Furyk and Friends tees off Friday with one of strongest fields ever on Champions Tour

Jim Furyk tees off the second hole during the final round of the U.S. Senior Open golf tournament at Omaha Country Club, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Omaha, Neb. (Z Long/Omaha World-Herald via AP, Z Long/Omaha World-Herald via AP)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you woke up 10 years ago and saw pairings at The Players that included Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, and Padraig Harrington, followed by Fred Couples, Davis Love II, and Steve Stricker, you wouldn’t be surprised. Fast forward a decade, and those same stars are among the featured groups for Friday’s first round of the inaugural Constellation Furyk and Friends tournament on the PGA Tour Champions.

Furyk is the host and one of the players in the spotlight as the tournament tees off at Timuquana Country Club this weekend. It’s the realization of a vision that Furyk and his wife Tabitha had three years ago. This week, it becomes a reality.

“It felt like this day or this week would never get here,” Furyk said on Wednesday. “And then the last few months have kind of flown by. So far everything I’ve heard is extremely positive. Not much not to like with a beautiful view of the city from here.”

The setup of the tournament and the course itself have drawn rave reviews from some of the most accomplished golfers on the planet.

“I saw it on the schedule and I think Jim and I played a few times this year and I was excited to come,” said World Golf Hall of Famer Fred Couples. “And I’ve heard nothing but great things about the golf course, which is great, too”

The field, called “the strongest outside of a major” by tournament director Adam Renfroe, is expected to draw thousands to the course. Renfroe said over 13,000 tickets were sold for all three days of the tournament.

“I think pride is a good word to describe it,” Renfroe said. “We’ve talked about this event for so long and really tried to pull together Jim and Tabitha’s vision. To see this event on property now is so exciting for us.”

Represented in the field are 22 major champions, including Mickelson, who became the oldest winner of a major this summer when he won the PGA Championship. He’s one of the “young” guys on the tour.

“The latest crop of what we call rookies that have come out here the last year or two have been exceptional,” said Bernhard Langer, the most decorated player on the PGA Tour Champions tour. “Ernie Els and Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen, Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson, they are all major winners and have had tremendous careers. Some of them are Hall of Famers. If they’ve done that well in their 40s, they are going to continue to do that well into their 50s and we continue to see it.”

Hosting a tournament like this is no easy feat. Furyk is also playing in the event. Why did he decide to do it?

“It was an opportunity more than anything else,” Furyk said. “It was an opportunity that Tabitha and I talked about and an opportunity for us to really showcase our city in Jacksonville and then also raise more money for charity.”

Many of the competitors have played in dozens of Players Championships, but have never ventured inland from Ponte Vedra to see Jacksonville. The visit to Timuquana Country Club and even to downtown Jacksonville, has been a first for many.

“I’ve actually just said to the guys earlier, I’ve never been to downtown,” said Ernie Els, a four-time major champion. “So I’m seeing a different side of Jacksonville and the community.”

It’s also a first time for Steve Stricker. The victorious Ryder Cup captain has played in 23 Players Championships, but this week was his first time at Timuquana.

“(Furyk said that) it’s a wonderful course, a great old-style course, it’s a beautiful setting,” Stricker said. “My first time here just walking in and it is very pretty, so anxious to get out there on the course and see what it’s all about.”