Furyk embraces his nervousness

By Jason SobelAugust 10, 2013, 11:14 pm

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Jim Furyk is reeling. You can read it on his face like a down-and-out poker player. He’s stressed out. Feeling the pressure.

Let’s just call it what it is. The man is nervous.

It’s a sensation he knows all too well. Furyk is leading the 95th PGA Championship, yes, but the gravity of the moment is starting to wash across his brow, his forever-frayed nerves stretching even further.

He lays up on the short par-4 14th hole at Oak Hill, where most players are cranking driver, and only makes par. He flirts with another par on 15, only to watch his ball wickedly carom off the edge of the hole. He misses again on 16, this time for birdie, an opportunity lost.


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You can see his face becoming more clenched. You can sense his nerves becoming more frayed.

When he magically gets up and down for birdie on the 17th hole, hitting a hybrid from 244 yards to some 18 feet, then holing the putt, none of it subsides. He is lost in the moment, awash in the importance of it all.

“It’s a little easier to focus when you’re nervous,” he later says. “Relaxed doesn’t mean that I’m not nervous. I think it means that I’m comfortable with the position I’m in and I’m having fun with it.”

Furyk never looks like he’s having fun playing golf, perpetually wearing the blue-collar expression of his mill-worker grandparents. Now, though, in the heat of the moment, with thousands of eyeballs trained upon his every movement, his maneuvers almost look painstaking. When his ball falls into the cup on that 17th hole, he barely shows any emotion.



Maybe this is why he receives so little empathy from the masses for last year’s foibles. On four separate occasions, Furyk led a tournament through 54 holes. And on four separate occasions, he felt the heartache of losing on Sunday afternoon. That includes the U.S. Open, where he bogeyed two of the last three holes to finish in a share of fourth place. Throw in a 1-3 record at the Ryder Cup, and it was a year to forget.

But here’s the thing about such disappointment: You have to be really good to have a year as bad as Furyk had last year.

The U.S. Open winner from a decade ago, he didn’t look like he was having any fun in those situations, either, which also accounts for the lack of compassion toward his struggles. He’s a feel-good story who isn’t warm and fuzzy. He’s never the favorite, but isn’t an underdog. He’s making a comeback without ever having gone anywhere.

As he methodically walks to the 18th tee, all of it adds up to him hardly being the sentimental pick, let alone the sexy one. Nearby fans rain down echoes of “KUUUCH!” to his playing partner Matt Kuchar, seven shots off his pace. Furyk leads, but receives only a few polite cries of “Go Jim!”

Seconds later, he hears silence. Leading by one on the last hole of the third round, he pops up his tee shot, short and right. Never one to waste words, his caddie Mike “Fluff” Cowan later explains, “Hit an awful shot.” Furyk concurs: “I hit a poor 3-wood, to say the least.”

He is forced to lay up in the fairway, then hits an approach that looks good, only to watch it spin back off the front of the green. Those witnessing the action can be excused for whispering about how Furyk is getting his major blunder out of the way one day early this time.

Only, he isn’t.

This time he steps up and rams the putt directly into the hole. The crowd booms, those whispering seconds earlier are now screaming in unison.

The tension melts from Furyk’s face. He offers a hefty fist pump and smiles, not for the first time in his career and not even for the first time all day. It just seems like it.

All of those nervous feelings come pouring out. He’s smiling. He’s happy. He actually looks like he’s having fun. Until minutes later, that is, when he’s reminded that once again, he finds himself with a 54-hole lead and those scenarios haven’t been kind to him in recent memory.

“I know someone is going to mention that I’m 43 and that I’m old and how many more chances am I going to have,” he says. “I’m kind of waiting for it. I’m going to have some fun with it. You know, I’m not in the grave yet. I’m going to have more opportunities ahead of me.”

Apparently one man’s déjà vu is another man’s opportunity.

“Tomorrow is an opportunity,” he continues. “That is exactly the way I’m viewing it. I’m going to have fun with it and I’m going to enjoy the opportunity.”

Remember this during the final round. Remember this when he’s reeling and stressed out and feeling the pressure and – let’s just call it what it is – nervous. Even with all of those sensations competing for attention, Furyk will still be having fun battling for another major title.


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Woods talks about Ryder Cup prospects in third person

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 1:47 pm

Conversations between Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods have gotten a little awkward.

That’s what happens when Woods, the U.S. Ryder Cup vice captain, needs to assess the prospects of Woods, the player.

“We’re talking about myself in the third person a lot,” he said with a chuckle Tuesday at the Northern Trust Open. “That’s one of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

“I’m one of the guys on the short list, and sometimes I have to pull myself out of there and talk about myself in the third person, which is a little odd.”


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After placing second at the PGA Championship, Woods finished 11th on the U.S. points list with just eight months of tournament results. Three of Furyk’s four captain’s picks will be announced after the BMW Championship in three weeks, and barring a late injury, it’s almost a certainty that Woods will be one of those selected.

Still, Woods was named in February as an assistant for his third consecutive team competition, even though he told Furyk at the beginning of the year that he envisioned himself as a player on the 2018 squad.

“I’m very close to making that happen,” he said. “It’s been a long year, and that’s been one of my goals, to make the team. To be a part of that team you have to be one of the 12 best players, and I’m trending toward that.”

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Woods on busy schedule: 'It's about pacing myself'

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 1:34 pm

At the beginning of the year, Tiger Woods was anxious to see how his fused back would hold up to tournament play.

Now he’s in the midst of one of his busiest stretches in years.

With the Tour Championship and Ryder Cup likely to be added to his schedule over the next few weeks, Woods could play seven events in a nine-week span.


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“That is a lot of golf,” he said Tuesday at The Northern Trust. “It’s about pacing myself and making sure I don’t practice too much, don’t overdo it and make sure my training schedule goes well.

“One of the hardest things this year has been finding the right balance. As the summer has gone on, I’ve gotten better and felt better. This is a pretty important stretch.”

Woods has already played 14 events – his most since 2013, when he had 16 starts.

He’s committed to playing the first three playoff events, beginning with this week’s event in New Jersey. There’s a week off after the BMW Championship, and at No. 20 in the FedExCup standings, Woods doesn’t need to do much to punch his ticket to East Lake. He’s also virtually assured of being a U.S. captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup, held in France the week after the Tour Championship.

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Tiger Tracker: The Northern Trust

By Tiger TrackerAugust 21, 2018, 1:00 pm

Tiger Woods begins his FedExCup Playoffs run at this week's Northern Trust. We're tracking him at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.


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Stock Watch: Will Bjorn buy or sell slumping Sergio?

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 12:07 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Sneds (+9%): It doesn’t always happen, a Tour player shooting 59 and then finishing it off with a W, so it was satisfying to watch Brandt Snedeker go wire to wire at the Wyndham. An in-form Sneds now should edge out Kevin Kisner for one of Jim Furyk’s final captain picks.

Viktor Hovland (+6%): Watching the Oklahoma State junior maul the field at the U.S. Amateur, a question arose: How does the fifth-ranked player in the world not win more often? The U.S. Am was just his second title, anywhere, outside of Norway. That could all change, after he proved to himself that he could handle the best field and the stiffest challenge.

Lexi (+4%): She once again was penalized – for playing preferred lies in a different fairway – but Thompson still shot 17 under and tied for 12th in her first start since a self-imposed break to recharge her batteries. In the media tent she was refreshingly honest about the difficulties of being a 23-year-old superstar who never went to college and whose life is consumed by golf. Here’s hoping she can find a better balance (like, say, Michelle Wie) over the next few years.

Tyler McCumber (+3%): The world rankings don’t reflect it, but McCumber is playing the best golf of anyone in the world right now. In his past four starts on the Canadian circuit, he’s gone win-win-3rd-win and shot 90 under par with a scoring average of 65.88 and just two rounds higher than 68.

Nick Taylor (+1%): Playing for his Tour card, Taylor shot a bogey-free 63 Sunday at the Wyndham – with an eagle and birdie in his last four holes – to jump from 129th to 119th in the standings. That’s clutch.


FALLING

Billy Hurley III (-1%): A winner two years ago at Tiger’s event, Hurley is now headed back to second stage of Web.com Q-School after finishing 201st in the standings – by a point. A tough break for one of the game’s good dudes.

Kevin Stadler (-2%): He reminded us of the dangers of slamming clubs, after the head of his 7-iron flew off and struck a spectator in the head, requiring stitches. It was a scary scene – “It’s been a while since I’ve seen so much blood,” said playing partner Shaun Micheel – that could have been even worse.

Sepp Straka (-3%): There were plenty of stories of heartbreak at the Web.com Tour regular-season finale, perhaps none as crushing as Straka, who went 5 over for his last seven holes (including three consecutive bogeys to finish) to drop outside of the top-25 bubble.

Sergio (-4%): At last, some signs of life – his tie for 24th in Greensboro was his best finish on Tour since March – but he still didn’t make the playoffs, and it still might not be enough to sway Thomas Bjorn. For the captain it may come down to a question like this: Who would you rather have in Paris, Sergio or Russell Knox?