Furyk the latest to tumble with 54-hole lead
The 2012 PGA Tour season is littered with the carcasses of 54-hole leaders who couldn’t get it done in the final round. That list expanded by one Sunday in Akron, Ohio, when Jim Furyk made five horrific shots before sinking a putt for a double bogey-6, squandering a one-shot lead on the 72nd tee to finish tied for second at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
For Furyk, it was his second blown 54-hole lead in 2012. He was tied for the lead with final-round playing competitor Graeme McDowell in the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club on Sunday, but a closing 74 that included three bogeys over the last six holes dropped Furyk into a tie for fourth place, two shots behind eventual winner Webb Simpson.
Like he has done in the past, Furyk took the questions and answered them honestly.
“It is my fault,” Furyk said in the Olympic Club locker room after the final round, reflecting upon his poor tee shot on the 16th hole, where he pull-hooked a drive into trees. “I didn’t really know where I was supposed to go, and I tried to pick a spot to hit the ball in, didn’t do a good job of doing it. But in hindsight, I would have picked – I should have picked – a different shot and even possibly a different club.”
It was a fair and unbiased assessment of a player conceding that he just blew it. Of course, it happens to everyone who plays golf.
Before that week in San Francisco, Furyk had played in 469 PGA Tour events and won 16 of them. Like any Tour player, even Tiger Woods, Furyk was far more accustomed to losing than winning.
But to have a similar event occur just two months later has to sting even more.
“It is a cruel game. I've lost some tournaments in some pretty poor fashions, but I don't think I've let one ever slip nearly as bad as this one,” Furyk said Sunday in Akron. “This was my worst effort to finish off an event.”
Of the six shots that Furyk hit on the 18th hole, five were worse than average. He pulled his drive left and, unlike at Olympic, got a break when his ball hit a tree and bounced into the fairway.
With a 7-iron, Furyk tried to draw his approach into the wind over a tree. Instead, the left-to-right wind took the ball and pushed it into the right rough, leaving him with an awkward pitch to save par. Furyk hit the ball high on the clubface and barely got it over the greenside bunker, leaving his fourth shot in the collar around the green. His par pitch wasn’t much better. Furyk came dangerously close to a double hit and then missed a 5-foot bogey putt that slid right of the hole, leaving him even farther away.
“Really, there wasn't one that was as tough as I made it look,” Furyk said of the 18th hole. “The fourth one was a hard shot to get close because I had a pretty awful lie. But if I wanted one shot over, I guess it would be the second or the third.”
Furyk could have cemented a Ryder Cup berth with a victory at Akron. He also would have moved into the top 10 of the FedEx Cup points race with two weeks to go. He also could have won for the first time since the 2010 Tour Championship.
Furyk was interviewed immediately afterward by CBS's David Feherty, who asked Furyk to let the TV viewers understand what it feels like to have that happen.
“I have no one to blame but myself," Furyk said, "but when things go wrong, it's an empty feeling. I'm disappointed. I walked over, my boy is crying right after the round, and I guess it reminds you as an adult, as a parent that you have to act the proper way. You have to do and say the right things to try to give the right lessons.”
That type of answer makes Furyk perhaps more sympathetic than many of the other Tour players who have blown 54-hole leads this year. He is one of the consummate professionals in the game.
It was sad to watch. Taking nothing away from Keegan Bradley, who is building up a pretty nice resume of his own, but Furyk’s collapse was the reason for Bradley’s win.
In golf, many victories come from the assistance of others.
Yet, unlike others, when Furyk arrives at Kiawah Island later this week, what happened at Akron will be in his rearview mirror. Don’t be surprised if he wins the PGA. Even if he doesn’t, you can count on one thing: He will be honest and forthright in victory as well as defeat, a very rare quality in sports.