Jim Furyk is back, his heart stronger than the surgically repaired wrist which kept him away from competition for six months.
Its the U.S. Open, its Shinnecock, and Im the defending champion, he told me after a short game session on a breezy, beautiful Sunday. Otherwise I wouldve waited.
The target all along had been next months Western Open. That changed while practicing at home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
I had a really good week last week, he said. Im not sure Im ready but Im close enough to show up. Ill play practice rounds and give it a try.
Its an effort New Yorkers will appreciate. I reminded Furyk that New York Knicks basketball great Willis Reed cemented his legend more than 30 years ago when he dragged his battered leg to center court to jump ball against the taller, healthier and more talented Wilt Chamberlain for game seven of the NBA Finals. The garden came unhinged. Willis scored the first four points. He left the game minutes later, and the Knicks went on to destroy the Lakers.
Ill welcome some of that, Furyk said with a smile.
Naturally, hes realistic. Is my game 100 percent? You cant take six months off then come back and play Shinnecock and expect a whole lot. Im just trying to get back in the flow.
Furyks also proceeding with caution over the next two days. Hell play no more than nine holes and limit the amount of balls he hits. By Tuesday afternoon he should know for certain if hell be teeing off in round one on Thursday.
If I have any pain, Ill withdraw, he said plainly. Im not crazy. If I cant take a swing in the rough, then Im done.
His doctor, Andrew Weiland, is based in Manhattan and will be nearby to help in the ultimate decision.
Had he not injured the wrist, Furyk might well have been in good position to defend. His talents are well suited to Shinnecock.
Boy is it difficult, he said. At Olympia Fields it didnt matter if you drew it or cut it off the tee. But here you have to work it. And the greens are extremely severe in spots. You have to put the ball in the correct position. Definitely, you have to think here.
Asked for a player to watch outside of the obvious heavyweights, he offered David Toms.
He can work it both ways, Furyk explained. He doesnt make a lot of mistakes. Sounds a lot like Corey Pavin.
Sounds a lot like Jim Furyk, who says he missed the game but that contrary to what some good natured friends had predicted, the layoff didnt kill him. He spent time with his young family'wife Tabitha, six month old Tanner and two year old Cali. If he couldnt polish his game, he did sharpen his perspective.
Things can change in a hurry, he said. I appreciate that Ive been able to play this game for the last 10 to 12 years. But Im hungry get to back, too.
Jim Furyk is hungry again. Business as usual.
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