A Very Happy Fathers Day

By Mercer BaggsJune 15, 2003, 4:00 pm
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- Jim Furyk wraps his crazy swing around the golf ball to near perfection. Its the one hes always used. The one his father taught him.
Furyk celebrated his first Fathers Day as a dad Sunday by winning his first major championship. To make it all the more special, his dad - the only swing coach hes ever known - was walking shot-for-shot, swing-for-crazy-swing alongside him.
'It's very special,' said Furyk, whose daughter, Caleigh Lynn, turns 1 on June 24. 'I had a hard time this morning saying 'Happy Father's Day' to him, because I knew I'd get all choked up.
'I think this is a heck of a present.'
An event that started out Thursday looking like Pebble Beach circa 1982 evolved into more like Pebble Beach 2000 on Sunday.
Adhering to the understanding that slow and steady wins the U.S. Open, Furyk shot 2-over 72 to win the championship's 103rd edition.
Im just really proud of him, said Furyks father, Mike. Best Fathers Day present ever.
Furyk finished at 8-under-par 272; tying the 72-hole aggregate scoring record. His score in relation to par was second only to Tiger Woods, who won the 2000 U.S. Open at 12-under, 15 shots removed from second place.
The demolition wasnt as extreme at Olympia Fields. But with no one applying pressure to Furyk, it felt close.
Stephen Leaney (72) was solo second place, three strokes back. Third place dropped off to 1-under, where Masters champion Mike Weir (71) and Kenny Perry (67) finished.
'It was obviously a situation that I wasn't used to, but I thought I handled it well,' said Leaney, a seven-time winner worldwide. 'I've had a great week.'
Woods, the defending champion, had to settle for giving his old man a painting. He could only muster a 72 in the final round. His 3-over tally was good for a tie for 20th.
I gave it my best this week. I was close to putting it together, but didnt put it together, Woods said.
After 10 successful seasons on tour, and 11 career top-10 finishes in major championships without a victory, Furyk has quashed the debate as to where he ranks on the list Best Player Never to Have Won a Major.
'It's hard to try and rate where everything sits or falls, but this is the most special day,' said the eight-time tour winner and three-time Ryder Cup team member.
'This means the most to me right now.'
And while most fathers received gifts that will never escape the barrier of their closet door, Furyk got a big silver trophy with his name below Nicklaus, Woods, Palmer, Hogan, Nelson, Sarazen and Jones ' and a cool $1,080,000.
'My name will be on that trophy forever with some unbelievable names in golf, so you can't take that away from me now and it's a special feeling,' he said.
It wasnt easy Sunday ' winning a U.S. Open couldnt possible be ' it just appeared that way; what with only a single challenger to keep at bay.
While players were expected to make a run at Furyk ' who started the day with a three-shot lead ' over the first few holes, it never materialized.
Weir shot an over-par number, and still managed to move from tied for 12th as the day began into a share of third. Perrys 67 vaulted him up 30 spots.
Price began the third round with four straight birdies. Sunday it was three straight bogeys. He turned in 40 and finished with a 75.
Price, Ernie Els (72), David Toms (70), Justin Rose (69) and Fredrik Jacobson (71) tied for fifth place at even-par 280.
Vijay Singh birdied the second and then double bogeyed the third to quickly drop out of contention. He, too, shot 40 on the front nine, 78 overall. He tied Woods at 3-over.
'A lot of people got off to a very slow and poor start today. It took a lot of the pressure (off),' said Furyk. 'So basically, I was looking at my playing partner as the one I had to stay out ahead of.'
Leaney was the only man to keep pace with Furyk; though, in a side-winding way early on. He started bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie. After a par at the fifth, he made another birdie at the par-5 sixth. But so did Furyk. And when Leaney bogeyed seven and eight, he fell further in the rearview mirror.
By the turn, there was a chasm between Furyk and the field.
Jim Furyk, 11-under; Stephen Leaney, 6-under; third place, 2-under.
In the end, the course prevailed over all but one. The sun finally showed Saturday and extended its stay to Sunday, firming up the greens in its presence.
If it would have been dry like this for an entire week, with the rough the way it was, you would have seen some scores that were low. But not this low, said Woods.
Padraig Harrington said prior to the start of the tournament that it takes boring golf to win the U.S. Open, and thats exactly what was on display for the better part of Sunday.
That was until a topless female fan greeted Furyk at the 11th hole.
'I heard somebody say, 'You've got to be kidding me,'' Furyk said. 'She was four feet away with a flower of some sort. It was shock.
'It was more like the British Open.'
It briefly got interesting on the back nine when Furyk bogeyed 10 and 12 to have his advantage decreased to three strokes. But he ended all doubt as to who would be the victor by stuffing his approach shot to five feet at the par-4 14th for birdie.
Four-up with four to play, Furyk played his final stretch in 2-over; Leaney did so in 1-over.
He needed to two-putt the final hole in order break the aggregate scoring record ' set by Jack Nicklaus in 1980 at Baltusrol, and tied by Lee Janzen in 1993 at the same venue, and Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000.
Instead, he three-putted for bogey. He will happily share the record, however.
'I was thinking, 'Let's knock in a putt to win the U.S. Open,'' he said. 'And then I said, 'The heck with it, let's just win the U.S. Open.''
Mission accomplished.
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