Saturday, July 21, 2018

Hurley leads Els by 2 heading into final round at Congressional

BETHESDA, Md. — Billy Hurley relied on his experience as a Naval officer to stay focused during a bogey-free round in the Quicken Loans National. Only a few times did his mind slip away.

Hurley couldn't help but drift away from golf when he made the turn and looked at the police officers following his group. Not used to that attention, Hurley thought about his father who died 10 months ago of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"It dawned on me: This is what my dad did. He walked inside the ropes and did this at Presidents Cups and stuff," Hurley said. "Obviously, I think about my dad a lot."

With his dad on his mind, Hurley shot 4-under 67 Saturday to take a two-stroke lead over Ernie Els into the final round of Tiger Woods' annual tournament. The 607th-ranked player in the world was 15-under 198 and in position for his first PGA Tour victory.

"I can't think of a better one for me to win,' said Hurley, a graduate of the Naval Academy and a resident of Annapolis. "To be my first one on tour, it would be probably the best one of the regular-season tournaments, for sure."

To win, Hurley will have to again tame the Blue Course at Congressional as he has through three rounds and fend off Els and the rest of the pack chasing him. Second-round co-leader Jon Rahm (70) was three back at 12 under, and Bill Haas and Webb Simpson (68) were five. Vijay Singh (71) and Harold Varner (70) were 8 under.

The task at hand now for Hurley is being paired today with Els, a four-time major winner.

Els holed out for eagle on the par-4 12th and finished with 65. The 46-year-old hit a 9-iron from the fairway from 157 yards.

"When the game gives you something, there's a lot of excitement there and that was really one of the more exciting moments," Els said. "I don't think I've ever slam-dunked it into the hole like that. I've had some run of slopes and run into the hole, but that just flew right in. It was a great feeling."

Els hasn't won since the 2012 British Open but has been building up his confidence despite a poor run of results. He has been thinking about winning at Congressional, the place he captured the 1997 U.S. Open.

LPGA: Top-ranked Lydia Ko eagled the par-5 18th to tie the course record of 9-under 62 and take a share of the second-round lead at the NW Arkansas Championship in Rogers. Ko matched Morgan Pressel (63) at 14-under 128, tying the tournament 36-hole record set by Veronica Felibert in 2012. Jing Yan (65), Candie Kung (66) and Alena Sharp (65) were 12 under.

CHAMPIONS: Jean-Francois Remesy had two eagles and finished with 8-under 64 for the second-round lead at the American Family Insurance Championship in Madison, Wis. The last alternate to get into the field after losing a Monday qualifier playoff, the 52-year-old Frenchman holed out for eagle from the fairway on the par-4 first and eagled the par-5 11th. He had four birdies in the bogey-free round for 13-under 131. First-round co-leader Gene Sauers (69) and Bart Bryant (66) were a stroke back.

CANCELLATION: The PGA Tour has canceled the Greenbrier Classic, scheduled for July 7-10, because of devastating flooding in West Virginia. The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs has been inundated with water after heavy storms rolled into the state Thursday. Greenbrier County had 15 of the 23 deaths attributed to the flooding. "People are dying there," tour player Harold Varner said. "When people start losing their lives, golf's kind of thrown on the back burner."