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A Third on the Fourth

There were fireworks aplenty during the final round of the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic over the 4th of July weekend.

Billy Hurley III had been in control of the first three rounds of the tournament taking a 2-shot lead over Argentinian Angel Cabrera into the final round at 12-under par.

There was something poetic about the thought of US Naval Academy graduate Hurley winning his first PGA Tour event during our Nation’s celebration of Independence.  Hurley was a decorated collegiate golfer whose sense of duty greatly over-weighed his desire to be a professional golfer, as he completed his obligations to the Navy rather than ask for a dispensation to play pro golf.  That dedication saw Hurley serve for two years of active duty in the Persian Gulf from 2007-2009.  It would also distinguish him among his peers when he began his professional golf career in 2010.

Hurley played his way onto the PGA Tour in 2012 after qualifying through the Nationwide Tour (now the Web.com Tour), but failed to keep that precious status as he finished the season at #151 on the Order of Merit (money list).  Undeterred, Hurley would once again gain PGA Tour status in 2013 to qualify for golf’s center stage.

Hurley led after both the second and third rounds, but could not sustain his brilliant play and wound up shooting a 3-over par, 73 in the finale that resulted in a tie for 4th place.  Hurley’s prize-money this week of $227,036 puts him over the magical million dollar mark for the season and virtually ensures him a Tour card in 2015.  Nobody could be more deserving.

Almost as remarkable as Hurley’s showing was that of 64 year old US Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson.  Watson would not only make the cut, but beat half of the surviving players in the field to finish at 4-under par at the close of play.  Maybe Watson should consider himself as a Captain’s pick in Gleneagles, Scotland?

The challengers on Sunday would come early and be scintillating in manner.  2012 U.S. Open Champion Webb Simpson, shot a final round 7-under par 63, to be at 10-under par for the tournament, but George McNeill topped that by two and posted a 9-under par 61 (this is the course that yields historically low scores as evidenced by Stuart Appleby’s finishing round of 59 when he captured the title in 2010).  McNeill separated himself from Simpson and the claiming the clubhouse lead at 14-under par.

Affable, Angel Cabrera, whose last appearance of note was in the 2013 Masters’ playoff that he lost so gracefully to Adam Scott, is the epitome of a player who runs “hot and cold”.  Ergo, when he’s “on” he is very, very “on”, but when he’s cold he may as well be in the freezer.

He was de-thawed this week.  Paired with Hurley in the last round and at 10-under par to begin the day, Cabrera’s Latin free-flowing swing sang on Sunday to produce one masterful stoke after the other crafting a signature 6-under, 64 that gave him a two-shot margin over McNeill and his third career win on the PGA Tour.

The 44 year old Argentine’s other two wins were at the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2009 Masters, so while the Greenbrier may not have the prestige of his two Major Championships, it is still significant in nature because it re-establishes his place amongst the elite players in the world.