Judgment Day

By Brian HewittJune 16, 2003, 4:00 pm
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- Golf is, among other things, a game of judgments. Judge the wind. Judge the distance. Judge the lie. Judge your courage.
Jim Furyk won the 103d U.S. Open Sunday at Olympia Fields near Chicago because he took the measure of the golf course better than anybody else in the field. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday the greens were soft and the winds were light. Furyk attacked. Tiger Woods, just to name one, would later come to realize he should have done the same.
Furyk shot 67-66-67 the first three rounds, which staked him to a three-shot lead with which to sleep on Saturday night. At no time on Sunday did his lead shrink from that margin. Olympia Fields didn't show its true fangs until the final day. Furyk spotted the danger early Sunday and backed off, engineering a smart 72 for a three-shot victory over Aussie Stephen Leaney.
In the end, Jim Furyk judged the golf course.
And now we move on. The British Open is the next major. It will be conducted in five weeks in the south of England at a course called Royal St. George's. Seems strange that Woods, who so very recently held title to all four major championships, has now failed to win four of them in a row.
His critics are calling it a 'reverse slam.' That is unfair.
So much was made of all the low numbers carded at Olympia Fields. Yet by the end of the week only four players - Furyk, Leaney, Masters champion Mike Weir and Kenny Perry, whose Sunday 67 was the low round of the day - were still under par.
We can only hope the USGA notices (it usually does) and not decide it has to 'trick up' Shinnecock for next year's U.S. Open. Weir, packing his things in a near-empty locker room late Sunday, was asked if putting Shinnecock on steroids would be a mistake. 'I think so,' he said.
Weir was very much aware that neither he nor Furyk - the winners of this year's first two majors - are 'bombers' in the conventional long-driving sense of the word. As obscenely short as some of the yardages that certain players had into the long par 4s at Olympia Fields, Furyk's most telling stat was No. 2 in fairways in regulation.
What should Furyk expect now that he is the member of that special club of players who have won major championships? 'Be ready for Monday through Wednesday at the British Open,' Weir said. 'Because he will get inundated by interview requests.'
The guess here is that he will judge a way to handle that barrage as well. Furyk is a big-time talent with a journeyman's work ethic. He has been nibbling around the edges of greatness for half a decade. He has a swing that fits his marvelous athleticism. And, Billy Mayfair said late Sunday, 'he can repeat it time and time again.' Mayfair knows how this works. He has an unorthodox putting stroke. But he repeats it. Mayfair, by the way, tied for 10th at Olympia Fields.
One more judge needs to be credited here. Scott McCarron, after playing poorly Thursday, was asked what he thought the winning score would be Sunday. 'Eight under,' he said.
Eight-under it was for Furyk and a total of 272, a number that tied the championship record.
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.