After a stretch of nearly a dozen years, Tiger Woods added a 15th career major golf championship to his resumé April 14 by winning the Masters Tournament for the fifth time in his career.
For one weekend, the sports world tuned in to watch Woods charge up the leaderboard and complete one of the biggest redemption stories the sport has ever seen. Former U.S. Naval Academy golfer and current pro Billy Hurley III was just one of many rooting for Woods to take the green jacket at Augusta National Golf Club.
"Fifteen years ago you would have said, 'Of course, Tiger Woods wins another Masters,'" Hurley said on
Glenn Clark Radio
April 15. "And then for everything that he has kind of gone through, and his back and everything else; for him to play that way down the back stretch on the back nine there, it was really incredible."
Hurley, 36, turned professional in 2006, just before Woods' decade-long stretch of almost-unfathomable dominance came to an end. Since Woods' win at the U.S. Open in 2008, he has dealt with on- and off-the-course issues that threatened to end his career. In watching Woods complete the long trek back to the top, Hurley understands how important Woods' performance was.
"I think it certainly pushes the game of golf forward in a way that wouldn't have happened without him winning another major," Hurley said. "It is going to push the PGA Tour forward in ways that wouldn't have happened without him."
Hurley also pointed out the change in Woods' demeanor on the course.
"I think there's no question that there's a new Tiger out there on tour," he said. "He doesn't look through people anymore: he actually sees you."
Hurley also believes that raising children has forced Woods to shift the way he fits golf into his life.
"The turning point to me, and knowing what I know as a father, is him having kids," Hurley said. "I think that his kids really have changed the way he looks at things, and he has other priorities now."
Even as Woods balances golf with his personal life, his win at the Masters breathes new life into his quest for the all-time record for major wins. (He has 15, while Jack Nicklaus holds the record with 18.) Hurley said he would especially like to see Woods break the all-time record for wins on the PGA Tour (at 81, Woods is just one behind Sam Snead).
"He's not going to overpower a golf course anymore in the way that some of the younger guys can overpower a golf course," Hurley said. "But he's still obviously every bit as capable of hitting the right shot at the right time, and he did that time and time again down the back nine. ... It will be interesting to see where Tiger goes from here."
Hurley himself already turned in a solid performance this year, finishing tied for 30th at the Valspar Championship in March. A resident of Annapolis, Md., and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Hurley also will host the annual Billy Hurley III and the Brave Golf Tournament in July.
Hurley's foundation raffles 18 spots in the tournament to active-duty military members across the country. All of the proceeds of the tournament, held at the Naval Academy, benefit families of active-duty military members.
"We're trying to give families the experiences and support they wouldn't get otherwise," Hurley said. "This is the third year, and I've really been overwhelmed by how well it's gone and how well it's been received."
For more from Hurley, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox