Welcome to the Major Club


SANDWICH, England (AP) -- Jim Furyk strolled off No. 18 at Royal St. George's, hanging a left toward the putting green to get in a little more practice.
Not so fast, Mr. Major Champion.
Furyk was quickly surrounded Tuesday by a horde of British Open fans. Autograph seekers came at him with pens drawn. His pace slowed, coming to a halt several times as he paused to pose for pictures.
'I don't skate through the crowd or get through the media quite as quickly as I used to,' said Furyk, who claimed his first major title at the U.S. Open last month. 'My days are a little longer.'
Mike Weir knows the feeling. The left-handed Canadian entered this strange new world back in April by winning the Masters in a playoff. During a practice round this week, a broadcast crew had the audacity to stop him right on the course for an interview.
All this new attention has taken some getting used to.
'I'm a little guarded because I know my formula for success, what helps me feel comfortable,' Weir said. 'If I don't get that accomplished, maybe I get a little ornery.'
While Tiger Woods still gets most of the attention, Furyk and Weir are the ones who claimed the first two major titles of 2003. Now, everyone is anxiously awaiting the fallout from their landmark victories.
Will they follow in the footsteps of a guy such as Jack Fleck, who won his first major at the 1955 U.S. Open -- beating Ben Hogan, no less -- and was never heard from again? Or, can we expect a few more major titles from this interminably linked duo, who were born on the same day in 1970?
From Weir's point of view, the pressure is off. He's certainly playing like it, finishing third in his last three events -- including the U.S. Open -- to establish himself as a bona fide contender at Royal St. George's.
The Canadian won two events before the Masters and is ranked No. 1 on the PGA Tour money list with more than $4.2 million in earnings, having easily eclipsed his best previous year with more than five months still to go.
Amid all that success, Weir's performance at Augusta National stands apart.
'I've done it,' he said. 'This is a different type of tournament than Augusta and different conditions, but pressure is pressure. You've got to be able to handle those situations. And since I've been able to do that, it kind of gives me a better comfort level.'
Don't get too comfortable, advised six-time major champion Nick Faldo. For him, a 1989 victory at the Masters -- coming two years after he claimed his first major title at the British Open -- was the defining moment of his career.
'It's proof that your first time wasn't a flash in the pan,' Faldo said. 'When I won the Masters, my first Masters, that was a big message to me. Wow, two of them, rather than just one. It wasn't just a lucky week. To do it regularly was a big difference.'
Furyk doesn't feel all that different, other than the increased demands on his time from friends, sponsors and the media. He already felt comfortable with his career accomplishments before winning at Olympia Fields.
Of course, it sure doesn't hurt to have a major title on the resume.
'I'm not a different person, but it's definitely a confidence builder,' Furyk said. 'There's a difference between thinking you can win rather than knowing it.'
He knows he can play well in the British Open, having finished fourth in both 1997 and '98 and 10th in '99. The last two years have been more discouraging -- Furyk missed the cut both times.
Weir, who played his first British Open as a 17-year-old amateur in 1987, didn't cross the Atlantic again until '99, six years into his pro career. He's never finished higher than a tie for 37th.
Don't read too much into that history. The last two majors have shown there's still plenty of room on the course for a guy who can't strike it 350 yards off the tee.
Weir, who weighs only 155 pounds, and Furyk, whose loopy swing
is a coach's nightmare, have always relied on precision more than power. That should come in handy on the barren links of Royal St. George's, where some of the fairways seem about as wide as a living room rug.
'There's always room for shotmakers in the game,' Weir said. 'Always.'
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