PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Playing in the Players Championship wasn’t even an option for Jim Furyk a few weeks ago.
After the 48-year-old had spent much of the last two years occupied with his duties as U.S. Ryder Cup captain and finished outside the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings, he began this season playing from a limited category.
Then came the Honda Classic two weeks ago. Furyk closed with rounds of 68-67 to tie for ninth, just enough to qualify him for his hometown tournament.
“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 Friday at TPC Sawgrass. “I prepared last week a lot like I was in, and thankful for that opportunity, was able to take advantage of it the last couple days.”
Never more so than in the second round. Furyk made eight birdies and nary a bogey en route to a 64—a career-best in more than two decades of playing the event—to shoot up the leader board and into contention heading into the weekend at a tournament he’s had something of a love-hate relationship with over the years.
This year marks Furyk’s 23rd start at the Players, where he has finished in the top five on four occasions, including in 2014 when he finished runner-up. But he also has missed the cut five times.
“It's not that I dislike the golf course, it's just I have a lot more that I like on tour, that I'm more comfortable on, that I've played a lot better at in the past,” Furyk said. “So 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.
“We're all selfish, my track record is not that great around this golf course.”
Not that you’d know it judging by his play on Friday.
Furyk didn’t miss a fairway, hit 15 greens and needed just 25 putts on his way to making four birdies on each side.
He would have had one more, if not for his putt bouncing off the flagstick and staying out of the hole on the 17th.
“I don't think it had a chance to go in,” Furyk said. “I think it was going to kind of run by and I was going to have a tough putt on the way back for a three.”
He called it a good break.
Given that Furyk wasn’t even qualified for the tournament a few weeks ago, he’ll take it.