Furyk having fun again

By Jason SobelMay 9, 2014, 7:38 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Jim Furyk has spent more than two decades on the PGA Tour. He’s played more than 500 tournaments and forgotten more than most of his fellow pros will ever know.

There are certain moments, though, that have stuck with him through time. Not just the triumphant victories and bitter defeats, but small snapshots of an entire adult life spent around the professional game.

One of those snapshots is from the 1995 Shell Houston Open. In his second year as a Tour member, the 24-year-old Furyk raced to an opening-round 67, tied for second place in a group that included longtime pro Wayne Levi. After the round, Furyk beamed about his hot start, but Levi’s view was decidedly more acerbic.

“He was just saying, ‘It's a job; it's what I do for a living; it's my occupation,’” Furyk recalled. “I was a young guy on Tour; I was thinking this is the greatest job going. I was thinking, man, just shoot me if I ever get to the point where it becomes a job. I might as well quit.”

Last year, it became a job. This was right after a T-25 at the Masters and a T-47 at the RBC Heritage – hardly poor performances, but Furyk felt something had changed. He was no longer having fun playing golf.

In short, he’d turned into Wayne Levi, circa 1995.

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Rather than quit the game, as a 24-year-old Furyk might have suggested, he decided to change. He made a conscious effort to have more fun on the golf course. Smile more. Practice less. Enjoy the journey. Stop taking it all for granted.

“After so many years and wanting to do so many more things at home with my family and my kids and missing ballgames, getting in the car and driving away knowing I'm going to miss two lacrosse games and two baseball games one week, I was getting in the car going to work rather than getting in the car going to play a golf tournament,” he admitted. “I just had to kind of reorganize things and fix things, figure out things a little bit.”

He may not have it completely figured out, but he’s taken some major steps in the process. And it’s starting to show in his game. Following a solo second-place finish at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship, he finds himself on the leaderboard halfway through The Players Championship after opening rounds of 70-68.

And yes, he’s smiling more, too.

“I had to figure out a way to make it fun again and to enjoy what I do,” he said after a second round that included five birdies against a single bogey.

Case in point: On Tuesday, rather than grind through a practice round and lengthy range session here at TPC Sawgrass as he’s done in years past, he played a casual nine holes at nearby Pablo Creek with his father (and instructor) Mike and caddie Mike “Fluff” Cowan, before leaving to pick up his kids from school.

“We just had a good time,” Mike Furyk said. “We talked about that. He’s said the past few years, ‘I’m not going to be able to stay out here if I’m not having fun.’”

Of course, it’s tough to have fun when your game isn’t cooperating.

Ever since turning his cap backward in a driving rainstorm when he clinched the FedEx Cup four years ago, Furyk has failed to reach the winner’s circle, his career odometer stuck on 16 titles.

“It’s always frustrating, because he’s not playing golf for the money,” his father insisted. “He’s playing to win. He told me, ‘When I say that I’ve had a really good week and finish 10th, I’m done. Because I’m only playing to win. That’s what I want.’”

He’s now hoping that renewed happiness playing the game will lead to better results – a formula that is proving successful so far.

“Right now I've got a nice recipe,” he said. “It's not always going to be that way, but I feel like my attitude has bred my good play.”

Added the senior Furyk, “If he paces himself properly, he can keep playing. If he doesn’t, he’s going to kill himself. He’s going to burn out.”

It’s been nearly two decades since Jim Furyk hinted that if golf ever became a job, he would quit. 

That might have been the overzealous contemplation of an impressionable 24-year-old, but after more than 500 starts and forgetting more than most of his peers will ever know, the idea has stuck with him through the years, eating away at him when the game finally stopped being fun.

Since then, he’s changed. And if you believe him, it hasn’t been that difficult of a transition.

“It's not hard,” he said. “I mean, I’ve played this game my whole life because I love it.”

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Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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Webb granted special exemption for U.S. Women's Open

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

"As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.

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Notah: Driver is Tiger's No. 1 pre-Masters concern

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 5:49 pm

Tiger Woods mounted a Sunday charge at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, sending shockwaves through Bay Hill when it looked as though he might finally claim PGA Tour victory No. 80.

But the charge came to an end at the par-5 16th, where Woods had missed wide-right three days in a row before going OB-left on Sunday en route to bogey.

Woods’ API performance featured just a handful of drivers each day, as firm and fast conditions allowed him to make frequent use of a 2-iron off the tee.

That strategy led to a second top-5 finish in as many weeks, but if Woods wants to win again, if he wants claim another major, he is going to sort out his issues with the big stick.

A guest Monday morning on the Dan Patrick Show, Golf Channel’s Notah Begay believes the driver will be a focus for Woods in his pre-Masters preparation.

“Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver. … Any time he has to turn a shot right to left with trouble on the left, he struggles a little bit,” Begay said.

“Off the sixth tee, off the ninth tee, there was some errant shots. And then we saw the really horrible tee shot yesterday at 16. He talked about in the post-round comments. He just didn’t commit to a shot, and the worst thing that a professional athlete can do to themselves to compromise performance is not commit.

“And so he made a terrible swing, and that’s the miss that is really difficult for him to recover from, because the majority of his misses are out to the right. So, when you eliminate one half of the golf course, you can really make your way around … a lot easier. When you have a two-way miss going, which sometimes creeps into his driver, it really makes it difficult to take out some of the trouble that you’re looking at when you’re standing on the tee box.

“So he has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”

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McIlroy trails only Woods in Masters betting odds

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 5:47 pm

After rallying for victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy is once again among the betting favorites for the upcoming Masters.

McIlroy was available at 16/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook last week, listed behind six other players. But after his three-shot win at Bay Hill, his odds were trimmed to 10/1, leaving him behind only betting favorite Tiger Woods.

Next month will mark McIlroy's fourth opportunity to close out the final leg of the career Grand Slam by slipping into a green jacket. Here's a look at the current betting odds, with the first round only 17 days away:

8/1: Tiger Woods

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas

14/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose

16/1: Jason Day, Jon Rahm

18/1: Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson

25/1: Paul Casey, Bubba Watson

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman

50/1: Alex Noren

60/1: Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters

80/1: Branden Grace, Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Charley Hoffman, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay

100/1: Zach Johnson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner