PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Jim Furyk leads Jason Dufner by one shot entering the final round of the 95th PGA Championship, with Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Steve Stricker and Jonas Blixt within four of the lead. We asked our writers on-site at Oak Hill to pick a winner.
By REX HOGGARD
What we’ve learned from watching Tiger Woods the last half decade – he hasn’t won a major since 2008, for those who have been spending time under rocks – is that willing yourself to a major championship is not really an option.
Grand Slams are won with a certain degree of indifference, otherwise the target supersedes the task and that, any sports psychologist will tell you, simply won’t do. And that is why it will be Jim Furyk who emerges from a congested leaderboard late Sunday at Oak Hill to collect his second major and prove for the second consecutive Grand Slam that 43 is the new 33.
Just look at how Furyk reacted after bogeying two of his first three holes on Saturday. There was no panic, no pressing, just quiet resolve and purpose.
The veteran would play the rest of the way in 4 under par, including a gritty par save at the last, for a one-stroke advantage. Or consider how he responded to the inevitable questions following his third-round 68.
“I know I’m going to go into the media room and someone is going to ask me, ‘You’re 43, how many more opportunities do you think you’re going to have?’” Furyk said. “I’m going to look at this as an opportunity.”
Furyk knows better than anyone, sometimes you have to let a major win you.
By JASON SOBEL
Lee Westwood is going to win the 95th PGA Championship – and yes, I know I’m going out on an awfully fickle limb.
Westwood will begin the final round six shots behind leader Jim Furyk, which hardly makes him the favorite. Neither does the fact that he’s been in close to a dozen major contentions in the past, only to come up empty every time.
But if anyone knows about the power of positive thinking and being aggressive and making a run at a far-ahead leader, it’s Westwood. Just last month, he was on the other end of things, leading through 54 holes at Muirfield, only to get run over by a train named Phil Mickelson.
I still think Westwood, now 40, will win a major championship in his career. So why not this one? He’s proven he isn’t the greatest closer when owning the lead entering Sunday at a major, but luckily for him, nobody else above him on the leaderboard is, either. Of all the occasions we’ve wondered whether it was Westwood’s time to win a major, this one is hardly getting much attention. Which may be exactly what he needs to finally win one
By RYAN LAVNER
Jim Furyk has struggled finishing off tournaments in his career – he’s just 9-for-21 when holding at least a share of the 54-hole lead. Think about that conversion rate. Less than 43 percent. If he were a team’s closer, the manager would have already yanked him out of the role and shipped him to Triple-A to work on his mechanics.
But I believe he will win Sunday, even if his 43-year-old nerves are frayed from decades of grinding. The stats this week say he will. No one is playing better, tee-to-green: He’s T-6 in both fairways hit and greens in regulation, and T-12 in putting.
That’s better than the streaky Jason Dufner, who is outside the top 20 in both fairways hit and putting. Better than the robotic Henrik Stenson, whose week has been remarkably consistent (T-16 fairways, T-25 greens, T-10 putting) once again, but not as good as Furyk. Better than the uber-talented Adam Scott, who has been a touch off with his long game all week (T-36 fairways and T-18 greens), while his broomstick, of all things, is keeping him in the hunt.
To finish off this major, Furyk, the game’s ultimate grinder, just needs to keep hitting more fairways and greens than his peers. At penal Oak Hill, that should be enough.
By JOHN HAWKINS
I had the late half of the live chat on GolfChannel.com Saturday afternoon, and was telling anyone who would listen that I thought Adam Scott would win this tournament. That was before he double bogeyed the 16th, however, and I’ve since re-examined the big picture.
Henrik Stenson is my pick to get it done at Oak Hill. He entered the week playing better than anyone at the top of the leaderboard – and has just two bogeys over the last 41 holes. As much as I respect Jim Furyk and appreciate his career, the dual collapses at Olympic and Firestone last summer remain on my mind. Besides, he hasn’t won in almost three years.
Jason Dufner hits it as well as anyone, including Scott, but I look at his putting stroke and question his ability to hole a big 6-footer down the stretch Sunday. I just don’t see Stenson giving much back to the field Sunday – or anyone firing a 66 to rally from five or six back.