WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Though Billy Hurley III acknowledged it was his best round of the year, Friday’s 7-under 63 only put him in position to be hunted throughout the weekend at the Greenbrier Classic.
The 33-year-old graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy sat atop the Fourth of July leaderboard at 9-under, yet realized his first PGA Tour win will require significantly more work. Kevin Chappell (65) and Chris Stroud (66) sat one shot back, while Troy Matteson carded a 61 to climb into fourth place at 7-under.
“You’ve just got to go do it again, you know? It’s not like you’re eight (shots) clear of the field,” Hurley said. “You’re going to have to play well over the next two days.”
Matteson needed only 19 putts to match his career-low score.
“I just got a lot of putts I liked,” he said. I didn’t get a lot of double-breakers … and if you get one-dimensional puts out here you’re going to make them.”
On the par-3 18th hole, Matteson sniffed history from 175 yards out, aiming for an ace and a historic round of 59. Instead, he floated his tee shot into the front right bunker.
“I had a 9 iron out and I was going to play left of the hole, but with that pin cut so tight to the front edge, the only way to hit it in there is to hit the shortest club you possibly can, which for us was a wedge that I barely pushed into the bunker,” he said. “But if you’ve got a chance at 59, you’ve got to take it.”
With tee times flipped, the golfers who benefited from Thursday morning’s welcoming conditions experienced tougher winds and less forgiving greens Friday afternoon. First-round leader Jonas Blixt suffered through a 73 and fell into a tie for 25th at 3-under.
Stroud, paired with Hurley in a morning group, said “the greens were just fabulous out there.” Chappell, who has nine top-10 finishes but no PGA victories in seven pro seasons, played bogey-free with five birdies and said “the course has a great flow to it—all the running water and the good scenery just puts me in a good spot.”
The top seven spots—and 17 of the 24—belonged to Americans. Bubba Watson (67) sat in an eighth-place tie at 5-under.
“We had no wind the first nine holes, so I was just trying to make some birdies,” he said. “It’s tough when that wind gets gusty.”
After missing the cut last year, Tom Watson (68) was safe at 1-under this time.
“If I get the putter rolling just a little bit better, I might make a little noise on the weekend,” he said.
Jimmy Walker, the FexEx Cup points leader who had three top-10 finishes at the Greenbrier, shot 75 and missed the cut at 5-over.