2002: Competition - Furyk flurry seizes wide-open Memorial

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By Dave Shedloski

Dublin, Ohio

After a one-man show the last three years, the 27th Memorial Tournament could have belonged to just about anyone else.

“There were so many guys . . . it was there, just waiting for somebody to break out,” Brad Faxon said.

Or hole out.

Jim Furyk, sidelined a month earlier this year with vertigo-like symptoms, displayed a dizzying short game that knocked a tightly bunched leaderboard off balance and produced a two-stroke victory May 26 at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Furyk holed out twice with his wedge in shooting 7-under 65 – the lowest closing round by a Memorial champion – to overcome a five-shot deficit and win his seventh PGA Tour title.

“I didn’t hit the ball any better than anyone else this week, but I’m knocking some shots in from off the green and making some putts; that made a big difference,” said Furyk, 32, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., who had missed four of his last six cuts.

Furyk’s 14-under 274 brought him $810,000 and a victory for a fifth consecutive year, tied with David Duval for the second-longest streak on Tour behind Tiger Woods. It also brought down the curtain on Woods’ three-year reign at the tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus.

Woods, attempting to join Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen in winning a tournament four consecutive years, was betrayed by his putter in posting 282, tied for 22nd, his lowest finish this year in stroke play. Until a final-round 66, Woods was tied with the 62-year-old tournament founder, who, despite playing his first PGA Tour event in a year and only his second tournament in 10 months, made the cut for the 21st time. However, an exhausted Nicklaus finished with 79-295, tied for 71st.

Woods may have been tired himself after outlasting Colin Montgomerie in a playoff to win the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Heidelberg, Germany, three days before the Memorial start. The reigning Masters champion dismissed the notion, though.

“I tried as hard as I possibly could, but it just didn’t come together,” said Woods, who needed 122 putts to navigate Muirfield’s rain-softened greens.

Furyk needed only 109 strokes with his putter while letting other clubs find the cups. On Saturday he aced the 192-yard fourth hole with a 5-iron, a prelude to his Sunday shenanigans amid a leaderboard that at one time showed 14 players within two shots of the lead.

Bob Tway, the 1989 Memorial winner, was the 54-hole leader by a stroke over Stewart Cink, but both stumbled early and shot 73, opening the floodgates for an array of challengers. Seven players held or shared the lead Sunday.

Furyk noticed on the seventh hole that no one had seized control. He trailed Vijay Singh by three at the time, but promptly birdied Nos. 8 and 9, then put himself in contention by sinking a 25-foot chip shot at the par-3 12th hole. After backing that up with a 6-foot birdie at 14, Furyk short-sided himself in the front-right bunker at the par-5 15th. Hoping to get within 10 feet of a hole he couldn’t see, Furyk lifted the 30-foot shot over the steep lip. The crowd’s roar informed him of the resulting eagle.

“I’m glad there were nice solid pins in a lot of those holes,” said Furyk, noting that both wedge shots had the requisite accuracy to overcome their excessive pace.

“To win a tournament a lot of times you have to play well, you have to hit good shots, make some putts, but you also have to get a couple of breaks, and that kind of all happened for me.”

David Peoples, who shot 68 and John Cook, with 69, tied for second, while Duval (66), Singh (69), Harrison Frazar (67), Shigeki Maruyama (70) and Tway shared fourth. All but Maruyama led at one juncture in the final round, but Duval and Singh leaked a few shots down the stretch, while an 18-inch putt gone awry on the 15th hole stymied Frazar.

Only Furyk, who still has not fully recovered his equilibrium after a virus lodged in his right ear, managed to hang on once he nosed ahead. The lingering effects of the mysterious illness inhibit his practice regimen – but not his aim.

“I haven’t been scoring well, but today was different,” he said. “I scored extremely well for where I put the ball on the golf course.”

– Dave Shedloski is a free-lance writer from Alexandria, Ohio

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