PARAMUS, N.J. - Jim Furyk doesn't look like a man burdened by the past. He doesn't appear weighed down by final-round travails of recent years, as if each close call has chipped away at the inner walls of the section of his heart designated for worrying about such things as winning golf tournaments.
He doesn't sound burdened, either. Furyk’s as blue-collar as they come on the PGA Tour, so when he insists these myriad failures don’t bother him, it isn’t some sort of psychobabble designed to keep all negative thoughts from ever intruding on the space inside his head.
And he sure as hell doesn’t play golf burdened. Not during the first three rounds, at least, and certainly not during the first three rounds this week, as he’s raced to a share of the Barclays lead with one round to play.
That one round, though - the final round - is what has classified Furyk in the past. Even if he doesn’t look like it, even if he doesn’t sound like it, even if he doesn’t play golf like it, substandard Sunday afternoons have defined him lately.
This will be yet another in a long line of opportunities for him to shed that classification. Tied with Jason Day and with 10 total players within two strokes of the lead, Furyk will receive yet another chance to absolve himself of those mighty sins.
The instances have been numerous.
Since the beginning of the 2012 season, he has held or shared the 54-hole lead on a PGA Tour-best seven previous occasions. He also holds the distinction of failing to convert the most 54-hole leads during this time, a figure that also numbers seven.
For a man who has triumphed 16 times in a brilliant career that has spanned parts of three decades, he bears the unfair label of a player who can’t get it done anymore under the bright spotlight of final-round pressure.
Stats are stats, of course, although this would be the proper time to offer a reminder of that old cautionary tale: There are three kinds of lies – lies, damned lies and statistics.
Our memories recall the untimely tee shot at the 16th hole of the U.S. Open two years ago, duck-hooked so poorly that it remains a lasting image of his late-tournament inefficiency. We remember his foibles at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational two months later, a bunker shot that never escaped the sand leading to a final-hole double bogey and one-stroke loss.
Memories work in strange ways, though. Our memories tend to forget that Furyk has never blown up on any of these Sunday afternoons, hasn’t turned a 54-hole lead into a twilight round where he’s bringing in the flagsticks and turning off the locker room lights when he’s done.
On four of these occasions, he’s posted a sub-70 round, but still fell short. His scoring average in these seven rounds is 70.29. Only once has he shot a score over 71 – and that was a 74 at the U.S. Open, where 74s aren’t considered such vile creatures.
Perhaps that’s why Furyk’s own memory doesn’t work in the same manner as so many others. Maybe that’s why, when he’s asked about the failures and struggles and all of the bad things that have happened to him on Sundays in the last few years, he simply shrugs off any rationale for them.
“It's done; it's over,” he said. “I've thought about those situations and how I could handle them better. … Just put it behind me and try to use it to my advantage in the future.”
He won’t block them from his mind, but he likewise won’t use them as inspiration for this next opportunity, either. He won’t feel an extra twinge of adrenaline just to prove the doubters wrong or erase any negative sentiments about him.
“I don't need any motivation. Sitting tied for the lead in a big of golf tournament on a golf course that I really enjoy playing and have a lot of respect for. I think it's a great golf course. No extra motivation needed. I'm just happy to be in a good spot and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Happy. There aren’t many players who would employ that adjective when shouldering a similar load to what Furyk has endured over the last few years. There aren’t many who would look at an 0-for-7 record when holding a 54-hole lead and relish the next chance for success more than being frightful of the next chance for failure.
So maybe that’s what defines Furyk, more than the labels about Sunday struggles. He doesn’t mind getting knocked down and dirty, then picking himself up and dusting himself off and getting ready to for another opportunity.
He doesn’t look burdened by it, doesn’t sound burdened by it and doesn’t play golf like he’s burdened by it. Breaking that streak this time will help unburden those who don’t believe it.