New No. 2 Furyk headed in the right direction

Originally Published: September 12, 2006
By Bob Harig | Special to ESPN.com

There was a time earlier this year when it was easy to question Jim Furyk. He was the first to admit that his solid play was not resulting in victories.

There had been only six top-10 finishes since his last victory, in 2005, and a career that included just one major championship was falling short of greatness.

Then he got a playoff victory at the Wachovia Championship, and everything changed. It came after a disappointing loss at the Verizon Classic, where he finished second to Aaron Baddeley but should have won. And it propelled Furyk into a stunning summer of golf that would be much more the talk of the tour if not for a guy named Tiger Woods.

Jim Furyk
Kyle Auclair/Getty ImagesFuryk has finished in the top-four in 10 of his 21 starts this season.

Furyk's victory Sunday at the Canadian Open was the 12th of his PGA Tour career and his second this year. Multiple victories are important simply because Furyk had achieved that feat just one other time in his career, when he won the U.S. Open and Buick Open in 2003.

Perhaps more important, however, is that the victory turns all those close calls into positives.

Furyk has 10 top-four finishes in 21 events this year. He is second to Woods on the money list. And in the game played by the mere mortals who hope to haul down Woods, that is impressive stuff.

"It's been a great year and I still have some events left, so hopefully I can keep riding the wave and finish it out well." Furyk said after his victory.

Furyk, who passed Phil Mickelson for second place behind Woods in the Official World Golf Ranking, moves on to the HSBC World Match Play Championship this week in England, where he is seeded third and will play Robert Karlsson on Thursday in the event, which requires 36-hole matches. From there, it is on to the Ryder Cup next week, where he is expected to partner with Woods several times.

"There's going to be a lot of pressure at the Ryder Cup, and any time you can put yourself in contention, get comfortable, do something well, I'll take that experience with me and it will help out at the Ryder Cup," Furyk said. "Hopefully, it will help a lot."

Even before his victory Sunday, Furyk was expected to be one of the forces on the U.S. team. Woods teamed with him well at last year's Presidents Cup, where the duo won three matches. It certainly can't hurt to have Woods and Furyk, Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, playing so well. It might even tempt captain Tom Lehman to split them up, at least once.

Furyk admits, however, that it is difficult not to think about what this year could have yielded.

He has been ever so close to a monster season. He missed a 5-foot par putt on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot that would have put him in a playoff with eventual U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy. He finished fourth at the British Open and third at the Bridgestone Invitational. Of course, Woods was the winner of those events.

"We talked about the last seven events, I've been in the top four six times, so I guess if my approach were better, I'd have more than one win in one of those," he said. "I think everyone goes through streaks and times where hopefully you get on a good run, you close out some tournaments, you get some wins, but it's a humbling game."

Furyk, 36, seems to have fought through it, however, not letting the disappointments get him down. He said he has "just found a way to get the ball in the hole and score and hang around." At the Canadian Open, Furyk opened the tournament with a 63, then fired a 65 Sunday when others could not make a charge.

"The best player won the tournament," said Bart Bryant, who finished second to Furyk. "There's not too many guys playing better than Jim Furyk right now. It doesn't surprise me at all that he shot 5 under on a tough day. ... You kind of knew if somebody was going to get to a 5- or 6-under round, Jim might be the guy. He's got a lot of confidence, a lot of momentum. I give him all the credit in the world."

QUICK TAKE
Berg
Berg
It was good to see the comments of players on the LPGA Tour such as Annika Sorenstam and Cristie Kerr, who paid tribute to Patty Berg after the LPGA icon's death Sunday. Too often, players of a current generation have no idea who paved the way.

Berg certainly did.

She won 15 major championships, which is still the most in LPGA history. She won 60 titles overall, fourth best. But those numbers do not come close to accounting for what Berg really did -- which basically is help the tour exist.

She was one of the LPGA's 13 founders and worked tirelessly to promote women's golf at a time when it was easy to dismiss. Her signature was the clinic, of which she did an estimated 10,000 around the world, always entertaining.

After her passing, one of her favorite lines was recalled, a signature staple of Berg's clinics that the amateur golfer could always understand. "Yesterday, I hit it here and the pin's over there. Today, I hit it there and the pin's over here."

MAILBAG: ASK BOB HARIG
Bob HarigGot a question about the PGA Tour? Ask ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig, who will answer some inquiries in his column each week.

Q. With strategy and pairings playing a large part of the Ryder Cup, is one team obligated to announce their playing order first? Which captain ultimately gets to decide who is playing against who?
Mike
Reading, Pa.

A. In the Ryder Cup, each captain comes up with his pairings and order of play independent of the other team. Part of the process requires trying to guess what the other captain will do. So they do not get to decide who goes up against another player on the other team.

Q. What is the typical clubhead speed generated by a long hitter, such as Tiger Woods or Camilo Villegas?
Daniel
Medellin, Colombia

A. Woods and Villegas are in the 125-mph range with clubhead speed, and it is sometimes greater, depending on the situation. The typical tour player is more than 100 mph.

Q. Given the total domination of marquee events on tour by one Mr. Woods, are players who want to win more (or at all) increasingly scheduling themselves to play at events they know Tiger will not be playing?
Dan
Los Angeles

A. Given Woods' limited schedule, most players get plenty of opportunities to play in events in which he is not competing. They don't have to go out of their way to schedule around him. As for skipping the events he already plays, that is unlikely. Nobody is going to skip a major, World Golf event, Players Championship, etc., because Woods is there.


Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

ALSO SEE