2006: Canada's Cool Customer - Jim Furyk
If not for this Tiger Woods guy, PGA Tour fans might be immersed in another big story in 2006: The monster year Jim Furyk quietly, methodically and effectively has pieced together.
Having nearly captured his own national Open at Winged Foot in June, Furyk seized the Canadian Open Sept. 10 at rain-softened Hamilton Golf and Country Club. He took control of the tournament with a closing 5-under 65 to finish at 14-under 266, holding off Bart Bryant by a shot.
While Woods has dominated headlines and news reels by winning five consecutive starts, the 36-year-old Furyk has taken up permanent residence on many of those same leaderboards this summer. All he has done in his last seven starts is amass six top-4 finishes. In Canada he rolled to his second victory of the season, and the 12th of his career.
Furyk was bound for Europe for two intense weeks of match play – the World Match Play at Wentworth, followed by the Ryder Cup – as perhaps the hottest man in golf other than that aforementioned Woods fellow, who is expected to be Furyk’s partner when the Ryder Cup tees off Sept. 22 at The K Club in Ireland.
Yes, Furyk gets a hot partner for Ireland, but Woods can claim the same. Even though Furyk’s ballstriking was at times suspect – sound like a familiar storyline? – his putting was brilliant in the final round at Hamilton, and he has ridden a wave of confidence all the way to the No. 2 ranking in the world.
“It’s been a great year and I’ve still got some events left,” said Furyk. “I’m probably putting more consistently. I’ve just kind of found a way to get the ball in the hole and score.”
Furyk collected $900,000 to push his season’s earnings past $6 million. The finish marked his eighth top 3 of the season (a personal best) and 11th top 10 (tying Vijay Singh for the lead in that category).
Bart Bryant, who has struggled at times this year trying to validate his career-best 2005 campaign, made things interesting at the finish, pouring in a 23-foot birdie at the 17th hole to pull within a shot of Furyk, who already had finished at 14 under. But Bryant’s approach at the par-4 18th – a hole he birdied Friday and Saturday – finished 60 feet short of the flagstick, and his putt ran out of gas 2 feet left of the hole.
“It was tougher today with that wind,” Bryant said. “It seemed like I was out of position on the greens all day long. My iron play was off. I’m proud of myself that I was able to grind it out and salvage 3 under (67).”
Sean O’Hair (268) finished third.
Furyk entered the Canadian Open for the first time since 1999 in large part because his peers raved about the Harry S. Colt-designed course following the 2003 tournament – the first PGA Tour event on the layout since the 1930 Canadian Open.
Furyk is an old-school kind of guy who has thrived on old-school courses. He won the 2003 U.S. Open at historic Olympia Fields, took the Buick Open that year at tree-lined Warwick Hills and captured the Wachovia Championship this year at venerable Quail Hollow in Charlotte.
“The best player won the tournament,” Bryant said. “It doesn’t surprise me that Jim shot 5 under today on a tough golf course. I figured Jim was going to have a great week because this was right up his alley.”
In many ways, it was a strange week at Hamilton. The tournament lost two of its top draws – John Daly and Chris DiMarco – the day before the tournament, and the two top Canadians, Mike Weir and Stephen Ames, were gone by the weekend.
In addition, a good deal of tournament talk centered around the difficult date the Open faces next summer, when it will be staged the week after the British Open, meaning many of the world’s top players likely will skip.
Furyk, for one, will be playing. He’s expected to be entangled in one of the busier stretches of the season, as the British Open, Canadian Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA will be played in a four-week window just two weeks before the start of the inaugural FedEx Cup playoffs.
“I’ll be honest, I probably would not play the tournament if I hadn’t won, but yeah, I think it’s a point of honor,” he said. “I know there’s times where there’s an extenuating situation or circumstance and guys can’t make it back, but in this situation . . . I feel I should be here and I’ll come back to play.”
– Staff and wire reports