WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — For Billy Hurley, the disappointment over playing himself out of the Greenbrier Classic championship picture had subsided Sunday afternoon.
It had to. A trip to the British Open suddenly hinged on every shot.
With the new Open Championship Qualifying Series, the top four players who didn’t already have an exemption qualified to play at Royal Liverpool.
At the top of the leaderboard, Angel Cabrera, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Brendon Todd had their tickets punched. George McNeill led the British derby from the clubhouse at 14 under.
When Hurley missed a 10 ½-foot par putt on the 15th, he dropped into a tie at 9 under with a sizable slice of the field — essentially, five players were tied for the last three British berths.
He thought he was in good shape, but wasn’t sure. He needed to find a birdie on the last three holes to be certain, and didn’t get them.
“The last three holes, I had some good looks at birdies, and knew if I made it, it would be good for sure,” Hurley said. “Couldn’t quite get any of them in, burned some edges. I kind of knew what was at stake.”
As it turned out, Hurley, Chris Stroud and Cameron Tringale won the berths, with Bud Cauley and Will Wilcox kicked to the curb. The Official World Golf Ranking was used to break the tie — Stroud was 85th, Tringale 121st, Hurley 197th, Cauley 295th and Wilcox 331st.
Hurley smiled with delight as Open officials formally extended the bid. But it would have been better had he taken the big prize at the Old White TPC.
“I’m going to sit back and think about it. I don’t really know,” Hurley said of his front-nine problems. “I hit some bad shots and wasn’t able to get it up and down. It was kind of the end of the day there.”
With that, Hurley will play in his second major, his first being this year’s U.S. Open. He finished tied for 48th at Pinehurst No. 2.
He hasn’t played the course — shoot, he said he’ll have to find it on a map — and admits he faces a difficult adjustment to links golf. He has not played in the British Isles since the 2004 Palmer Cup in Ballybunion, Ireland.
“I’m kind of more of a target-golf guy; I don’t necessarily hit it far,” he said. “I’ll have to make some adjustments and figure out how to play the course when I get there.”
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.