When Talent Doesnt Equate to Wins

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In 1993, 23-year-old Jim Furyk was a rookie on the Hogan-Nike-Buy.Com-Nationwide-CallItWhatYouWant Tour. He didnt have a WhatYaMaCallIt Tour card ' in fact, the first 10 events, he was forced to go through Monday qualifying. But a little over halfway through the season he won ' in a playoff - at Gulfport, Miss.
 
Young Furyk birdied the last three holes of regulation to make the playoff against Bob Friend, then sunk a 25-foot putt for birdie on the first extra hole to win. And yes, he won with that long, loopy swing. And yes, he won putting cross-hand. And yes ' he was warned for slow play before the sizzling four-hole finish.
 
That was the beginning a long relationship Mr. Furyk has had with playoffs. Two years later he had his first on the PGA TOUR, and won again, this time in fairly hum-drum fashion.
 
Jim Furyk
Jim Furyk's playoff win was only his second positive outcome in eight overtime sessions.
Since then, Furyk has been anything but normal in getting through eight more playoffs. Six he has lost. He won one at Sun City in South Africa. And finally he won again in America after going though 10 years of failures. Yes, he won last week in extra holes at Wachovia.
 
Greg Norman once hit the Grand Slam of losses when he failed in playoffs at all four of the majors ' the U.S. Open in 1984, the Masters in 1987, the 1989 British Open and the 93 PGA. He, along with oldtimer Craig Woods, stands alone in that rare feat. But if theres a category for playoffs lost in a most interesting manner, you would have to consider Jim Furyk.
 
It all began in 1996 when he faced a man who had failed to make a cut in three tries that season ' Paul Stankowski. Furyk went into a playoff and on the third hole everyone was conceding him the title at Hawaii with Stankowski needing a 35-foot putt to take it further. But sink it he did, and then added a winning birdie the next hole to leave a dazed Furyk wondering what happened.
 
Not to worry, though, Furyk was still 1-1 in playoffs on his PGA TOUR resume. And in 1998 he made an eagle at the final hole at Westchester to get into a playoff against J.P. Hayes. Hayes at that time was a Whos-He on tour, ineligible for the U.S. Open which was the next week. But he birdied the first playoff hole ' and Furyk didnt.
 
Now Furyk was 1-2 in playoffs. And in 2001 he hooked up with Tiger Woods in the WEC-NEC Invitational for two hours and seven holes. Furyk should have been out of it on the first playoff hole when he left his first shot in a bunker. Playing his fourth shot from the sand, Furyk holed it to continue the drama.
 
But alas, Tiger threaded his approach on the seventh to within inches of the cup, made birdie and close out the luckless Jim. Alas, the record was 1-3 and counting.
 
It took Furyk two years to lose the next playoff. He and Scott Hoch were knotted at Doral in 2003 after regulation, and still knotted after one hole of the playoff. Thats when Hoch called for a cessation of play as the two reached the green of the second playoff hole. It was too dark to continue, Hoch said ' a decision that Furyk conceded was the right one the following day.
 
But on the following morning, Furyk missed his birdie putt, Hoch made his ' and Furyks playoff record was now 1-4.
 
Now on to Wachovia last year, when Furyk needed a birdie at 18 ' and got it ' to get into a playoff with Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia. Actually, this tournament appeared to be all Garcia after the youngster started the final round with a six-shot lead. But Garcia couldnt stand up to the withering pace of Singh and Furyk, and in the playoff, neither could Furyk. After Singhs birdie, Furyk was saddled with a 1-5 tour playoff record.
 
And the drumbeat continued at Las Vegas last year with Furyk trying to win in that city for the fourth time. He got into a playoff this time with one Wes Short, and in the playoff launched his tee shot left and into a lake. Then three putts later he was saddled with a bogey, while Short birdied and won. The ledger now showed Furyk at 1-6.
 
Furyk began to turn it around in Sun City at the end of last year, winning the four-way playoff with a birdie in the mega-bucks 12-man exhibition. But it was only after he had surrendered the lead on 18 in regulation with a bogey. However, he won it on the second extra hole by holing out a chip shot.
 
And Sunday, Furyk was rock-solid in defeating Trevor Immelman. Now, Furyk is known as a gritty match-play competitor, but hes had lousy karma in the playoffs.
 
I don't know the reason, really, he said. I've had some bad shots, I've gotten beaten by some really good shots. Really, I don't have an answer for that.
 
He didnt have many playoff positives to draw upon, so he just thought back to the Sun City experience. And it obviously worked.
 
I tried to remember back to that, Furyk said, and just go out there and do whatever I needed to do to try to get it done.
 
Furyk, though, is not the only exceptional player to have a less-than-spectacular playoff record. Ben Crenshaw was 0-8. Raymond Floyd 5-10 ' remember that reputation of the Floyd Stare? Davis Love III is 2-7, Norman 4-8. Gary Player was 3-10. Kathy Whitworth, she of the 88 wins on the LPGA, was only 7-16 in playoffs. Colin Montgomerie is a winless 0-7-1 in Europe.
 
Furyk now is 2-6 in tour playoffs. Of course, he could be 1-7 if one shot had aw, stop that! Furyk has. Win or lose, he doesnt think back about the one shot that could have gone either way.
 
Yeah, he says, I learned not to do that a long time ago, to look back and think about all the times you could save one shot out there. That would be easy.
 
Nothing, it must be said, has comes easy for Jim Furyk.
 
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