PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Until two weeks ago, The Players Championship wasn’t even an option for Jim Furyk.
After spending the better part of the last two years occupied with his duties as the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, Furyk began this season playing from a limited category after finishing outside the top 125 on last season’s FedExCup points list. That all changed two weeks ago at the Honda Classic.
Furyk closed with rounds of 68-67 at PGA National to tie for ninth place and narrowly qualify for the PGA Tour’s flagship event.
“Until I finished at the Honda Classic, I honestly didn't know that I had that opportunity. A couple players told me there in the locker room that I may get in the field, and I was excited, did my homework, and realized that there was a good chance,” he said on Friday at TPC Sawgrass.
The 48-year-old made the most of the 11th-hour invitation with a second-round 64 that vaulted him into second place at an event that is best described as a labor of love for Furyk.
This is Furyk’s 23rd start at The Players and his record at the Stadium Course features plenty of trial and error. He finished runner-up at TPC Sawgrass in 2014 and was third in 2006, although he seemed surprised to hear of the latter finish when when reminded of it earlier in the week. Otherwise, he’s been squarely in the middle of the pack.
Following his best round ever at The Players, an 8-under 64, Furyk fielded questions about Sawgrass being far from his favorite track.
“If you asked me to rank it, 'Is this one of your three, five favorite courses on Tour? I'd say absolutely not, because I've never won here and [because of] my track record,” he said. “We're all selfish. My track record is not that great around this golf course.”
Furyk isn’t the first player to admit that TPC Sawgrass isn’t their brand of (stadium) golf. But his relationship with the course is curious. Furyk lives in Ponte Vedra Beach and spent the first decade of his career playing the layout when he wasn’t chasing paychecks around the globe.
On Friday, with the help of the week’s best scoring conditions, he performed like a man born to play Pete Dye’s quirky design. He made four birdies on each nine, hit every fairway, missed only three greens and recorded 11 one-putts. That not bad for a guy who admits to being a part-time player the last two years and is just 14 months shy of an appointment with the senior circuit.
“Age isn’t a factor with Jim,” said Paul Casey, who played with Furyk on Thursday and Friday. “He’s just been reminded in [the scoring room] that since 1992, he’s had 215 bogey-free rounds of golf on the PGA Tour. That pretty much sums up Jim Furyk. He’s so good at keeping rounds going. He made a brilliant par save on 14. I mean without that, you’re not asking me questions about it if he doesn’t save that par. He’s just world class. Always has been.”
With the distractions that come with being a Ryder Cup captain and a collection of injuries behind him, Furyk may be poised for a resurgence. Phil Mickelson won last year at 47. Vijay Singh finished sixth at the Honda Classic at age 56. So why not Furyk?
“If I'm competitive and I feel like I'm knocking on the door and having opportunities to win, I'd like to play some out here,” Furyk said. “If that's not the case, I'll go to [PGA Tour Champions] and see if I can be competitive out there.”
If his play this week at TPC Sawgrass is any indication, the over-50 circuit can wait. At 48 years young, Furyk has been re-energized.