Heading into this 4th of July weekend, the PGA TOUR has a decidedly patriotic feel as players assemble just outside our nation's capital for the Quicken Loans National. As the tournament sponsors many initiatives honoring America’s servicemen and servicewomen as part of its week-long celebration, it's certainly fitting that the defending champion is the only military veteran currently on the PGA TOUR.
Titleist golf ball loyalist Billy Hurley III (Pro V1) attended the Naval Academy and served five years of active duty in the Navy, rising to the rank of lieutenant before his commitment finished in 2009. The 35-year-old pro, who grew up in nearby Leesburg, Va., continues to live with his family in Annapolis and had the hometown crowd on his side last year as he captured his first PGA TOUR victory when this event was contested at Congressional Country Club.
This year, the event moves to TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, which is hosting its first Tour event in ten years. From 1987 to 2006, TPC Avenel (as it was then known) hosted the Kemper Open.
It's a somewhat unique experience on tour to defend a title at a new course, but Hurley said that he still feels like he has a home-court advantage at TPC Potomac.
"We certainly wish it was at Congressional," Hurley said, "because I finished first, fourth and eighth there, so there are courses for certain players and that's one of mine. But this is a familiar place to me. I do practice and play out here when I'm home a good bit, so it's a great spot and it will be a great event this week."
TPC Potomac has undergone substantial upgrades since it last served as host of the Kemper. The championship layout has been lengthened to 7,124 yards playing to a new par of 70. The design features an array of beautiful and strategically diverse holes that wind through wooded terrain, with numerous creeks and streams – including the historic Rock Run Stream Valley, one of the main tributaries of the Potomac River.
“There are no low scores here," Hurley said in assessing TPC Potomac." I think that 8 or 10- under won the Champions Tour Senior Players. I think 7-under won a Web.com event and 9 or 10-under won another Web.com here. It's a hard, hard golf course. The key out here more than anywhere else - there’s a lot of tee shots where you’ve go to be in the fairway. The rough is really thick and it's going to be penal compared to other weeks out here on Tour."
Good luck in your title defense, Billy!
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TITLEIST BY THE NUMBERS
This week at the Quicken Loans National, Titleist is once again the overwhelming golf ball choice, with 87 players in the limited field of 120 trusting a Titleist Pro V1 or Pro V1x golf ball, more than six times the nearest competitor with 13 and more than all competitors combined.
Titleist was also the top choice among players in the hybrids category (20) as well as the irons category with 36 sets in play. Vokey Design Wedges also topped the approach, sand and lob wedge (168) category and Scotty Cameron putters were the top choice among players with 53 putters in play.
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- The Quicken Loans National has had two first-time winners: Titleist golf ball loyalists Troy Merritt (Pro V1/2015) and Billy Hurley III (Pro V1/2016).
- The best 18-hole score at the Quicken Loans National was the 61 shot by Troy Merritt in 2015. Meritt went on to win the event, setting the 72-hole scoring mark as well (266).
- After major renovations, TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm reopened on April 28, 2009. Since then, TPC Potomac has hosted two Web.com Tour events - the Mid-Atlantic Championship in 2012 and 2013 (the 2012 event was won by Titleist Pro V1x loyalist David Lingmerth) as well as the 2010 Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship (won by Titleist Pro V1 loyalist Mark O'Meara).
- The top four finishers at this year's Quicken Loans National will earn spots into the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale (if not otherwise eligible). In all, the Qualifying Series is being contested at 15 events in 10 countries this season. A total of 44 places in The Open are available through the Series, which provides golfers with opportunities to qualify at events around the world on the PGA TOUR, European Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia, Asian Tour, Japan Golf Tour and the Sunshine Tour. In addition to the Quicken Loans National, other PGA TOUR events in the Qualifying Series include The Greenbrier Classic (four spots available) and John Deere Classic (one spot).
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PLAYERS TO WATCH:
- Titleist golf ball loyalist Rickie Fowler (Pro V1) will compete in the event for the sixth time. His best finish came in 2015 when was his runner-up. Fowler has racked up six top-6 finishes this season. In addition to his win at The Honda Classic, he finished T2 at the Memorial Tournament, T3 at the Shell Houston Open, T4 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, T5 at the U.S. Open and T6 at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions.
- A four-time winner on Tour this season, Titleist Brand Ambassador Justin Thomas (Pro V1x) is seeking his third top-12 finish or better in as many starts at the event (T4-2015, T12-2016). Thomas currently sits third in the FedExCup standings.
- 2013 Quicken Loans National champion, Titleist Brand Ambassador Bill Haas (Pro V1x) has finished inside the top 4 in three of his last four starts at the event (1-2013, T30-2014, T4-2015, T3-2016). The six-time PGA TOUR winner has three top-10 finishes this season, including a 3rd-place showing at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play.
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Defending champion, Billy Hurley III encourages everyone at Quicken Loans National to wear red this Friday, a sign of support for our troops deployed around the globe.
Titleist golf ball loyalist David Lingmerth (Pro V1x) fired a 5-under-par 65 to take the overnight lead. He has some experience on this track..
A big story this week - Tour seeding began for the new prototype Titleist 718 irons.
Titleist Brand Ambassador Justin Thomas is one of many players who have already put the new 718’s straight in the bag.
Seeding for the new prototypes also commenced at the Open de France on the European Tour. Titleist Brand Ambassador Ian Poulter (Pro V1x) is apparently already bonding with his new 718 irons.
Titleist Brand Ambassador Peter Uihlein (Pro V1x) also weighed in on the new prototypes from France.
Back in the States, Titleist Brand Ambassador Russell Henley (Pro V1x) shared a photo of his new prototype 718 T-MB..
Kevin Harms, who caddies for Titleist Brand Ambassador Kevin Na (Pro V1), snagged one of Kevin’s new prototype 718 AP2 irons and shared this photo.
Team Titleist was at Quicken Loans National this week, taking in all the action as Tour Reps and the Titleist Golf Club R&D team fit players into the new prototype 718 irons, tested them out on the practice range and collected player feedback. Click here for more coverage of the seeding process.
Titleist Brand Ambassador Scott Stallings (Pro V1x) ended his first round in style.
Titleist Brand Ambassador Bill Haas (Pro V1x) uncorked a great drive on the 299-yard 14th hole at TPC Potomac with his 917F2 fairway metal.
Good luck to all of Team Titleist this weekend, thank you to all our men and women in uniform and Happy Independence Day!