Self-critical Furyk takes Tour Championship lead

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ATLANTA – Jim Furyk looks at his year in golf and mostly sees opportunity lost.

He was born that way, Furyk admits, spotting the clouds and missing the beauty within the struggle. It takes others to tell him of his well-struck shots, that climbing onto leaderboards at Innisbrook, Olympic Club and Firestone means he has done a lot right in 2012, even in defeat.

“I was always a kid that my dad needed to calm me down,” Furyk said Friday after a round of 64 gave him a one-shot lead in the Tour Championship. “He needed to tell me to have fun a little bit more. I think that my personality is that I’m 75 percent mad [that] I haven’t closed the door, and I have to be reminded whether it’s my teacher or my caddie or my wife or whoever that ‘You’re playing well, be patient, let it happen.’”

So here is the 42-year-old Furyk once again, jousting in another big tournament, out-gunned by the game’s long hitters, closer to the Champions Tour than his rookie year, trying to cap a season that has been less than whole.

In March, he lost in a playoff in Tampa. In June, a snap hook on the 70th hole might have cost him a second U.S. Open. In August, he made a mess of the finishing hole at Akron, carding a double bogey that some viewed as the continuation of a trend. Maybe Furyk couldn’t close anymore.

When Davis Love III made Furyk one of four captain’s pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup team earlier this month, it was widely viewed as a controversial choice.

Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan were younger.  Nick Watney had just won The Barclays. Bo Van Pelt was living on leaderboards.

Furyk says he doesn’t read golf opinion – good or bad – but he has been asked if he feels he must justify Love’s selection, even with 16 PGA Tour wins and seven Ryder Cup appearances behind him.

“Really, the opinions that matter to me are those of my captain and those of my teammates,” Furyk said. “Look at the way I play golf, the way I swing the golf club and grip the putter. Look at the way I go about my business. I don’t hit it very far. I’m short. If I really cared what the critics thought the last 19 years, I really wouldn’t be here, if that makes sense.”

Tiger Woods sees Furyk’s virtues, not the shortcomings of the summer.

“If you think about it, he’s basically two swings away from being probably in the top five in [Ryder Cup] points,” Woods said. “Him being picked is not that controversial to us as players. It might be to some who are outside the team.”

Even Bubba Watson, whose good pals Fowler and Mahan were left off the team, recognizes Furyk’s value.

“He brings leadership, focus, drive, determination,” Watson said. “He’s been around the block. He’s won. He’s lost. He’s cried at a few. That’s the quarterback of the team.”

On Friday, the quarterback was paired with Bubba, out-playing the big lefthander with remarkable precision.

Furyk opened his round with seven straight 3s (he made 10 on the day).

Furyk still has so much to play for, even with two difficult rounds to go, even if he earned his Ryder Cup spot on faith.

Even if the clouds sometimes get in the way.