Furyk's PGA loss painful, but knows success near

By Ryan LavnerAugust 12, 2013, 2:25 am

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – This routine has become painfully familiar to Jim Furyk – congratulating the other guy, walking to the scoring trailer while they cheer for the other guy, praising the way the other guy played.

Only this time was different.

Yes, the record books will show that Furyk held a one-shot lead heading into the final round of the 95th PGA Championship and didn’t eventually hoist the Wanamaker Trophy. They will show that he shot 71 to Jason Dufner’s 68, that he’s now broken par just once in his last 23 final rounds in a major, that his career record slipped to 9-for-22 when holding at least a share of the 54-hole lead.

But if Furyk has learned anything over these past few winless years, it’s how to analyze disappointment.

And this time, after this PGA, he says he has no regrets.

“I played my heart out,” he said Sunday.

PGA Championship: Articles, videos and photos

Of course, no one has ever questioned Furyk’s doggedness. The way he grinds each day, and drains every ounce of his ability, is equal parts admirable and exhausting. On the 16th green alone Sunday, Furyk made four practice strokes, took seven peeks at the cup, crouched five times, circled twice around the hole, conferenced with caddie Mike “Fluff” Cowan, hiked up his pants, adjusted his posture and wiggled his shoulders … just to halve the hole with birdie. Each shot he is plowing through years and layers of scar tissue, which recently has accumulated at a staggering rate.

The worst stretch: Four times in 2012 he held at least a share of the lead heading into the final day. And four times he endured the same painful routine after the round.

Furyk has said that his Ryder Cup singles performance, when he dropped the final two holes to lose his match against Sergio Garcia, was his lowest point of the year. It was basement-low, no doubt, but it wasn’t his most memorable flameout. That came at last year’s U.S. Open, when the 2003 champion needed to play the last three holes (which included two par 5s) in 1 under, but instead limped to the clubhouse in 2 over par.

“I felt like that was my tournament to win,” he said, “and I wasn’t able to do it.”

Furyk didn’t lose this major, no matter that he headed to Oak Hill’s first tee with a one-shot lead.

Despite hitting just four fairways and 11 greens, he lost on this day to the better player, Dufner, who had three kick-in birdies and would have won going away if not for a few nervy plays down the stretch.

Furyk made only two birdies in the final round – his first, on the sixth, was a 40-foot bomb – and failed to put enough pressure on his opponent in the middle of the round. On Nos. 13 and 14 he had only a wedge into the green, and both times he didn’t give himself a reasonable birdie look. (“That’s kinda my forte,” he said.) He bogeyed the final two holes, when he tried desperately to play perfect shots from imperfect lies, and wound up at 8-under 272.

“I have no regrets,” he said.

The best part about Furyk is that you know he will be back in this role, challenging again, unafraid of having his heart ripped out with the world watching. He spoke of possessing a “cornerback mentality” – of getting beat, then being able to shake it off, regroup, refocus, and test himself against the world’s best once more.

“Jim is a guy you never have to worry about,” Brandt Snedeker said. “He takes every loss very, very hard. It motivates him to come back and work harder at it.

“He’s been hearing stuff his whole career about how he can’t do this or can’t do that, and the only thing he’s done is do it his whole career. I think for him it’s a motivating factor when they say he can’t do it.”

All week Furyk described this PGA as an “opportunity.” To turn around a miserable season. To atone for last year’s failures. To prove that, at age 43, he still has plenty of good golf left in his wiry frame.

Furyk played terribly in both summer Opens, the first time he’s missed consecutive cuts in a major in nearly a decade, and he vowed to play with a newfound lightness and to enjoy the journey – even if it looks like he’s adding a new wrinkle with each missed putt or errant approach.

“I think I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself and expected myself to perform, maybe to a fault, and I wasn’t able to enjoy it,” he said. “At times it’s probably affected my performance, but it also drove me to become a lot better player.”

On another major Sunday, he found himself congratulating the other guy and praising the other guy, while he was left searching for any shred of confidence in the ruins.

Funny thing, then, because after blowing another 54-hole lead, and after another close call in a major, how did Furyk feel?

“Reenergized,” he said. “It’s days like these that will make the next one sweeter.”

Getty Images

Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

Getty Images

The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

Getty Images

Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

Getty Images

Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.