Furyk seizes lead in pursuit of elusive victory at Firestone
AKRON, Ohio - Firestone CC's South Course owes one to Jim Furyk.
OK, maybe the opposite is true.
A golf course has no memory, is unsentimental, and exudes a defiant stoicism.
Come to think of it, that sounds a little like Furyk, your 36-hole leader at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Defying age and applying tools that have been much in vogue this year - driving accuracy, a strong wedge game and putting (see this year's major winners Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson) - Furyk fired his second straight 4-under-par 66 Friday to seize control in an event he's twice come agonizingly close to winning.
Which means he's owed one. But he's not. If golf courses made up for past disappointments a bunch of poor slobs would own green jackets after their assorted misadventures at Augusta National Golf Club.
Furyk's woulda-coulda-shouldas here at Firestone include the double-bogey slop he plopped onto the 72nd hole in 2012 that handed victory to Keegan Bradley. Before that, in 2001, he exhausted his best efforts over 78 holes only to lose on the 79th to Tiger Woods in a seven-hole sudden-death playoff.
You might say he has unfinished business, clearly. But he wouldn't say that.
"I would say that I'm disappointed I've never won here," said Furyk, who in each of the aforementioned years led after each of the first three rounds only to fall short. "It's one of my favorite courses we play. Before I'd won at [Harbour Town Golf Links] in Hilton Head in 2010, that was a course [like that]. Colonial is a place I'd like to win. Riviera, here…all really good classic golf courses. So I'm disappointed, but to have like a chip on my shoulder, no. It's another year and opportunity, and we're only halfway."
Furyk, 45, has remained a relevant contender and top-10 player (he's currently No. 6 in the world) at a time when three of his most notable contemporaries - Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker - are struggling. The last victory by any of that trio came two years ago when Woods won his eighth title here. Furyk, meanwhile, ended a five-year victory drought in April at the RBC Heritage.
In the upcoming Presidents Cup in South Korea, Furyk will likely make the U.S. team on points. Only Stricker, who recently cut back his playing schedule, is assured of also making the trip, but as an assistant captain to Jay Haas.
It's impressive stuff from a player who admits he is among the shorter hitters in golf and has been a pro for 23 years, or one year longer than Spieth, the Masters and U.S. Open champion, has been alive.
"I feel like I've been relevant for a lot of my career," said the Pennsylvania native, who won the 2003 U.S. Open among 17 PGA Tour titles. "I'm just doing the same stuff."
"It's nothing different that he's doing. It's just golf," said Furyk's caddie Mike "Fluff" Cowan. "Like the fifth hole. We missed the green and then chip it in. Probably saved one shot, maybe two. I've got nothing for you."
Well, he already said it: It's just golf.
At one juncture Friday, Furyk led the field by six shots. He bogeyed the ninth, his final hole, to take a five-shot lead to the clubhouse, and Shane Lowry, playing in the afternoon, whittled it to four with his own 66. Firestone South is a sturdy 7,400 yards, par 70, yet Furyk converted seven birdies on Friday, most in the field.
Oddly enough, Furyk once chased distance in an attempt to make himself more competitive against the onslaught of long hitters. He realized that playing to his strengths, such as accuracy off the tee and winning the battle from 120 yards and in, make him effective enough.
As for past disappointments at Firestone, they have no bearing on his outlook for the weekend. Everyone has scars, he said. Everyone fails at certain times. But to continue to dwell on the disappointments would be the real failure.
"I've always been able to put things behind me pretty quickly. You have to," he said with his familiar reserved and straightforward manner. "You get beat up in golf pretty quickly, so you have to have that mentality where you can think about it for a while. You can go back and figure out what you did wrong, how you could have done it differently, what could I have done better, how will I handle the situation the next time? That process goes pretty quickly. I try to tee it up…the next time I peg in for a tournament, I've had it behind me, if that makes sense."
It makes sense. It's golf.