GREENSBORO, N.C. – After months of plotting, planning and Task Force-ing, the Ryder Cup is now in sight. In just over a month, Davis Love III’s roster will be finalized, 12 brave souls out to avenge the one that got away for him at Medinah four years ago.
The U.S. camp has vowed to try something different. Shake things up. Throw out the plans that led to six losses in the last seven Ryder Cups.
But it appears with increasing likelihood that a link to America’s shaky past will be a part of the group donning the red, white and blue at Hazeltine.
Attention, U.S. fans: Jim Furyk is going to be on the U.S. team. The sooner we all come to accept this notion, the easier it will be to move on.
We’ve known for months that Furyk will be one of Love’s four assistants. But amid a torrid summer stretch that now includes contending at the halfway point of the Wyndham Championship, Furyk has become a prime candidate for one of Love’s four captain’s selections.
This is the same Jim Furyk who has compiled a 10-20-4 individual record in the Ryder Cup. It’s the same player who was nearly brought to his knees by a Sunday singles loss to Sergio Garcia in 2012, a pivotal result that helped the Euros retain the trophy.
But Furyk’s individual record is nearly reversed in the Presidents Cup matches (20-10-3), lending credence to the notion that his match-play success or failure depends in large part on who’s pegging it for the other side. Then there’s the hard-to-ignore fact that he’s playing well. Really, really well.
Fresh off his record-breaking 58, Furyk is again cruising this week at Sedgefield, relying on accurate ball-striking to climb into a tie for second at the halfway mark. He compiled a streak of 38 straight greens in regulation that ended in Friday's 64, and through two rounds he has missed only two greens and three fairways.
“I’ve had a really good ball-striking year, one of the best I can remember. I wouldn’t have guessed that coming off a seven- to eight-month layoff with the injury,” Furyk said. “I’ve just had a really good feeling most of the year with my ball-striking.”
Indeed, Furyk has made up quickly for lost time. He didn’t make his season debut until the Wells Fargo Championship in May, sidelined longer than expected with a lingering wrist injury. But he has already played his way into the FedEx Cup Playoffs, vaulting past some players who had more than twice his 11 starts to date.
Then there’s the sense that Love seems to be looking for a reason add Furyk to the team.
At his press conference before the PGA Championship, Love mentioned Furyk by name a total of seven times – more than any other player. Those mentions included heaps of praise for his friend and assistant, and a hint at adjusting his criteria to account for the time Furyk missed with injury.
“We will factor that in there, that Jim Furyk missed a lot of tournaments that he played really well,” Love said at Baltusrol. “I’ll have the stat crunchers go back and run 10,000 times if Jim Furyk played his normal schedule, where he would have finished, and he’ll probably pop right back up into the top five or six.”
Of course, that was before Furyk lowered the PGA Tour’s all-time scoring mark, and before he striped his way onto the Wyndham leaderboard. Even during his press conference Thursday at Sedgefield, Love mentioned Furyk’s name when discussing the “unofficial points list” he plans to use as a guide for his selections.
“You know, Jim Furyk played one, did probably one of the best rounds ever played in the history of the PGA Tour and he didn’t really move up much in points, but he got everybody’s attention that he’s playing really well,” Love said. “Then you go back and look, wow, Jim, he played great at the U.S. Open, he’s played really well in a lot of big tournaments coming after his wrist problem.”
Love added that a key criteria for selections will be who’s hot when it’s time to make the first three of his four picks on Sept. 11. Of those near the bubble, none have distinguished themselves in recent weeks quite like Furyk has – not Brandt Snedeker, not Bubba Watson and certainly not Rickie Fowler.
On Friday, Furyk downplayed his potential candidacy. At No. 106 in the FedEx Cup race, he insisted, his focus is simply to play his way to the Deutsche Bank Championship and beyond.
“I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about playing,” Furyk said. “I’ll take it one day at a time, and go play. If I get in that discussion and those guys see a fit, great. If not, I’m going to be there to help a good friend of mine as captain and help the team out the best I can.”
But make no mistake, in the span of a few short months Furyk has zoomed past a number of potential team members and now sits in prime position to make his 10th straight squad, a run of longevity rivaled only by Phil Mickelson.
The goal for the U.S. side at Hazeltine will be to reverse nearly two decades of futility. To do so, however, they’ll likely call upon a player who bore witness to the entire stretch of European domination.
When the roster of 12 Americans is finalized next month, Furyk’s name – for better or worse – will be on the list. Get used to it.