Furyk trying to end drought on a course he loves

By Will GrayAugust 7, 2015, 9:13 pm

AKRON, Ohio – When you stop and think about it, it makes sense that Firestone Country Club and Jim Furyk would get along.

Both are straightforward and old-school. No pretense, no fancy accoutrements. What you see is what you get. A blue-collar course for a blue-collar player.

The affinity between the two parties goes back nearly two decades, and this week Furyk is once again firing on all cylinders at a course he dearly loves.

While many players have been humbled this week by Firestone’s firm conditions and penal rough, Furyk appears to be playing a different golf course. He has shot back-to-back rounds of 66, with 13 birdies through 36 holes on a track where mere mortals – not to mention Jordan Spieth – have simply sought to remain around par.

Furyk built a six-shot lead at one point during the second round, and he will head into the weekend as the man to beat.

“It’s not an easy golf course, even though Jim made it look easy,” said Henrik Stenson, who played the first two rounds alongside Furyk and trails by five shots. “He was leaving everyone behind, at least the morning groups.”

Furyk has played well before in this event, with top-15 finishes in four of the last five years, but his two best performances here both ended in frustration.

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The first came in 2001, when he and Tiger Woods dueled in an epic playoff. Furyk holed a greenside bunker shot on the first extra hole to simply extend the proceedings, but Woods ultimately won on the seventh extra hole. Then in 2012, he appeared to have both hands on the trophy before a double bogey on the final hole abruptly handed it to Keegan Bradley.

Furyk said he is “disappointed” to have never won at Firestone, one of his favorite courses, but he is in ideal position to change that this weekend thanks to a gameplan that relies on his strengths and accepts his limitations.

In a sport where players sometimes try to re-invent their games with the changing seasons, Furyk has grown comfortable in his own skin at age 45, even if that means losing ground off the tee to some of the bombers on Tour.

“If you’re chasing distance, you’re giving up in other parts of your game,” he said. “I think for me, I’ve just realized that I hit it far enough. I don’t hit it that far, but I hit it far enough.”

While he has averaged 279 yards per drive this season, good for 170th on Tour, Furyk has picked up more than 15 yards per tee shot on the firm fairways this week. For him, the harder the course, the better.

“I like to see the golf course firm,” Furyk said. “It plays that much shorter, but it’s that much harder to hit the fairways and I think that, when I’m playing well, that falls into my strengths.”

“Even though it’s normally a long golf course, and he’s not the longest hitter, he hits a lot of fairways and he’s putting beautifully, and the short game is sharp as always,” added Stenson. “He’s definitely taken advantage of those conditions.”

Furyk admitted after the round that his narrative has taken a much-desired shift since his win earlier this year at the RBC Heritage. He relishes a return to being a player simply trying to win a prestigious golf tournament, rather than a man looking to end a winless drought that had reached nearly five years.

“I’m not sitting here answering questions about winning now, where had I not won at Hilton Head, we’d be talking about how many leads I took into Sunday and didn’t work out, and how long it’s been since I’ve won, and why haven’t I?” he said. “It’s a refreshing conversation.”

But he still bears the battle wounds of past disappointment, and with the PGA Championship returning to Whistling Straits next week, he recently read a story about Dustin Johnson’s lingering “scars” from five years ago and empathized with the article’s subject.

“Everyone’s got them out here. That’s the first thing that went through my mind,” he said. “It’s happened to all of us. It’s how you handle those situations that end up making or breaking you and your career.”

Furyk took a big stride toward healing some of those scars with his win at Hilton Head, and now he appears determined to close the deal at Firestone, where he has yet to top the leaderboard after a number of close calls.

The player and the course have always gotten along, but they could soon also share a trophy shot.

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."