Jim Furyk won the 103d U.S. Open Sunday at Olympia Fields near Chicago because he took the measure of the golf course better than anybody else in the field. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday the greens were soft and the winds were light. Furyk attacked. Tiger Woods, just to name one, would later come to realize he should have done the same.
Furyk shot 67-66-67 the first three rounds, which staked him to a three-shot lead with which to sleep on Saturday night. At no time on Sunday did his lead shrink from that margin. Olympia Fields didn't show its true fangs until the final day. Furyk spotted the danger early Sunday and backed off, engineering a smart 72 for a three-shot victory over Aussie Stephen Leaney.
In the end, Jim Furyk judged the golf course.
And now we move on. The British Open is the next major. It will be conducted in five weeks in the south of England at a course called Royal St. George's. Seems strange that Woods, who so very recently held title to all four major championships, has now failed to win four of them in a row.
His critics are calling it a 'reverse slam.' That is unfair.
So much was made of all the low numbers carded at Olympia Fields. Yet by the end of the week only four players - Furyk, Leaney, Masters champion Mike Weir and Kenny Perry, whose Sunday 67 was the low round of the day - were still under par.
We can only hope the USGA notices (it usually does) and not decide it has to 'trick up' Shinnecock for next year's U.S. Open. Weir, packing his things in a near-empty locker room late Sunday, was asked if putting Shinnecock on steroids would be a mistake. 'I think so,' he said.
Weir was very much aware that neither he nor Furyk - the winners of this year's first two majors - are 'bombers' in the conventional long-driving sense of the word. As obscenely short as some of the yardages that certain players had into the long par 4s at Olympia Fields, Furyk's most telling stat was No. 2 in fairways in regulation.
What should Furyk expect now that he is the member of that special club of players who have won major championships? 'Be ready for Monday through Wednesday at the British Open,' Weir said. 'Because he will get inundated by interview requests.'
The guess here is that he will judge a way to handle that barrage as well. Furyk is a big-time talent with a journeyman's work ethic. He has been nibbling around the edges of greatness for half a decade. He has a swing that fits his marvelous athleticism. And, Billy Mayfair said late Sunday, 'he can repeat it time and time again.' Mayfair knows how this works. He has an unorthodox putting stroke. But he repeats it. Mayfair, by the way, tied for 10th at Olympia Fields.
One more judge needs to be credited here. Scott McCarron, after playing poorly Thursday, was asked what he thought the winning score would be Sunday. 'Eight under,' he said.
Eight-under it was for Furyk and a total of 272, a number that tied the championship record.