Furyk fires 59 at BMW Championship

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 14, 2013, 12:25 am

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Even with the game’s biggest attraction coming down the 18th hole, hundreds of fans poured out of the grandstands and raced about 50 yards to the ninth green. A few hours earlier, Jim Furyk had begun his day at the BMW Championship in front of a few dozen. Now, they all stood shoulder-to-shoulder, craning their necks for a peek, shouting silly things like, “Jimmy, I’ll give it to you!”

To shoot the sixth 59 in PGA Tour history, Furyk first stuffed a smooth gap wedge – a “bread-and-butter shot” – to 3 feet, 3 inches. Instantly, the downhill, left-to-right breaker reminded him of the putt he needed to capture the Tour Championship-FedEx Cup double dip in 2010, the final stroke in his three-win, Player of the Year season.

Furyk doesn’t remember stroking the short putt on the ninth green, but he recalled hearing the roars from the fans there, and pumping his fist, and hugging his caddie, Mike “Fluff” Cowan, and thanking Gary Woodland for talking football with him on 8 tee as he was “pacing like a mad dog.”

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“This,” Furyk said afterward, “was kind of like winning a golf tournament.”

Conway Farms shouldn’t have yielded a 59 on Friday. No way. The high temperature barely crawled above 60 degrees. The wind howled at times up to 25 mph. The greens were drying up, fast, and a few of the hole locations were cut in devilish spots.

But on Friday, on the 7,149-yard, par-71 layout, Furyk carded 11 birdies and an eagle, was more than 12 shots better than the Round 2 scoring average (71.086) and was six shots clear of the next-best score (Jimmy Walker and Jordan Spieth, 65).

Yes, it was Furyk’s best round ever, but he wasn’t ready to concede it was his greatest accomplishment. It’s in the same neighborhood, certainly, right there with his first PGA Tour win, in 1995; and his first and only major title, in 2003; and being part of the Americans’ epic comeback at Brookline.

“This falls right in the mix with those,” he said.

Said Cowan, “All I can say is it was a very special round of golf. Very special. Incredible.”

On the day, Furyk made only five putts outside 10 feet, and none longer than 25 feet. He hit every fairway, all but one green and required only 23 putts.

“It’s the greatest round I’ve ever seen,” Woodland said. “Talk about being in the zone all day. He drove the ball unbelievably but rolled the ball as well as I’ve ever seen. He never let up, every shot. He just kept going.”

Being grouped with a player chasing a sub-60 score can be a bit like a baseball player watching his starting pitcher go for a perfect game. Keep away, far away, lest you ruin the mojo.

Woodland tried to stay away, and tried not to bother Furyk, but eventually he relented. They talked football all day, especially during the last few holes, when Furyk was at his most vulnerable, and Woodland couldn’t resist giving the Pittsburgh native a little needle about his beat-up Steelers.

“He can give me a hard time about golf, I guess,” Woodland said, smiling.

Meanwhile, tournament co-leader Brandt Snedeker stared at the Jumbotron next to 18 and thought Furyk’s score was a misprint.

“I thought, 'What the heck? Are you serious? There’s no way',” Snedeker said. “I don’t think anyone out here saw that score coming.”

Snedeker was then reminded that Furyk accomplished the feat with a bogey on his card, too.

“That makes me feel depressed about my round,” said Snedeker, who shot 68.

Said Zach Johnson (70), in solo third: “Oh my gosh. I don’t have anything to say about that. That is ridiculous.”

Just a day earlier, Furyk ate breakfast with Johnson and Steve Stricker. It was awkward, to say the least. They talked Presidents Cup.

Furyk, a member of every U.S. team since 1997, was not chosen by Fred Couples as one of his two captain’s picks for next month’s event at Muirfield Village. Furyk found out about the news via text message, not a phone call.

It took a few days to get over that disappointment, and eventually he talked to Couples, but Furyk decided to commit himself to finishing off what’s been a late-season surge, with four top 10s in his last five starts.

“It was bummed about it, but I’m not a spiteful person,” he said. “I didn’t go out there with a chip on my shoulder to prove anything to anyone this week. I feel like my career has spoken for itself. ...

“But I kind of had to go through those emotions again a little bit. So (Thursday) I was a little grouchy, to be honest with you. But I felt like last night I kind of kicked myself in the rear end and said, ‘You know, it’s done with. It’s over. I know the emotions came back up, but there’s nothing I can do to change it now. It’s over. Let’s just focus on this week.’ ”

His legendary focus will be tested again this weekend.

Nine shots back to start the second round, he now finds himself in a share of the lead at 11-under 131 heading into the weekend. He enjoyed the attention and the spotlight and the cheers, no doubt, but in some sense he has to forget about the 59, about what he just accomplished.

“Tomorrow is a new day, for better or for worse,” he said. “But I’ll have a big, fat smile on my face when I go to bed tonight.”

In the dizzying aftermath, Furyk scribbled his name and “59” on a sleeve of balls for the standard-bearers and volunteers. He signed autographs for a few minutes after his TV interviews. Someone from the Tour collected a signed glove, soon to be displayed in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

And then he reached into his right pants pocket and pulled out another ball.

“That’s the one that went in on 9,” he said, waving it in the air, “and it’s staying with me.”

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''