If you start listing Jim Furyk’s accolades, the list can go on for a while.
2010 FedEx Cup champion. 2003 U.S. Open champion. Just more than $54 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour. 16 career PGA Tour victories.
But, even after an impressive 5-under 65 that allowed Furyk to take the clubhouse lead at the PGA Championship on Thursday, it is the close calls that seem to crawl to the surface.
Most recently, that’d be the 2012 U.S. Open, a tournament in which he held the 54-hole lead before stumbling Sunday and eventually coughing up the title to Webb Simpson.
When pushed on the subject Thursday, Furyk had some fun words in return.
“I would love to tease you – y’all are – I’m on a nice little high, but y’all are trying to bring me down. Damn. No wonder you guys are on that side. You have bad thoughts too often,” said Furyk, who has four career top-10 finishes in the PGA Championship, but never better than T-6 (Valhalla, 1997).
“I forget the question because I already in my mind thinking about how I wanted to answer it sarcastically. It was about, did I feel like I let one get away. Yeah, I guess I look back to the ’98 Masters; I bogeyed 15 and hit it in the water and lost by two. ’98 Birkdale was tied for the lead coming down the stretch and didn’t hit one bad shot and lost by two because I didn’t knock in a putt. U.S. Open at Winged Foot, the U.S. Open at Oakmont, the U.S. Open at Olympic; there’s always – there was opportunities there.”
This week’s opportunity at Oak Hill started after he put a new driver in his bag two weeks ago – the Callaway FT Optiforce – and has picked up two top-10 finishes on Tour since (T-9 at both the RBC Canadian and WGC-Bridgestone) since the equipment change.
He felt so confident in the club, he used it on seven holes Thursday – or half of the non par-3s.
But it was his putter that proved to be the biggest difference the first round – a club he had struggled with since the Masters. He hit 15 greens, leading to six birdies. He did bogey his final hole, the par-4 9th, one that saw Tiger Woods drop out of red numbers with a double-bogey to end his round.
“I had some testy, 4‑, 5‑, 6‑footers to start the day and I was able to knock a bunch of those in and get some rhythm with my putter, and I think that eased some tension with the rest of my game, as well,” said Furyk, who posted his lowest first-round major score in his career.
“I feel like putting, even at your most hopeless point, even when you’re out there on the course and you’re really struggling, we’ve all been there before‑‑ every player has been in that position before. And sometimes it takes a day; sometimes it takes a week; sometimes it takes a month, but eventually you get the putter in your hand and it feels great one day. Felt great today. Doesn’t mean it’s going to feel great tomorrow, and whatever.”
One part of his tough luck on golf’s biggest stages is a sense of reality over a good round on Thursday – there are still three rounds to go and the 43-year-old knows to stay grounded.
“Well, I’m happy that I played a good round. Trust me, I’ll be in a good mood the rest of today. But I’m wise enough and been there enough that, it is only Thursday. Right now we are jockeying for position,” said Furyk. “I played a good round today. I basically get to come to the press room and kind of cozy up to it for a while, and as soon as I leave here, it will be more about what I do I need to do to get ready for Friday, and thinking about trying to play a good round tomorrow and keeping myself in good position.
“But you don’t win the golf tournament on Thursday.”