Furyk wants to put 2012 behind him

By John FeinsteinJune 11, 2013, 12:39 pm

Jim Furyk sat in a corner of the locker room at TPC Sawgrass on a May afternoon a couple of hours after shooting an even-par round of 72 to open The Players Championship. Furyk treasures routine, and this steamy Thursday had been no different than most days in his 20-year career on the PGA Tour. He had played 18 holes, grinding on every shot, signed his scorecard and gone inside to cool off and get something to eat.

Then, he and his dad headed for the range, just as they have done thousands of times since Jim’s boyhood to see if there was something that could be tweaked to make his game just a little better.

“We hit a lot of drivers,” Furyk said, pausing to sip from a bottle of water. “It’s the oldest golfer’s lament there is, I guess, but I don’t feel like I’m that far away. A tweak here, a tweak there and I can be close to where I want to be.”

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He leaned back in his chair and smiled.

“So, what’s up?” he asked.

I had asked Furyk if he had some free time and he had suggested we meet in the locker room at 4 o’clock. He was two minutes late – unusual for him – which is early for most athletes. My all-time record is Kevin Mitchell, the baseball player, who strolled into the Seattle Mariners' locker room at 5:15 for a 2 o’clock meeting and said, “I’ve only got about 10 minutes.” I will not repeat what I told him he could do with his 10 minutes.

Furyk is the anti-Kevin Mitchell, not only always punctual when he says he’ll be somewhere, but always patient and generous with his time.

So, when he asked, ‘what’s up,’ I answered directly:

“I want to talk about last year.”

Furyk’s smile disappeared. He swigged the water again and shook his head in a way that made me think he was going to say, “I’m done with that.” I wouldn’t have blamed him. I almost felt guilty about asking but believed it was worth it because Furyk is one of golf’s most thoughtful people. And I had no doubt he had thought about 2012 a lot.

By almost any standard, 2012 was a great year for Furyk. He had bounced back from what had been a terrible year for him in 2011. After winning three times in 2010 and being voted PGA Tour Player of the Year at age 40, he had dropped to 54th place on the money list and never finished higher than sixth all year. During one stretch he missed four straight cuts – unheard of for him.

In 2012, he had seven top-10s and two 11th-place finishes. He more than doubled his money, winning more than $3.6 million to finish 12th on the money list. He lost a playoff in Tampa; almost won the U.S. Open; should have won in Akron and made the Ryder Cup team – his eighth straight.

And yet, when the subject of that year came up, he visibly sagged in his seat.

“You know I’ve always taken the approach that you talk about your successes and you talk about your failures,” he said, speaking slowly, choosing his words every bit as carefully as he chooses a club on the golf course. “I don’t think I’ve ever been one to duck people.'

Furyk’s year was marked by three extraordinarily painful near-misses. His loss in a four-way playoff to Luke Donald in Tampa didn’t really bother him because he played well, birdied the 18th to get into the playoff, and felt as if the work he had done during the offseason was going to pay off before the year was over.

It did – sort of – but not in the way he would have liked. He was tied for the lead at the U.S. Open at Olympic with two par 5s to play on Sunday. But he hit  arguably one of the worst shots of his career, a disastrous snap-hooked 3-wood off the 16th tee and ended up making bogey. Another bogey at 18 – needing a birdie to tie Webb Simpson – led to a tie for fourth.

“I’ve never been bothered that much by physical mistakes,” Furyk said. “We all make them. I have a 7-iron to the green from the middle of the fairway and I make a bad swing and put it in a bunker I’m not happy but I know it happens. Mental mistakes bother me – they stay with me. To me, those are avoidable. They shouldn’t happen.

“What happened at 16 at Olympic was a mental mistake that led to a really bad physical mistake,” he said. “I guess it’s fair to say that I got freaked out by where they’d put the tee. I just couldn’t make myself commit to the shot I needed to hit.”

The tee at 16 was part of Mike Davis’ U.S. Open set-up philosophy. Davis likes to create at least one shot a day during the Open that forces players to think outside the box. Moving the tee box up 101 yards on 16 was his Sunday outside-the-box move at the Open. Like a lot of players, Furyk doesn’t like to be forced out of his comfort zone.

“It’s one thing to say you have three tee boxes on a hole,” Furyk said. “It’s another to move the tee up 100 yards. I talked to Mike about it afterwards and he explained his thinking to me. It comes down to the philosophy of a player versus the philosophy of a guy setting up the course. There’s no right and wrong involved.

“Bottom line is everyone in the field played the hole from there that day and I handled it worse than just about anyone.”

Furyk badly wants to win another major – and would especially like to repeat his 2003 Open victory at Olympia Fields. He was close at Winged Foot in ’06; close at Oakmont in ’07 and painfully close again in ’12. He’s well aware of the fact that another major win would virtually clinch a spot for him in the Hall of Fame. He has one major win; 16 wins on Tour in all and all those Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup appearances (15 in all). A second major would remove any lingering doubt.

“I try not to think about it (the Hall of Fame) because I still think I have a few more years of playing well enough that I’m not ready to start looking back yet,” he said. “But it comes up enough that I can’t help but think about it at times.” He smiled. “I didn’t lose the Open because I was thinking, ‘this will get me in the Hall of Fame.’ That’s one thing I can tell you for sure.”

He lost at Akron in early August because he badly chopped up the 18th hole on Sunday, making a double-bogey 6 to turn a one-shot lead over Keegan Bradley into a one-shot loss.

“That one hurt because I should have won the tournament,” he said. “I played beautifully almost the entire week. I could have won the Open; I should have won Akron. The worst shot I hit (on 18) was my third because I rushed through my routine, probably because I was upset with the first two shots. Again, a mental mistake. And then I let that lead to hitting a bad putt (from 5 feet) for bogey.

“That made me angry – very angry – with myself. It just shouldn’t have happened. It was my tournament to win and I gave it away. I’ve won 16 times in 20 years out here and I’ve been a pretty good player the whole time. What that means is when you get a chance to win, you better take it because it doesn’t happen all that often.” He smiled for a second. “Unless you’re Tiger Woods.”

The most painful loss for Furyk may have been the one at Medinah, when the U.S. blew a 10-6 lead to Europe on Sunday. Playing in the eighth singles match against Sergio Garcia (whom he had beaten in singles in 1999 when the Americans rallied from 10-6 down to win) Furyk was 1 up through 16 holes and it easily could have been 2 up. Garcia made a tough up-and-down from a bunker at 16 while Furyk missed a 15-foot birdie putt he thought was going in the hole.

Furyk then missed both the 17th and 18th greens and couldn’t make par-saving putts on either hole. Garcia parred them both to win, 1 up. Furyk readily admits that the 7-foot putt he missed on 18 was one of the most painful moments of his career.

“Believe me, I knew what was at stake,” he said. “I could see the scoreboards and I knew that half-point could easily be the difference at that stage. I read the putt right, I hit it well. It just didn’t go in.”

During the U.S. team’s postmatch news conference, someone asked Furyk if losing as part of a team was more painful or less painful than losing in an individual event. It was a rare moment when Furyk lost a little bit of composure.

“Obviously you’ve never been a competitor or you wouldn’t ask that question,” Furyk said. Then he recovered and said the Ryder Cup was a team event, which meant he knew he had 11 players, his captain and his assistant captains behind him – win or lose.

“It wasn’t so much the question as the tone of the question,” Furyk said, months later, readily conceding that he lost his cool. “It came across as condescending. I didn’t know the guy. Maybe if it was someone I knew, I’d have taken a deep breath before I said anything. But it wasn’t.”

Furyk had been talking for more than an hour. He hadn’t snapped at any question and, as always, answered thoughtfully and in detail. “One reason I’m looking forward to the Open is that maybe I can put last year behind me once and for all once we get there.”

I reminded him he would undoubtedly be asked questions about Olympic before teeing it up at Merion.

“Yeah, I know,” he said with a sigh. “I’ll deal with it.”

Furyk has always dealt with it – the good and the bad.

“I’m 43,” he said. “Next year, I’m going to cut my schedule back. It’s just time. I want to focus on playing places I like to play and where I think I can win. I’m not going to do a full Stricker (as in cut back to a dozen events a la Steve Stricker) but I won’t play 25 anymore. The important thing is I believe I’m going to win more golf tournaments.

“In 2010 I had three good chances to win and won all three times. Last year, I probably had more chances to win but didn’t get it done. All I want is more chances to win. I believe next time I get the chance, I’ll finish the job.”

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry