Furyk making case to be Ryder Cup captain's pick

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2016, 12:59 am

GREENSBORO, N.C. – After months of plotting, planning and Task Force-ing, the Ryder Cup is now in sight. In just over a month, Davis Love III’s roster will be finalized, 12 brave souls out to avenge the one that got away for him at Medinah four years ago.

The U.S. camp has vowed to try something different. Shake things up. Throw out the plans that led to six losses in the last seven Ryder Cups.

But it appears with increasing likelihood that a link to America’s shaky past will be a part of the group donning the red, white and blue at Hazeltine.

Attention, U.S. fans: Jim Furyk is going to be on the U.S. team. The sooner we all come to accept this notion, the easier it will be to move on.

We’ve known for months that Furyk will be one of Love’s four assistants. But amid a torrid summer stretch that now includes contending at the halfway point of the Wyndham Championship, Furyk has become a prime candidate for one of Love’s four captain’s selections.

This is the same Jim Furyk who has compiled a 10-20-4 individual record in the Ryder Cup. It’s the same player who was nearly brought to his knees by a Sunday singles loss to Sergio Garcia in 2012, a pivotal result that helped the Euros retain the trophy.

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But Furyk’s individual record is nearly reversed in the Presidents Cup matches (20-10-3), lending credence to the notion that his match-play success or failure depends in large part on who’s pegging it for the other side. Then there’s the hard-to-ignore fact that he’s playing well. Really, really well.

Fresh off his record-breaking 58, Furyk is again cruising this week at Sedgefield, relying on accurate ball-striking to climb into a tie for second at the halfway mark. He compiled a streak of 38 straight greens in regulation that ended in Friday's 64, and through two rounds he has missed only two greens and three fairways.

“I’ve had a really good ball-striking year, one of the best I can remember. I wouldn’t have guessed that coming off a seven- to eight-month layoff with the injury,” Furyk said. “I’ve just had a really good feeling most of the year with my ball-striking.”

Indeed, Furyk has made up quickly for lost time. He didn’t make his season debut until the Wells Fargo Championship in May, sidelined longer than expected with a lingering wrist injury. But he has already played his way into the FedEx Cup Playoffs, vaulting past some players who had more than twice his 11 starts to date.

Then there’s the sense that Love seems to be looking for a reason add Furyk to the team.

At his press conference before the PGA Championship, Love mentioned Furyk by name a total of seven times – more than any other player. Those mentions included heaps of praise for his friend and assistant, and a hint at adjusting his criteria to account for the time Furyk missed with injury.

“We will factor that in there, that Jim Furyk missed a lot of tournaments that he played really well,” Love said at Baltusrol. “I’ll have the stat crunchers go back and run 10,000 times if Jim Furyk played his normal schedule, where he would have finished, and he’ll probably pop right back up into the top five or six.”

Of course, that was before Furyk lowered the PGA Tour’s all-time scoring mark, and before he striped his way onto the Wyndham leaderboard. Even during his press conference Thursday at Sedgefield, Love mentioned Furyk’s name when discussing the “unofficial points list” he plans to use as a guide for his selections.

“You know, Jim Furyk played one, did probably one of the best rounds ever played in the history of the PGA Tour and he didn’t really move up much in points, but he got everybody’s attention that he’s playing really well,” Love said. “Then you go back and look, wow, Jim, he played great at the U.S. Open, he’s played really well in a lot of big tournaments coming after his wrist problem.”

Love added that a key criteria for selections will be who’s hot when it’s time to make the first three of his four picks on Sept. 11. Of those near the bubble, none have distinguished themselves in recent weeks quite like Furyk has – not Brandt Snedeker, not Bubba Watson and certainly not Rickie Fowler.

On Friday, Furyk downplayed his potential candidacy. At No. 106 in the FedEx Cup race, he insisted, his focus is simply to play his way to the Deutsche Bank Championship and beyond.

“I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about playing,” Furyk said. “I’ll take it one day at a time, and go play. If I get in that discussion and those guys see a fit, great. If not, I’m going to be there to help a good friend of mine as captain and help the team out the best I can.”

But make no mistake, in the span of a few short months Furyk has zoomed past a number of potential team members and now sits in prime position to make his 10th straight squad, a run of longevity rivaled only by Phil Mickelson.

The goal for the U.S. side at Hazeltine will be to reverse nearly two decades of futility. To do so, however, they’ll likely call upon a player who bore witness to the entire stretch of European domination.

When the roster of 12 Americans is finalized next month, Furyk’s name – for better or worse – will be on the list. Get used to it.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”


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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

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Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”

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More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.

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Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.

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Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).