ATLANTA – Jim Furyk was making so many 3s, you’d have thought he was Ray Allen on parquet flooring in Boston.
The gritty professional with the flying elbow began Round 2 of the Tour Championship with seven 3s, a tournament-record streak. When he walked off the 11th green, he had penciled in nine 3s, a glorious kind of monotony.
Makes the mathematics easy, not to mention the mood.
This was at challenging East Lake Golf Club, not on a par-3 course. All the treys allowed him to bogey two of the last three holes and still shoot 6-under 64. That left him with a 133 total and one-stroke midway lead in the final FedEx Cup playoff event.
“I was just having fun writing threes on the card,” said the 42-year-old Furyk, winner of the tournament and FedEx Cup here two years ago. “I was marveling. I’ve never seen a card that pretty with all those threes. It was nice.”
Perhaps Charl Schwartzel has seen a scorecard as beautiful when it comes to that number. The 2011 Masters champion made nine consecutive threes this year in a final-day 64 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, though not to begin the round.
As for Furyk, he birdied half of the 7,319-yard course Friday. Seven of his nine birdies were from 7 feet and in; the two others were 14-foot bookends, at Nos. 1 and 17. His iron play was so accurate on the front side that he birdied the third through fifth holes from 4 to 5 feet and Nos. 7 and 9 in the range of 10-15 inches. Remarkably, his average distance from the cup after approach shots on the first 10 holes was about 10 feet.
“My iron game was as good as it’s been all year on the front nine,” Furyk said.
He was flying so high he didn’t need 5-hour Energy.
Furyk was 7 under through 10 holes, meaning talk of 59 began, meaning he had to birdie four of the last eight holes to break 60.
Not that it was on his mind.
“I actually don’t think I’ve ever played a round where I honestly gave 59 a shot,” said Furyk, a 16-time PGA Tour champion but winless in 2012. “I think 10 under is probably my best, on a par-72. If I ever get to where I need to make two more birdies with 2-3-4 holes left, I promise you 59 will be on my mind. But I think you’ve got to get later into the round than 10.”
As it happened, he missed putts of 5, 6 and 9 feet on the final seven holes. Two of those misses contributed to three bogeys on the final five holes.
“I’d be smiling just a touch more if I knocked in that 5-footer on the last hole for par,” Furyk said. “That always leaves you with a sour taste.”
He got over it quickly. Like in the scorer’s trailer.
“I threw my yardage book at the scoring table and pretty much got it out of the way,” Furyk said. “I’ve got to tape up my yardage book later, though.”
Furyk fixed his driving after Round 1 and hit 10 of 14 fairways and 14 greens in regulation Friday. That put him in contention to win his first title of a season in which he had excellent opportunities at the U.S. Open and Transitions and Bridgestone events.
Clearly he wants to do something about the two-year winless spell.
“My personality is that I’m 75 percent mad that I haven’t closed the door,” he said. “I have to be reminded by my teacher or caddie or wife or whoever that you’re playing well, be patient, let it happen.”
After this event, Furyk will play in his eighth consecutive Ryder Cup. He was one of captain Davis Love III’s four wild-card picks. Some pundits took exception to his selection, but Furyk doesn’t seem to care about the second-guessing.
“Look at the way I play golf,” Furyk said. “The way I swing the golf club and grip the putter. Look at the way I go about my business. I don’t hit the ball very far. I’m short. If I really cared what the critics thought the last 19 years, I really wouldn’t be here.”