It was Sept. 13, 2013, and Jim Furyk was busy retelling every detail of how he’d joined golf’s most exclusive club. Earlier that day, he had shot 59 in the second round of the BMW Championship, an effortless round on a difficult day at Conway Farms.
“I’m not a smell-the-roses type of guy,” he said, “but I mean, how many times am I going to shoot 59 in my life?”
At least once more, apparently.
Less than three years later, Furyk outdid himself and posted the lowest score in PGA Tour history: a 12-under 58 Sunday at the Travelers Championship.
“I’m still a little stunned and a little flabbergasted,” he said.
Hey, so are we.
Back in 2013, Furyk was coming off a pedestrian 72 in the opening round of the BMW. The next day, he shot golf’s magic number, a score more than 12 shots better than the field average.
His 58 Sunday at TPC River Highlands, a par 70, came similarly out of the blue.
Furyk birdied three of the last four holes Friday just to make the cut. After a third-round 72, he retreated to the range to hit a big bag of balls. He became so frustrated with his ball-striking that he instructed caddie Mike “Fluff” Cowan to take pictures of his swing to send back home to his father/swing coach, Mike. The fix was a tighter, shorter backswing.
Furyk has a funky swing that no instructor today would teach, but his results are undeniable – it’s repeatable and produces consistent contact, leading to 17 victories and more than $65 million in earnings.
And now, yes, a spot in the record books.
In 70th place and in the third group off Sunday, Furyk birdied the second hole, jarred a wedge on the third for eagle and added another birdie on 4. Starting at the sixth, he ripped off seven birdies in a row.
Furyk’s momentum slowed on the par-5 13th, where he made par after laying up with his second shot, and then missed 10-footers on the next two holes. He moved one step closer to history with a 23-footer for birdie on 16, then made a pair of stress-free pars to finish. As Furyk climbed the hill behind the green, the crowd chanted “58! 58! 58!”
How was it possible?
How could he trim 14 shots in 24 hours?
How could he fire the best round in Tour history a day after texting his dad, searching for answers?
“It’s kind of a reminder,” he said, “that no matter how bad you feel with your swing, you’re never that far away.”
And so continued an incredible month of scoring in golf.
Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson put on a show at Royal Troon, with each making a run at 62 and the Swede posting the best 72-hole total in major history.
On July 28, just 10 days ago, Stephan Jaeger shot 58 on the Web.com Tour, the lowest score in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
Jaeger went on to win that week, while Furyk finished in a tie for fifth. (Go figure: Furyk has shot two of the best rounds in Tour history, and he has no wins to show for it.)
Inevitably, the next few weeks will be devoted to Ryder Cup prognosticating: Who’s in, who’s out, who’s on the bubble?
Furyk, who missed nine months because of a wrist injury, would require a captain’s pick to make his 10th team. He already had caught Davis Love III’s eye before his record performance Sunday – his name was mentioned seven times during Love’s presser at the PGA. Love seemed to be searching for any reason to pick him. Veteran leadership, a runner-up at the U.S. Open, a record 58 – it seems Furyk now has a compelling case.
And it all started, he said, because he didn’t want to mail it in Sunday. Because he didn’t want to post another mediocre round heading into an off-week. Because he didn’t want to play 11 of 14 weeks and enter the regular-season finale on both the FedEx and Ryder Cup bubble.
“Mentally, more than anything else,” he said, “I’m a little fried.”
But physically, he just put together a flawless round of golf.
There have been approximately one and a half million rounds played on the PGA Tour, and Jim Furyk – the aging warrior with a weird swing and a grinder mentality in a power-player era – is the first to shoot a pair of sub-60 scores.
No, he might not be a smell-the-roses type, but Furyk appreciates golf history and his new place in it.
“No one else can say they’ve done that out here on the PGA Tour,” he said. “It’s really special, and it’s probably going to take a little while for it to sink in and really put it into perspective.”