going."
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Billy Hurley III's remarkable chip-in birdie is the Shot of the Day
VARNER QUALIFIES FOR THE OPEN
Harold Varner III's 3-foot par putt on the last drew an emphatic fist pump from the rookie, who ended the week eight shots back of Billy Hurley III.
Of course, there was a reason Varner was so excited. By finishing in seventh-place, Varner booked his ticket to the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon. It will be his first trip across the pond to play in golf's oldest major championship.
"I've played in one major, so I know it's very exciting," Varner said. "I haven't really thought much of it. I'm sure I will when I get on the plane."
Quicken Loans National was once again part of The Open Qualifying Series. The top four players, not otherwise exempt, earned spots in the field. In addition to Varner, Billy Hurley III, Vijay Singh and Jon Rahm all qualified for the third major of the year.
CONGRESSIONAL'S 11th PLAYS TOUGH
It should come as no surprise that Congressional's 489-yard par-4 11th played as the toughest hole on the course.
During the 2014 season — the tournament was played at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in 2015 — the 11th ranked as the second-most difficult hole on TOUR with a 4.482 stroke average.
It was more of the same this year, with the hole playing to a stroke average 4.385. It yielded just one eagle and 35 birdies during the week. The 18th was the second-most difficult during the tournament with a 4.222 stroke average.
QUOTE OF THE DAY"It couldn't be a better tournament to win from all facets of it. From us being close to home, being close to the Academy, close to where I grew up. I mean, it's just perfect"
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Of all the stories on the leader board at congressional, the leader is the best one.— Arron Oberholser (@ArronOberholser) June 26, 2016