SAN FRANCISCO – Jim Furyk could make a Rubik’s Cube nervous.The man figures out things fast and yet is blessed with long patience.
He is as steady, smart and analytical as he is unspectacular.
That makes him dangerous at the U.S. Open this week.
Just ask Graeme McDowell.
McDowell, like Furyk, is a U.S. Open champ. He played alongside Furyk in the first two rounds and marveled at how Furyk tactically maneuvered his way onto the leaderboard Friday with a 1-under-par 69.
What will it take to win on a course as firm, fast and ferocious as The Olympic Club?
“You’ve got to play Jim Furyk golf,” McDowell said. “I watched yesterday, and I watched it again today. He doesn't take chances he doesn't have to take on. He gets it back in the fairway. He putts well, holes out well, takes chances when they come. And that's my type of golf as well.”
It’s no coincidence McDowell (72) was also on the leaderboard Friday, just two shots off the lead. They share a certain quality that suits this kind of test.
“I don't like the word 'plodder'; it's kind of a little bit disrespectful,” McDowell said of Furyk. “I think that it's an aggressive-to-conservative-targets type of player. You’ve got to take on shots, but play safe. So I think that's the kind of guy he is.”
Furyk doesn’t mind being called a plodder.
“I kind of collected myself and plodded along today,” Furyk said of his round of three birdies and two bogeys. “I think the way the golf course is set up, that's pretty much what you need to do. It's get the ball in the fairway, or in a playable spot, as best you can. Get the ball on the green, or in a playable spot, as best you can.”
Plodders win a lot of U.S. Opens. Furyk knows. He won at Olympia Fields in 2003. He also was runner-up in back-to-back U.S. Opens, in 2006 at Winged Foot and 2007 at Oakmont. Five times he has finished T-5 or better in this championship.
In his 40s now and rebounding from one of his most disappointing years, Furyk will be looking to give himself a chance to win again this weekend.
“At 42, I realize that the window is not as wide open anymore,” Furyk said. “I have a lot more good years behind me than I probably do ahead of me, but I still feel like I've got some game. I’ve got some more tournaments to win.”
Furyk won three times in 2010, bumping his total to 16 PGA Tour career victories. He also won the FedEx Cup title and was the PGA Tour’s player of the year, but last year he slumped to No. 53 in money winnings. It marked the first time since 2004 that he didn’t finish among the top 12 in money.
“I was disappointed,” Furyk said. “I always look for ways to improve, and last year I think I took the wrong steps. The things I was trying to work on in my game didn't work out. The things I tried to work on in my equipment didn't really work out. And, on top of it, I putted badly. I had one of my worst putting seasons of all time.”
Furyk went 5-0 in the American Presidents Cup victory last fall, giving him a boost of confidence before he rebuilt his game in the offseason. His game’s back. He tied for second at the Transitions Championship earlier this year, one of six T-11 or better finishes in 2012. It’s all pointing to another victory, a title he hopes will be a major championship this week.