Furyk Focused on Recovery Not Return

By Mercer BaggsJune 1, 2004, 4:00 pm
Jim Furyk doesnt mean to sound too self-centered, but if hes not playing, hes not really watching.
 
Sure he sat at home and watched Phil Mickelson win the Masters. But, I wont say I sat through the entire telecast on Saturday and Sunday, he said.
 
At the Players Championship this year he worked as an analyst for ESPN for the first two rounds and said it was definitely more golf than I watched in about the last four years.
 
Soon, the U.S. Open will be on the airwaves and Furyk will most certainly find himself watching as the event unfolds on the back nine Sunday. But don't exepct him to be fixated to his couch, remote in hand.
 
I think I would be just teasing myself, he said.
 
Ten weeks removed from surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left wrist, Furyk is slowly but surely making his way back to competitive golf. Hes not there yet. And he most likely wont be there by the time the Open rolls around in two weeks.
 
He would be the first player since the late Payne Stewart, who died in a plane crash four months after winning the 1999 U.S. Open, to be unable to defend his title.
 
It would be Furyks second-ever absence from the U.S. Open since joining the PGA Tour in 1994. And whether irony or coincidence, both have come when the event was played at Shinnecock.
 
Its like my kryptonite, said Furyk, who failed to qualify for the 1995 Open.
 
Recently, he took a break from practicing at the TPC at Sawgrass, near his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and talked ' optimistically but not too convincingly ' of trying to make his return at Shinnecock. But he knew even before the surgery on March 22 that there was a three-to-six month window of recovery ' and the Open, unfortunately, didnt fit in that window.
 
Im OK with it. I rested that thought a long time ago, he said of having to skip his title defense. Id like to be able to defend, but I know its probably not in the cards.
 
I dont know when Ill be back, thats for sure. I havent even started hitting balls yet.
 
As the Memorial Tournament is ready to commence this week, Furyk, the 2002 winner of the event, is at home chipping and putting. That's all he is allowed to do right now. Hes still waiting to hit some full shots. Hes going to rehab a couple of days a week to strengthen his wrist, and doing his own exercises each day at home.
 
Im happy with the way things are going, he said. Im a little impatient, like everyone else. I want it to happen faster than it is going to happen.
 
Furyk, however, is not about to rush anything. The end of his doctors three-to-six month timeframe is right about the time of the Ryder Cup, which was Furyks stated goal right after the surgery.
 
Theres going to be a lot of U.S. Opens, theres going to be a lot of Masters, PGAs, British Opens in the future ' there probably wont be so many U.S. Opens that Im defending at. But the Ryder Cup is only once every two years, he said two days after the operation.
 
Furyks injury is similar to the one he sustained to his right wrist in 2000 when he fell while playing football in a parking lot during a Pittsburgh Steelers game. This time, though, the injury was the result of wear and tear from practicing and playing over the years.
 
Furyk said the wrist started bothering him at last years British Open and continued to be an annoyance and an increasing pain over the remainder of the season. He tried rest, but when the conservative approach proved ineffective ' and when he further aggravated it in February ' surgery was required.
 
He hasnt played since the Sony Open.
 
I think everyone thinks that Im going to die not playing golf, and I kind of felt that way probably before the surgery. But its opened my eyes a little bit, said Furyk, who has a 23-month-old daughter and a son who will turn six months old next week.
 
Ive gotten to spend a lot of time with my family and my kids. Im still excited about getting back and playing golf ' I miss it ' but theres a lot of wonderful things at home Im getting to see.
 
As soon as his wrist is diagnosed as 100 percent healthy ' and not 1 percent less than that, Furyk plans to return to action. He still has one more opportunity to defend a title, at the Buick Open. That event is situated between the British Open and PGA Championship, and is four months removed from the operation.
 
Physically, Furyk will have to deal with some competitive rust whenever he returns. But emotionally, he will not be lethargic.
 
One thing I promise when I come back, Ill definitely be refreshed and ready to go. Ill be chomping at the bit and I will want a lot of golf in my blood at that point, and I havent had it, he said.
 
Furyk has stated over and over again that he has no desire to be a ceremonial figure at the U.S. Open. He doesn't really want to shake hands and wave to the gallery -- if he can't play as well. And he certainly doesn't want to be hasty in his return.
 
'It might be nice to wave to some fans and the people that cheer you on. But to not be at 100 percent -- as a competitor that's not what you really want to do if you can't compete,' he said.
 
'And I certainly won't miss going, shooting 80 and coming home.'
 
But he has a few options that week: he could do some TV work, possibility work a little with the USGA -- maybe in a semi-ceremonial role, or just stay at home and keep practicing and recuperating.
 
I dont know where Ill be at that time, he said.
 
If it were a matter of Im almost playing golf and Im ready to go, close to being ready to go but not for the U.S. Open, maybe Id want to stay home and work on my rehab and work on my game and work on getting back sooner, instead of flying up to New York and possibly taking a week off and setting myself back a week.
 
Right now Im really focused on getting healthier, getting stronger and getting back to the tour full time.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 2004 U.S. Open
  • Furyk's Bio
  • Getty Images

    The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday

    By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 1:11 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Slow play was a big storyline on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, but not so much anymore.

    Not with Tiger Woods speeding things up Friday at the Honda Classic.

    Not with Woods thumping the gas pedal around PGA National’s Champion Course, suddenly looking as if he is racing way ahead of schedule in his return to the game.

    The narrative wondrously started to turn here.

    It turned from wondering at week’s start if Woods could make the cut here, after missing it last week at the Genesis Open. His game was too wild for Riviera, where a second-round 76 left him looking lost with the Masters just six weeks away.

    It turned in head-spinning fashion Friday with Woods climbing the leaderboard in tough conditions to get himself into weekend contention with a 1-over-par 71.

    He is just four shots off the lead.

    “I’d be shocked if he’s not there Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played alongside Woods in the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”

    Just a few short months ago, so many of us were wondering if Woods was close to washed up.

    “He’s only going to improve,” Snedeker said. “The more time he has, as the weather gets warmer, he’ll feel better and be able to practice more.”

    Snedeker has had a front-row seat for this speedy Tiger turnaround. He played the third round with Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. That was Woods’ first PGA Tour start in a year.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    How much improvement did Snedeker see from that Torrey Pines experience?

    “It was kind of what I expected – significantly improved,” Snedeker said. “His iron game is way better. His driver is way better. I don’t’ see it going backward from here.”

    This was the hope packed into Friday’s new narrative.

    “I’m right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I really played well today. I played well all day today.”

    Tiger sent a jolt through PGA National when his name hit the top 10 of the leaderboard. He didn’t do it with a charge. He did it battling a brutish course in wintry, blustery winds, on “scratchy” and “dicey” greens that made par a good score.

    When Woods holed a 25-foot putt at the ninth to move into red numbers at 1 under overall and within three shots of the lead, a roar shook across the Champion Course.

    “It got a little loud, which was cool to see,” Snedeker said. “It’s great to have that energy and vibe back.”

    Woods sent fans scampering to get into position, blasting a 361-yard drive at the 10th, cutting the corner. He had them buzzing when he stuck his approach to 9 feet for another birdie chance to get within two of the lead.

    “I thought if he makes it, this place will go nuts, and he could get it going like he used to,” Snedeker said.

    Woods missed, but with the leaders falling back to him on this grueling day, he stuck his approach at the 12th to 10 feet to give himself a chance to move within a shot of the lead.

    It’s another putt that could have turned PGA National upside down, but Woods missed that.

    “It really is hard to make birdies,” he said. “At least I found it hard. It was hard to get the ball close, even if the ball is in the fairway, it's still very difficult to get the ball close, with the wind blowing as hard as it is. It’s hard to make putts out here.”

    Patton Kizzire, a two-time PGA Tour winner who won just last month at the Sony Open, could attest to how tough the test at Honda has become. He played alongside Woods this week for the first time in his career. He shot 78 Friday and missed the cut.

    Kizzire had a close-up look at what suddenly seems possible for Woods again.

    “He’s figuring it out,” Kizzire said. “He hit some nice shots and rolled in some nice putts. It was pretty impressive.”

    Woods could not hide his excitement in getting himself in the weekend hunt, but his expectations remain tempered in this comeback. He knows the daily referendums his game is subject to, how we can all make the highs too high and the lows too low.

    “We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.

    Woods lost a tee shot in a bush at the second hole and made bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water at the 15th and made double bogey. He three-putted the 16th to make bogey. He knows this course can derail a player’s plans in a hurry, but he knows his game is quickly coming around.

    “I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” Woods said. “Four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.’”

    Woods hit his shot of the day at the 17th to right his game after the struggles at the 15th and 16th. He did so in front of the Goslings Bear Trap Party Pavilion, cutting a 5-iron to 12 feet. It was the hardest hole on the course Friday, with nearly one of every three players rinsing a shot in the water there. Woods made birdie there to ignite an explosion of cheers.  He got a standing ovation.

    “I was telling you guys, I love Riviera, I just don't play well there,” Woods said. “So here we are, we're back at a golf course I know and I play well here.”

    So here we are, on the precipice of something special again?

    Woods seems in a hurry to find out.

    Getty Images

    List, Lovemark lead; Tiger four back at Honda

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 12:41 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Even with a tee shot into the water for another double bogey, Tiger Woods could see the big picture in the Honda Classic.

    He was four shots out of the lead going into the weekend.

    Luke List delivered a round not many others found possible in such difficult conditions Friday, a 4-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead with Jamie Lovemark (69). They were at 3-under 137, the highest score to lead at the halfway point of the Honda Classic since it moved to PGA National in 2007.

    So bunched were the scores that Woods was four shots out of the lead and four shots from last place among the 76 players who made the cut at 5-over 145. More importantly, he only had 13 players in front of him.

    ''This is a difficult golf course right now,'' Woods said. ''Making pars is a good thing. I've done that, and I'm right there with a chance.''

    And he has plenty of company.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Tommy Fleetwood, who won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour last year, scratched out a 68 and was one shot out of the lead along with Webb Simpson (72), Russell Henley (70) and Rory Sabbatini (69).

    Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger each shot 72 and were in a large group at 139. They were among only 10 players remaining under par.

    Fleetwood laughed when asked the last time he was at 2 under after 36 holes and only one shot out of the lead.

    ''Maybe some junior event,'' he said. ''It's good, though. These are the toughest test in golf. Generally, one of the best players prevail at the end of weeks like this. Weeks like this challenge you to the ultimate level. Whether you shoot two 80s or you lead after two rounds, you can see what you need to do and see where your game is. Because this is as hard as it's ever going to get for you.''

    The difficulty was primarily from the wind, which blew just as hard in the morning when List shot his 66 as it did in the afternoon. More aggravating to the players are the greens, which are old and bare, firm and crusty. It's a recipe for not making many putts.

    Defending champion Rickie Fowler had six bogeys on his front nine and shot 77 to miss the cut.

    ''It's unfortunate that the greens have changed this much in a year,'' Fowler said. ''They typically get slick and quick on the weekend because they dry out, but at least there's some sort of surface. But like I said, everyone's playing the same greens.''

    It looked as though List was playing a different course when he went out with a bogey-free 32 on the back nine, added a pair of birdies on the front nine and then dropped his only shot when he caught an awkward lie in the bunker on the par-3 seventh.

    ''It's very relentless,'' List said. ''There's not really too many easy holes, but if you hit fairways and go from there, you can make a few birdies out there.''

    List and Lovemark, both Californians, have never won on the PGA Tour. This is the third time List has had at least a share of the 36-hole lead, most recently in South Korea at the CJ Cup, where he shot 76-72 on the weekend.

    ''It's kind of irrelevant because there's going to be 30 guys within a couple shots of the lead,'' List said. ''It's going to be that type of week.''

    He was exaggerating – there were 11 players within three shots of the lead.

    And there was another guy four shots behind.

    Woods brought big energy to a Friday afternoon that already was hopping before he overcame a sluggish start and holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to make the turn at 1 under for his round, and leaving him two shots out of the lead. Everyone knew it just from listening to the roars.

    Woods had his chances, twice missing birdie putts from inside 10 feet at Nos. 10 and 12, sandwiched around a 12-foot par save. His round appeared to come undone when he found the water on the 15th and made double bogey for the second straight day.

    Then, he hit out of a fairway bunker, over the water and onto the green at the dangerous 16th hole and faced a 65-foot putt. He misread the speed and the line, so badly that it was similar to a car driving from Chicago to Denver and winding up in Phoenix. A bogey dropped him to 2 over.

    The big moment was the 17th hole, 184 waters into the wind and over water. That's where Rory McIlroy made triple bogey earlier in the day that ruined his otherwise solid round of 72, leaving him seven behind. Making it even tougher for Woods is the Brandt Snedeker hit 5-iron before him to about 6 feet. Woods got to the tee and the wind died, meaning 5-iron was too much and 6-iron wouldn't clear the water.

    He went with the 5-iron.

    ''I started that thing pretty far left and hit a pretty big cut in there because I had just too much stick,'' Wood said.

    It landed 12 feet below the hole for a birdie putt.

    Thomas made 17 pars and a double bogey when he three-putted from 6 feet on No. 16. He felt the same way as Woods.

    ''I'm in a good spot – really good spot – going into this week,'' Thomas said.

    Getty Images

    Woods to play with Dufner (12:10 p.m.) in third round

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 12:10 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Jason Dufner in the third round of the Honda Classic.

    Woods and Dufner, both at 1-over 141, four shots back, will tee off at 12:10 p.m. ET Saturday at PGA National. They’re in the 10th-to-last group.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Co-leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark will go at 1:40 p.m.

    Some of the other late pairings include Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, who will be playing together for the third consecutive day, at 1 p.m.; Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Pieters (1:10 p.m.); and Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, in the penultimate group at 1:30 p.m.

    Getty Images

    Woods doesn't mind 'fun' but brutal 17th hole

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods doesn’t mind the boisterous crowd that surrounds the par-3 17th hole at PGA National.

    And why should he?

    When the wind died down Friday afternoon, Woods played a “big ol’ cut” with a 5-iron that dropped 12 feet from the cup. He made the putt – one of just nine birdies on the day – and when he walked off the green, the fans gave him a standing ovation.

    The scene is expected to be even more raucous Saturday at the Honda Classic, especially with Woods in contention.

    There is a Goslings Bear Trap tent just to the right of the tee. The hole has become a hot topic in recent years, after a few players complained that the noise from the nearby crowd was distracting as they tried to play a wind-blown, 190-yard shot over water.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Woods was asked his thoughts on the party setup after finishing his second-round 71.

    “As long as they don’t yell in our golf swings, we’re fine,” he said. “They can be raucous. They are having a great time. It’s fun. They are having a blast, and hopefully we can execute golf shots, but as long as they don’t yell in our golf swings, everything’s cool.”

    After the recent Waste Management Phoenix Open, a few players told Woods that fans were trying to time their screams with the players’ downswings.

    “There’s really no reason to do that,” Woods said. “I think that most of the people there at 17 are golfers, and they understand how hard a golf shot that is. So they are being respectful, but obviously libations are flowing.”

    The 17th played as the most difficult hole on the course Friday, with a 3.74 scoring average and a combined score to par of 104 over. More than a quarter of the tee shots found the water.