A solid and sour year for Jim Furyk
Furyk tees it up at the McGladrey Classic from Sea Island Thursday morning
Jim Furyk is playing his final official tournament of the year at the McGladrey Classic, and even a win at Sea Island might not be enough to chase away such a sour taste from an otherwise solid year.
There are enough indications to give him plenty of confidence going forward.
Furyk started the year at No. 50 in the world ranking and has gone up to No. 23. His adjusted scoring average is 68.41, second only to Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, and nearly a half-stroke better than his average in 2010 when he won three times, captured the FedEx Cup and was voted PGA Tour player of the year.
Therein lies the difference. And it's a big difference.
The trophy case is empty this year, matching the feeling he has inside him.
"I can't deny the fact that I played well," Furyk said Wednesday. "I can't deny the fact that I have a lot of confidence in my game and the direction that it's going. But it's still disappointing when I look back at what could have been instead of what happened."
Furyk lost on the first extra hole at Innisbrook when he faced an awkward lie for his second shot, did well to find the back of the green and didn't get another chance when Luke Donald made birdie to win a four-man playoff. He was tied for the lead on the 16th tee at the U.S. Open - the first of consecutive par 5s at Olympic Club - when he hooked his tee shot into the woods, made bogey and never recovered. The worst of it came at Firestone, one of his favorite courses, when he took double bogey on the last hole and lost by one to Keegan Bradley in the Bridgestone Invitational.
"My game was very consistent. My game was good," Furyk said. "But the goal is to try to win golf tournaments. And to get so close - especially in big events - and not be able to close the door leaves a sour taste."
He would have settled for a U.S. victory in the Ryder Cup, except that went about like the rest of his year.
Furyk was among three Americans who were all square going to the 18th hole at Medinah and ended up losing, which enabled Europe to stage a stunning comeback. Furyk was 1-up over Sergio Garcia when he pulled his tee shot into the bunker on the 17th and made bogey, and then went long from a fairway bunker on the closing hole and three-putted from off the green to lose the match. The image of Furyk in a moment of despair, bent over with hands on his knees, made the cover of one golf magazine.
To win this week would essentially be light dressing on a deep wound.
"It would be positive," Furyk said. "But still, when anyone talks about the year, you're going to talk about two events. It would be a positive end. I was hoping that's what the Ryder Cup would be. We would thump them on Sunday, and that would be a good, positive end of the year for me."
Sea Island is only about 90 miles from Furyk's home in Florida, and the field is not as strong as it was last year. It features Ryder Cup teammate Zach Johnson, Ryder Cup captain and tournament host Davis Love III, along with Jason Day. The McGladrey Classic was hurt by the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, which has a Monday pro-am next week in Bermuda and includes Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson. Matt Kuchar, who lives at Sea Island, is playing an exhibition in China.
Furyk also plans to play the World Challenge that Tiger Woods hosts in California the week after Thanksgiving. Barring a win this week that would get Furyk into Kapalua for the Tournament of Champions, he won't play again until Pebble Beach.
At some point in the next month, he will reflect on the year to figure out what he has to do to get better - what has to change for him to be a better closer. Love already has encouraged Furyk to look at the opportunities instead of the failures, a conversation that took place when Love made him a captain's pick in September.
"He was three swings away from probably being a player of the year candidate," Love said. "He hits the fairway at the U.S. Open. His ball stays in the trees maybe in Akron and he chips out and hits a wedge on the green and he wins that tournament. And then he hits the green at 17 in the Ryder Cup, and we win the Ryder Cup. He would have had a hell of a year given three swings over again.
"As competitors, we see how close it was to great more than we see how everybody else sees it - 'Well, he screwed those three tournaments up, didn't he?' Well, no, Jim Furyk got picked for the Ryder Cup because he was two swings away from winning two big tournaments."
Furyk's match didn't determine the outcome of the Ryder Cup. Europe picked up additional points on the 18th hole when Justin Rose finished birdie-birdie to beat Phil Mickelson, and when Steve Stricker fell behind on the 17th by failing to get up-and-down with a routine chip. Kaymer's 6-foot par putt on the last hole clinched in for Europe.
Oddly enough, Furyk spoke in the days before the Ryder Cup of being in position to win or lose the Ryder Cup. He spoke then of having to accept "that sometimes it turns out good, and sometimes it doesn't."
This year, it hasn't turned out well at all.
Love has a PGA Championship among his 20 PGA Tour titles, and he holed the winning putt in his first Ryder Cup in 1993 at The Belfry. Even so, Love still remembers finishing with back-to-back bogeys, including a three-putt on the 18th at Oakland Hills, to lose the 1996 U.S. Open.
"We get remembered for a lot of things," Love said. "Jim has done a lot of great stuff, as well, and played a lot of great golf. Just like the Ryder Cup, or just like him at the U.S. Open, you don't get to enjoy the good times unless you screw it up every once in a while in front of everybody.
"Jim loves being there, and I think he'll continue to be there for quite a while."
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