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June 28, 2016

Billy Hurley III

Akron, Ohio

MARK WILLIAMS: We'd like to welcome Billy Hurley III into the interview room at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational. Billy, you obviously made the field after winning at the Quicken Loans National last week. I can't imagine myself what the last three or four days have been like for you, but if you could share that with us, that would be appreciated.

BILLY HURLEY III: Yeah, they've been kind of crazy. I don't think they were expecting me here. My locker is kind of in the corner and there's a parking spot back in the back of the lot and everything. But happy to have just both of those this week, to be honest.

Yeah, it's a lot going on. I think I got over 250 text messages and 130 or some-odd emails, and I'm not even close to halfway through any of that.

I checked into my hotel last night, and the guy at the desk said, great chip on 15 yesterday, and I was like, that was just yesterday? It felt like that was like three, four days ago at this point. But it's been fun.

MARK WILLIAMS: You managed to get nine holes in here, your first look at Firestone, I think. What were your impressions?

BILLY HURLEY III: I mean, I've always known it's a great golf course, and just from watching it on TV and what all the other players say about it, and to actually get out there and play it, I mean, it is a good, good test of golf, not too much unlike Congressional in a sense, very kind of tree-lined and tight, very good, solid green complexes, and it's in just tremendous shape.

Q. Has winning and all that it means sunk in yet, although I guess you should never say the word "sunk" to a Navy guy?
BILLY HURLEY III: No, I don't think it has completely. There's kind of a whirlwind here of my schedule for the next, you know, two months anyway, changed a ton. Just actually being able to pick is even different, too. Knowing I'll be in at least kind of the start of the Playoffs and stuff. That's kind of something we haven't really even gotten through.

But I think we've just tried to enjoy it a little bit as much as we could, but I mean, by the time I got home Sunday night, because I live around D.C., so we got home, and doing laundry and re-packing kids and that kind of stuff, I mean, on the road and getting up this way. Not completely sunk in yet, but it's starting to.

It did hit me for a second. I texted one of my friends, I think it was probably 1:00 in the afternoon yesterday, and it kind of just hit me that I won on the PGA TOUR, and that was a fun moment.

Q. When it's your goal to win on the PGA TOUR and you finally achieve it, as you look back, was it farther away than it seemed or closer?
BILLY HURLEY III: Probably in some ways both. I mean, I think to be completely honest with you, I could have played 10 years on the PGA TOUR, not won, and been fine with that. At the same time, I mean, obviously we all want to win. I mean, we all -- anybody who's here has won some golf tournaments in their past and wants to continue to do that at the highest level.

To think that it was going to come this year, I mean, would have been kind of pretty far-fetched, I think, to start in January if you were going to really be honest about it.

In one way, I'm only 34 and I've only been really doing golf full-time for six or seven years, so it kind of was shorter. And in another way it kind of was longer in the whole journey of the whole thing, I think.

Q. Secondly, is your sister moving her wedding to Scotland? Where do you stand on that?
BILLY HURLEY III: So I just actually talked to Martin Slumbers of the R&A, and I'm not going to play the Open Championship. I wouldn't miss my sister's wedding for the world, and I think that at this point in time for me and my family and the trajectory of our family, it's very important for me to be there to support her and her husband, new husband.

Q. Easy decision or hard one?
BILLY HURLEY III: I mean, it was a pretty easy decision at the end of the day.

Q. Were people lobbying on both sides, or was it pretty unanimous? What did your sister say?
BILLY HURLEY III: Well, she tried to not really influence me a ton on Sunday night, but I called her while I was playing, and she started crying. I mean, so she was pretty thrilled that I'll be there.

Q. Any more joint chiefs of staff or anybody else like that call or --
BILLY HURLEY III: No, I just -- there's a couple of Admirals who have sent me notes or texts or called me. Yeah, they're four stars and those type of people, so yeah, it's fun.

Q. Did you get a hold of that guy from Plebe school who never thought you had a chance?
BILLY HURLEY III: No, I haven't. I haven't talked to him yet.

Q. With the win behind your belt, going forward, will you think differently? Will you play differently? Will you accordingly go about things differently?
BILLY HURLEY III: I don't know. I think it's always hard to play after a win, and this is kind of even maybe more difficult in the sense of just how whirlwind of being a first-time winner and then stepping right into a World Golf Championship. I've never played a World Golf Championship before and never played this course before. It was funny, I was -- one of the things about being my second, third, fourth year on TOUR, I just was enjoying like knowing where I was going, knowing where I was staying, knowing where the locker room was, knowing where the driving range was, and then I kind of started driving here yesterday and I was like, I'm a rookie again. I don't have a clue where I'm going. I've never been to Firestone. I've never been to Baltusrol. I've never been to Kapalua. I've never been to the Masters. I've got to start all over again and figure out where I'm going. All those types of things that kind of just change the trajectory of the career.

As far as like how I play, I think that, you know, any time you have success, you have the chicken and the egg of success and confidence, right, so obviously success breeds confidence, and so hopefully I can use that confidence to continue to play well throughout the rest of the season.

Q. You obviously made an enormous jump in the Ryder Cup points with your win. Given your background, what would it mean to you to be on the Ryder Cup team?
BILLY HURLEY III: I haven't thought about that yet, but I mean, I probably jumped from like 150th to like 100th, and that's a big jump. Obviously for me representing my country is something that I've done for nine years of my life, throughout the Naval Academy and as an officer in the Navy. I had the fortune to play on the Palmer Cup team out of college, and then I was able to play on the Walker Cup team as an amateur in 2005, and those were both great experiences to represent the United States of America.

A Ryder Cup would be kind of over the moon kind of -- to represent our country.

Q. What was it like having Ernie alongside you? You didn't have a choice, I realize.
BILLY HURLEY III: Ernie has been really nice to me over the last couple of years out on TOUR, and he's obviously a tremendous champion. There were a lot of people pulling for Ernie Els on Sunday, and rightfully so. He won a U.S. Open there at Congressional and all those types of things.

But he was nothing but a true gentleman. We had nice conversations throughout the front nine about kids and life and the TOUR and stuff like that, and then, you know, on about 14 or 15 when it was pretty clear he was not going to win, he was -- almost appeared to in some ways to be rooting for me is what I kind of felt. And certainly when I chipped it in on 15, you know, I kind of blocked out for a second and didn't really know what was going on, and all of a sudden he was lining up his putt, and he's like, Billy, Billy, like okay, and he kind of gave me a high five and stuff like that. He was super nice. And then we shared a nice moment on the 18th green, and he was really gracious.

Q. What did he say?
BILLY HURLEY III: He just said something about my dad, and he said, I think your dad is really proud of you right now.

Q. You said you've been a full-time golfer for six or seven years. In what areas have you improved the most during that time frame, and where do you think there were some turning points in your career to get you to where you are now?
BILLY HURLEY III: Probably within just the consistency of my golf swing. If you were to take a look at my golf swing from kind of when I got out of college to when I got out of the Navy to now, yeah, you'd be surprised they were the same person, I think. And so it's much more -- it's just much more simple, much more consistent and allows me to play day in and day out without as much work and without as much effort, so to speak.

And my golf swing is very balanced right now, so I can work it both right to left and left to right a lot easier than I ever could in the past, and so that allows me obviously a lot more opportunities on the golf course.

Q. And turning points in your pro career as far as when you really thought, okay, I can stick it in with these guys?
BILLY HURLEY III: So there was a point in late 2014 I played in the last group of Greenbrier that year, and I played in the last group in the CIMB in Malaysia that year, and I didn't win either of those tournaments, but I was right there and had a chance and learned a lot from that, and I sat down with my team at the end of that year, and I said to them, I said, I believe I can win on the PGA TOUR. I said, I think you guys have believed that for two or three years, but I actually believe it now.

And I thought that that would actually come and happen in 2015, and then 2015 came and went and it wasn't very good at all, and I actually maybe lost some of that belief in that sense. But I can't really point to any one moment in time over the last six to -- three, six, ten months and say that was a turning point. But it definitely has been something that's been building over the last six to eight weeks, even though you wouldn't look at my results and say that it's been building but kind of just within where everything has been going, I think it has been.

Q. People are saying that you're kind of the feel-good story of the TOUR year. Are you touched by that? What is your reaction to that?
BILLY HURLEY III: I'm certainly touched. I'm a little flabbergasted just in the sense that I didn't know that many people cared that much about me. I've heard from so many grown men telling me they were watching golf crying on Sunday. I had a good friend of mine in California call and leave a message and he was fighting back tears the whole time he was leaving the message for me. So that surprised the heck out of me.

Michael Greller, Jordan's caddie, said to me on the range, thanks for making us all cry. That's been kind of an unbelievable show of support from people that I never expected.

Q. Was there more of that in the reception when you arrived here, besides Greller, maybe anybody else?
BILLY HURLEY III: You know, a bunch of the TOUR staff have said similar things to that, I was watching and fighting back tears kind of thing.

Q. You made your sister cry?
BILLY HURLEY III: I made my sister cry, and probably my mom after my sister called my mom.

Q. Because you're so identified with the Navy and sports, you must hear -- how often do you hear from people in the crowd or everywhere you go all the time, hey, I was in the Navy, my brother was in the Navy, and also out of curiosity, how many Army-Navy football games have you attended?
BILLY HURLEY III: So every week I hear a go Navy or beat Army or, hey, I was class of '74 or class of '93, whatever it is. So there's always support for me from the Naval Academy and the Navy family. And then you meet the West Point guy every now and again.

Q. What does he say?
BILLY HURLEY III: He says, go Army, and I normally say, good luck, or beat Navy or something like that, or hey, I was West Point class of '84, and I say, oh, that's too bad.

But they're all rooting for me, too, which is nice, and like I've said, it's fun to represent the armed forces as a whole, not just the Navy or the Naval Academy.

Army-Navy football games, that's a mandatory event when you're at the Naval Academy, so I went to four of those while I was at the Naval Academy, and I've probably gone to four or five since I've graduated.

Q. There's a story that Jack Fleck, who won the Open over Hogan, was on minesweeper before they hit Utah beach and would practice hitting golf balls off the deck. What did you do that might be similar to that? And also, have you ever seen Navy lose in person to Army? It's been a while.
BILLY HURLEY III: I have seen Navy lose in person. The last time we lost I think was my sophomore or junior year at the Naval Academy, so yeah, it's been a while. But some people still remember that.

Then no, I never -- I hit like three golf balls off the ship kind of thing, just messing around one day when they had it set up with we call steel beach picnics, you have a picnic on the flight deck and you're on the steel beach and we kind of have games like that sometimes on the ship. But it turns out that environmentalists don't like plastic being hit into the ocean.

Q. Reading in the transcript last week, there was some mention that you made the comment that you were close to quitting, talking about retirement plans. What were those conversations like? How did you get past those feelings?
BILLY HURLEY III: Yeah, I missed the cut in Puerto Rico earlier this year, and I was not having any fun at all playing golf. It was really hard. I mean, I felt like I was a lot better than I was showing. And that's probably what made it the hardest is I felt like I was actually -- actually should have some good results, like there were good parts of my game that were there but I was still missing cuts by a shot or two and just really kind of frustrated.

One of my -- the guys on my team said, well, why don't you take a day, day and a half, and really think about quitting, like really think about retiring. What would that look like? What would you do? And I did. And I did. And I called my brother. I talked to my brother. I talked to some of my other advisors and kind of talked to my wife obviously a lot. And you know, at the end of the day, it came down to, well, one, my wife and I always said that we make that decision every August, whether or not we're going to renew our contract to continue playing golf. We kind of figured August was the right time when we were on mini-Tours because you've got to sign up for Q-school and that kind of thing, so it's kind of been an August to August calendar for us as far as are you going to give it -- are you going to go again next year kind of thing.

So she said, well, you can't quit until August so it doesn't matter. And so it just -- you know, then I kept playing after that and didn't have a whole lot of good results. My brother came and watched me play. My brother is like a very trusted golf advisor to me. He was an all-conference player in college when he played at George Mason, and so he watched me play in Raleigh at the Web.com and I missed the cut and didn't play very well, but he watched me play nine holes, and he said, that doesn't look like a guy who should retire to me. I know you missed the cut and whatever, but a lot of good things going on.

Then my brother caddied for me in the U.S. Open sectional qualifier that was kind of near my house. He caddied for me there, and I shot 9-under and won the medal there. A couple days later, he was like, that's the best I've ever seen you play.

And then I walk off 18 on Sunday and he goes, are you still thinking about retiring? So you know, it just kind of -- it was just where I wasn't having any fun and I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere. I was working. I was working hard. I wasn't slouching around and not working at it but I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere, so it was becoming a little bit frustrating for me personally.

MARK WILLIAMS: We appreciate your time, Billy, and thanks for coming in, and all the best this week at the Bridgestone Invitational.

BILLY HURLEY III: Thanks a lot. Beat Army.

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