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Golf: Navy vet Hurley grabs PGA lead on July 4

Billy Hurley, the only military veteran now playing on the US PGA Tour, celebrated America's Independence Day holiday by grabbing the halfway lead in the Greenbrier Classic.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, United States: Billy Hurley, the only military veteran now playing on the US PGA Tour, celebrated America's Independence Day holiday by grabbing the halfway lead in the Greenbrier Classic.

Hurley, a graduate of the US Naval Academy who served on a Navy destroyer, had seven birdies in his seven-under 63 for a 36-hole total of nine-under 131.

He had a one-stroke lead over Americans Kevin Chappell and Chris Stroud. Chappell notched five birdies in a five-under 65 and Stroud posted six birdies and two bogeys in his four-under 66.

Troy Matteson also provided plenty of holiday fireworks, with nine birdies in his nine-under 61 that left him alone in fourth place on 133.

Matteson, who has made only four cuts in 14 starts this season, needed just 19 putts.

He had 13 one-putt greens and chipped in for birdie at the 11th.

"This was unlike any day I've had this year but I've always been a streaky putter," he said. "When I get hot, it usually falls in from just about anywhere."

Matteson, who had missed the cut in his previous four starts, knew he needed a hole in one at the par-three 18th to fire golf's magic number of 59. He aimed at the pin with a pitching wedge, but ended up settling for a par.

"I was like I've just got to take a shot at it," Matteson said. "I just pushed it, just very slightly."

For halfway leader Hurley, delivering on Independence Day was a special experience.

"Anytime you play good, it's great, right?" Hurley said. "But certainly there's special days of the year for our country, and

being the only person playing this week who has served, the only military veteran on tour, it adds."

Hurley, who said he knew from a young age that he wanted to attend the Naval Academy, graduated in 2004 and served five years in the Navy.

He played for the United States in the 2005 Walker Cup amateur match play tournament against Britain and Ireland, and turned pro in 2006 while still on active duty.

In 2007, he was assigned to a destroyer, the USS Chung-Hoon, and recalled piloting the ship through the Suez Canal as the highlight of his service on board.

When he got out of the Navy in 2009, he pursued his pro career on mini-tours and the developmental Web.com Tour. He earned and then lost his US PGA Tour card and played the Web.com Tour last year.

This season on the US PGA Tour has been more successful for Hurley, who posted his third top-10 finish of the season last week at the National hosted by Tiger Woods.

But Hurley will have his work cut out this weekend, with a host of players within striking distance on the Old White course.

Americans Steve Stricker (68), Chris Kirk (69) and Brice Garnett (66) shared fifth on 134.

Masters champion Bubba Watson carded a 67 to head a group of five players on 135 that also included Colombian Camilo Villegas (67).

Another dozen players, including Argentina's Angel Cabrera and New Zealand's Danny Lee were tied on 136, while overnight leader Jonas Blixt of Sweden - who launched his title defense with a first-round 64 - carded a 73 to head a group on 137.

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