LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Jim Furyk is playing some of the best golf of his lengthy career. It just hasn’t equated to victory.
Still, he’s knocking on the door one more time after shooting an opening 5-under 66 Thursday at Valhalla to jump near the top of the PGA Championship leaderboard. Furyk was 2 under par after 15 holes but made birdie on each of the three closing holes to record the low number.
“I’m fresh, mentally feel pretty good out there,” said Furyk, who trails Lee Westwood and Kevin Chappell by a shot.
The eye-popping stat that many know is Furyk has failed to win each of the last seven times he’s held the lead after three rounds.
The last time came two weeks ago at the RBC Canadian Open when Furyk shot a final-round 69, but Tim Clark closed with 65 to win. Had Furyk converted a 12-footer on the 18th hole, he would’ve at least been playoff bound. He’s won 16 PGA Tour events but none since the 2010 Tour Championship.
After a solid beginning to the season Furyk jumped onto the radar again after consecutive second-place finishes at the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players. After a 12th-place tie at the U.S. Open in June, Furyk decided to take a full month off so he could be rested for the long, strenuous haul that the end of the season produces.
Furyk, 44, returned at the British Open and finished fourth, finished second at the aforementioned Canadian Open and tied for 15th last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He’s second on the U.S. Ryder Cup standings and is a lock to qualify for captain Tom Watson’s team in September.
Here at Valhalla, Furyk was quiet for most of the day before that stellar finish. He hit wedge to 7 feet on the par-5 seventh hole and made birdie, hit his tee shot to 4 feet on the par-3 eighth hole, then drained a 35 footer for birdie on the ninth to close.
But it’s early, and the veteran knows not to get ahead of himself.
“It’s nice to be in a major championship, and throwing up a good number early in the week,” he said. “Got myself in a good position now, but there’s a lot of golf to be played.”