MEDINAH, Ill. — When Jim Furyk says that Chicago has been good to him, he’s not exaggerating.
Frankly, it’s more of an understatement.
Attempting to qualify for next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta for the first time since 2015—which he missed because of a wrist injury—Furyk shot a bogey-free, six-under-par 66 in Thursday’s opening round of the BMW Championship at Medinah's No. 3 Course, a stroke behind co-leaders Justin Thomas and Jason Kokrak.
One year after a disappointing turn as U.S. Ryder Cup captain, Furyk, at age 49, is enjoying a solid season that includes second place in the Players Championship. He began the year ranked 217th in the world and has moved up to 49th. He began this week ranked 48th in the FedEx Cup standings and likely would need no less than a solo seventh place to return to Atlanta, where he won in 2010, one of his 17 tour victories, to seal the FedEx Cup title.
Hampered by a series of injuries the last three-plus seasons, Furyk hasn’t even reached this stage since 2015. Which is kind of a pity when you consider that he won his only major, the U.S. Open, in 2003 at Olympia Fields Country Club, and shot a 12-under 59 in the 2013 edition of this event at Conway Farms, among other highlights.
“Yeah, I've always liked Medinah,” said Furyk, one of three players in the field who competed in the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championships and the 2012 Ryder Cup. “I've had some good events in the PGA. Chicago has been good to me. I won at Cog Hill [in 2005], there was the 59 at Conway, and I finished second there, and then, obviously, the win at the U.S. Open.”
Furyk’s resurgence this year has been fueled by improved health. “I finally feel good again,” he said. “I feel good, so now I can practice.”
Though he withdrew from this event in 2015 because of a wrist injury that eventually required surgery, the injury occurred much earlier in the season. Then came an upper-chest problem with his SC joint. “That set me back another year. So that's been a struggle,” he said. “I guess that's part of being 47, 48, 49.
“But I feel good now,” he said. “I've worked really hard on my game this year. I think a lot of it's kind of getting some confidence back and putting yourself in those situations.”
Furyk ranks 15th on the PGA Tour in scoring with a 69.889 average, impressive for an old-guard player who is 120th in strokes gained/off the tee and 194th in driving distance with an average of 269.3 yards—which probably equates to your basic Brooks Koepka 4-iron.
But Furyk perseveres. He still has goals. He’s very much eyeing a return to East Lake.
“It's obviously a goal for everyone that shows up this week,” Furyk said. “What's significant about the top 30, you're qualified for every major next year, probably most of the World Golf Championships. It's definitely icing on the cake, and from where I've been the last two or three years, schedule-wise, I kind of had to play my way into two World Golf Championships and three of the four majors this year. Just missed Augusta.
“Obviously I want to get in those majors championships. So, making it in the top 30 ... it kind of sets you up for the following year. That would be the goal for me.”
Good thing, then, that he’s in Chicago this week.