JOHNS CREEK, Ga. - Ben Crenshaw once said he'd never use one of those drain-pipe, broomstick, Zorro's-sword putters. "I never saw Hogan use one," he said.
But many a man has discovered that while worship of Ben Hogan is a good thing, it's more fun to practice the old-time religion of knockin' 'em in from everywhere. So we saw Adam Scott win at Akron last week with the gutter downspout. Now comes Jim Furyk with the belly putter, inelegantly named for its inelegant positioning against a disciple's belly button.
He has tried the thing three or four times over the years, never happy with the results, but when the mysteries of putting go long unsolved, a desperate man will return even to that which has failed before. "So I tried it a little bit last year in the playoffs," Furyk said, "and threatened a little bit earlier this year, and finally, in my week off before the Bridgestone event, l put it in play at home. I still need to get maybe a little bit more comfortable with it, but it feels a lot better than what I was doing before."
*Furyk has finally found his groove in what has been a disappointing season.
Photo by Getty Images*
So, in explaining how he came to shoot a five-under-par 65 in the Friday round of the PGA Championship, Furyk raised his right arm and swept it across the horizon.
"I made," he said, smiling, and with the next word said in breathless italics, "everything."
And a good thing that was. Here's a man we know. The man with the swing of Charles Barkley's dreams. The man who won the 2003 U.S. Open and the 2010 FedEx playoffs. A Ryder Cup veteran. Here's a man whose name we can spell without going to Google.
Look, with all due respect, because they can do it or they'd be somewhere like the rest of us claiming they could do it, but, really, Keegan Bradley? Jason Dufner? They're leading this tournament. Right behind them, D.A. Points? John Senden? Brandt Jobe? Is this a leaderboard or a missing persons report? Anders Hansen? Scott Piercy? Brendan Steele?
They're among the 14 guys under par halfway through this thing. It's not so much a golf tournament as it is a convention of anonymities. The way it's going, the winner could be anyone within, say, eight shots of the lead, perhaps Matteo Manassero or Francisco Molinari, Seung-yul Noh or Brendon de Jonge.
But for the first time in a while, the familiar Furyk's there, one shot behind the leaders.
"I haven't been in position going into a weekend for some time now," he said. "So I'm happy. I'm happy with the way I'm playing. It's nice to be near the top instead of trying to make up ground on Saturday and Sunday. I love my position now."
He had six one-putt greens on the front, three with little putts, the others from 12, 15, and 20 feet. "When I made a mistake, when I missed a fairway, when I missed a green, when I had that 10-footer for a par, I was able to knock it in. . . .I don't feel like I hit it any better today than Thursday, but I was just able to score and keep the momentum going."
Meanwhile, the artist formerly known as Tiger Woods has vanished. "Yeah," he said, "I got some time off again" Meaning he hit it sideways so often that he was sent home without a trophy. Again.
Besides introducing the world to a gaggle of unknowns, this PGA has revealed a curious trend. Only last week, remember, Adam Scott won with the drainpipe and a former Tiger caddie, Steve Williams. They're now three shots off the lead here. And, as it happens, Furyk's caddie, Fluff Cowan, also worked for Tiger. Clearly, then, the new formula for success on tour is wait for Tiger to fire his caddie, then send the caddie to fetch you a broomstick.
-- *Dave Kindred