Monday, June 16

Attention aside, Jim will stay Jim

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- Winning the U.S. Open is a big thing in Jim Furyk's life, but I don't think it's going to change him at all. Other than the satisfaction of being a major champion and the dozens of congratulatory phone calls he'll receive, his life is basically going to remain the same.

Jim Furyk

Jim has a great understanding of self. He understands what he needs to do and knows what makes himself tick. He's not going to do anything differently tomorrow than he did before this week.

Keys to Furyk's victory
The reason Furyk won the U.S. Open on Sunday is because he basically did everything better than anyone else.

We said all week those first six holes would be the key to Olympia Fields (it included the course's only two par-5s). He played them at 10-under, better than anyone in the field. Hitting greens and fairways are keys to any U.S. Open, and he was first in greens in regulation and second in fairways hit. He also made the most birdies in the field this week. That pretty much takes care of it all right there.

Furyk was especially consistent on Sunday, when the course was at its toughest. The two testing par putts he made early in his round were huge, preventing anyone from really sneaking up on him. And while Furyk was making pars, Vijay Singh, Nick Price and some of the other guys you thought might make a run at him were all heading south.

Olympia Fields fights back
Olympia Fields really redeemed itself late Saturday and on Sunday after rolling over for the players earlier in the week.

I think you saw some fire in the greens Sunday. Because they were firmer, the players couldn't keep the ball below the hole where they wanted it. Many were faced with difficult putts down slopes, and some were missing the greens altogether. We saw the frustration and the anxiety of playing in an Open final round rear its head Sunday, and that's something we really didn't see the first three days of this championship.

Stop the slump talk
This talk of Tiger Woods in a slump needs to stop right now, it's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

Has he played his absolute best in the last two majors? No. But he's played eight tournaments this year. He's won three of them. The worst finish he's had in the other five was a tie for 20th this week. Let's be real here.

He couldn't have putted any worse at the Open, yet he still finished in the top 20. Tiger played the first eight holes Sunday at 2-under, then four-putted the ninth and was never heard from again. He obviously didn't perform the way he wanted, but he's certainly not slumping.

After Jack Nicklaus won his seventh major championship at age 27 (coincidentally, Tiger's current age), he went 12 majors in a row without winning one. Was he losing his edge? He won only 11 majors after that. Tiger's only gone four in a row without winning one. I can't imagine having a season as good as the one he's having in 2003, yet people want to say he's in a slump? Please.

A special moment
What Tom Watson did this week was terrific, and the fact that his caddie, Bruce Edwards, got a lot of enjoyment out of it made it that much better.

Watson dropped off after Thursday's fairy-tale round, but the story didn't end there. The fans were really supportive of both Watson and Edwards, who suffers from ALS, throughout the week, with standing ovations on every hole. It culminated in their memorable Sunday stroll up the 18th fairway, where fans were chanting "Bruce!" in what might have been their final moment at the U.S. Open. That was really great to see.

But more than that, the attention Watson and Edwards got this week was a great platform for awareness of ALS. It made some Americans really pay attention to the disease maybe for the first time, and realize what it can do to people.

Two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North serves as an analyst for ESPN.

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