Furyk Back on Track Picking Up Steam

By Mercer BaggsMay 11, 2005, 4:00 pm
Thanks, Jim. Thanks for doing my job for me.
 
I had this wonderful idea bouncing around in my head last week at the Wachovia Championship. Lets catch up with Jim Furyk, I thought. Hes playing well of late; let me let the golfing public know where Jim Furyk is in relation to his comeback from wrist surgery a year ago.
 
Jim Furyk
Jim Furyk reacts to his birdie on the 72nd hole to force a three-way playoff at the Wachovia Championship.
And so we chatted Friday after you shot a solid, even-par 72 to keep you within four shots of Sergio Garcias 36-hole lead.
 
You gave me a good 10 minutes of your time, and offered some positive insight. I left feeling positive myself, thinking I was ready to inform the golfing world: Jim Furyk is back.
 
And then you went ahead and did it yourself over the weekend at Quail Hollow. You shot 69-66 to get into a three-way playoff with Garcia and Vijay Singh. And you nearly outlasted them both for what would have been your first PGA Tour win since the 2003 Buick Open.
 
You just couldnt wait, could you? If you had just held off for one more week to contend then you would have allowed me to be the messenger ' and then you could have validated my feature. It would have been perfect.
 
Instead, you let your clubs scoop me.
 
But thats OK. I certainly dont hold it against you. Youve been waiting for nearly two years to win again, and its been over a year since you had arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage damage in your left wrist.
 
When its time, its time. And you cant hold off a break-through performance for my sake.
 
You told me that you never regretted the surgery. You were a little apprehensive at first, and who could blame you? You were fresh off your most successful campaign as a professional ' and thats saying a lot. You were the reigning U.S. Open champion. You were the third-ranked player in the world at one point.
 
And then the Jimbo Express, running full steam ahead, ran right off the tracks.
 
That's when you were faced with the uncertainties of surgery.
 
You had to wonder: Will this make me a better player? Will I even be as good as I am now? Will I be worse? Will I -- gasp! -- have to become a television analyst at an early age?
 
You said that it all worked out for the best, even though you were out for five months last year and had only two top-10s upon your return. Youre now pain free, and that was worth one lost season.
 
You didnt win in Charlotte ' officially speaking, but it certainly had to feel like a victory on some level. After all, you handled yourself quite admirably, under pressure you hadnt faced in quite some time. You handled the pressure of playing in the final twosome on Sunday; you handled being six down to start the day; you handled the need to birdie the final hole of regulation to ensure a spot in the sudden-death playoff; and then after disposing of Garcia, you nearly put a handle on arguable the best player in the game in Singh.
 
We now know youre 'back' ' peers and public alike. And evidently you didnt need me to be the set-up man.
 
But, nevertheless, Im going to relay the things you told me ' back when I mistakenly perceived myself to be a herald.
 
'I have confidence in it, you said of your game. Ive felt good ever since we hit the east coast ' since the end of March, Ive felt good about my game. Ive played some really solid tournaments and Im hoping to keep that up ' trying to put myself in position to win a tournament.
 
Well, that didnt take long.
 
'I love the summer, you added. When the weather gets hot, I like it. I love Colonial, I love Memorial. We have a great stretch after that, too, with Congressional, Pinehurst, Westchester, Cog Hill ' all great golf courses. I kind of love that stretch, from May to the first of July.
 
This is your time of year, no doubt about it.
 
You have a pair of top-5 finishes at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship, which you are competing in this week. You have four career top-10s at the Bank of America Colonial, including a runner-up in 1998. You won the 2002 Memorial Tournament. You tied for fifth in the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club, which will host this years Booz Allen Classic. You won the 2003 U.S. Open. You have a pair of top-3s at the Barclays Classic (formerly the Buick Classic). And youve finished in the top-10 in five of your last six starts at the Cialis Western Open.
 
You plan on playing in all of these events over the next two months.
 
Ill probably play eight of the next nine weeks ' and Ill be fried by the end of that point. But Im looking forward to it, you said.
 
You admitted that you got a little antsy last year. Things started off well, you said, and then you kind of got a bit ahead of yourself. You made your return at the U.S. Open ' three months earlier than initially expected. It took you 10 years on tour to win your first major and you just couldnt imagine missing a chance to defend that title.
 
Your expectations were reasonable. But, of course, that didnt last very long.
 
That five-month layoff I had, its tough to kind of come right back. Youre not coming back when youre 100 percent healthy either. Not to mention that everyone is going to compare how I played last year to how I played in 03, which was my best year ever. I couldnt expect to get right back to where I was, you said.
 
I was very patient for the first couple of months. But towards the end of the season ' I was just getting going towards the end of the season, and I tried to push a little too hard. Were all competitors; were all trying to do well. Its kind of natural instinct to want to go back out there and want to get it back quick.'
 
When a train gets derailed, it doesn't get back on the tracks and resume the same pace. That requires time and momentum.
 
More than anything, Im just happy to get a full season under my belt ' play 25 events and kind of relax a little bit. Know that I dont need to do it now, now, now. Ive got a whole year to see how well I can play.
 
This weeks Byron Nelson will be youre 12th start of the season. Youve only missed one cut and you have five top-10s. In your last two starts, you got a back-door T2 at the MCI Heritage and then broke the hinges off the proper entrance on your way to the same result at the Wachovia.
 
You're No. 18 with a bullet in the world rankings.
 
If only now you could get people to quit questioning the past.
 
Maybe everyone would quit asking me how my wrist is doing (if I won), you said in Saturdays press conference. I realize everyone means well, but, wow, have I answered that question a lot in the last 12 months.
 
You smiled when you said this, but it was easy to tell that you would prefer to go hatless and without sunscreen for four rounds in Memphis than to have to discuss that particular body part again.
 
Youre playing quite well at the moment ' kind of like the Jim Furyk circa 2003. It would certainly seem that you are indeed 'back.' But I guess you dont need me to tell you ' or anyone else, for that matter ' that.
 
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