Furyk Ever the Bulldog in 96 Hawaii


The list of winners at the Sony Open in Hawaii is impressive. Theres Lee Trevino. Jack Nicklaus. Ben Crenshaw. Bruce Lietzke. Hubert Green back-to-back, Corey Pavin back-to-back. Lanny Wadkins. Paul Azinger. Isao Aoki and his miraculous wedge holeout.
But if you like pure drama, nothing quite compares to 1996, the year that Jim Furyk outpaced Brad Faxon in a three-hole playoff. Furyk was just starting his third year on the PGA Tour and had won only once. Faxon was starting his 13th, and already had a reputation as one of the premier putters on the tour. All the elements were in place, all that was needed was for the principals to come through.
Faxon was the first to excel, on the 18th hole of regulation. Furyk was already in with a score of 11-under. Faxon, who was tied with Steve Stricker when the fourth round began, was two back as he stood on the tee at the par-5 final hole.
Two big hits allowed him to reach the putting surface, and now he stood over the putt - which he knew had to plunk in the hole for him to have a chance. I kept thinking about Nick Price at the British Open, Faxon said, remembering the bomb that Price holed on the final hole of the 94 championship.
Then came the roller, and you know by now what happened. It was a bullseye, in the cup for an eagle to tie Furyk. Hes the best putter in everybodys mind, said Furyk, ahiking his head as the two prepared for the playoff.
Faxon made a great save on the first hole, chipping to four feet and draining a difficult slider. Next it was Furyks turn and he deftly placed a tough bunker shot within three feet of the flagstick, the ball first caroming off after striking the pole.
Now they had to play 18 again, the third hole in the playoff. Furyks drive was perfect while Faxon was left with a poor lie. He hit his second to within 60 yards of the pin, while Furyk hit his 4-iron flush, reaching the par-5 green.
Now it was Faxons turn and he wedged up rather indifferently, leaving the ball 20 feet short with his third shot. Furyk two-putted for a birdie with his third and fourth shot, leaving it all up to Faxon.
Faxon stared down the line, then stepped up and stroked the ball. It rolled oh-so-close to the edge, burning the lip but refusing to go down. Furyk had won, leading to a consistently steady career. It was just the end of another wacky golf round.
You know, really anything can happen in this game. Just when you think you've got it licked, you think nothing can go wrong, always seems to collapse and fold in on you, said Furyk, still not sure of his good fortune ' but sure of his sterling play.