Consistent Furyk again in the mix at Valhalla

Jim Furyk has re-established himself as a consistent contender this season, and now after Thursday's 66 in the first round of the PGA Championship, the 44-year-old is once again in the mix at Valhalla.
Jim Furyk has re-established himself as a consistent contender this season, and now after Thursday's 66 in the first round of the PGA Championship, the 44-year-old is once again in the mix at Valhalla. ( Associated Press )

Thursday, August 7, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. –– Though Oak Hill and Valhalla may be worlds apart in terms of the exam each presents, the opening day of the 96th PGA Championship had at least one similarity to the 95th edition: veteran Jim Furyk had injected himself into the mix.

Valhalla is a big, brawny test that is playing soft and quite long this week – and seemingly right into the hands of those who can hit the long ball, which is not Furyk’s forte. But Furyk, a runner-up to Jason Dufner at the PGA a year ago in upstate New York, reeled off birdies on his final three holes to end his round at 5-under 66.

The 44-year-old Furyk has been on a nice run in 2014, establishing himself once again as a consistent contender. He has finished outside the top 20 in only one start since the Tour left Florida in March – a tie for 51st at Colonial – and owns three runner-up finishes this season. He has earned $4.2 million and already has locked up a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team that will travel to Scotland this fall.

The only thing Furyk hasn’t done? Win. His last victory was the 2010 Tour Championship, and he’d love to do something about that.

There’s a lot of golf to be played in this window of the FedEx Cup season, but Furyk says he is feeling fresh, having taken a month off earlier this summer, a first. He said his dad Mike (also his coach) and his wife, Tabitha, have been coaxing him for years to try to trim back his schedule, but it was sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella who finally convinced Furyk that it would be in his best interest.

“You know how that goes,” Furyk said. “It's sometimes hardest to listen to the people that love you the most.”

While many of his peers show up to tournaments with a full entourage, Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, has always preferred to keep it simple. He’d gone more than 19 seasons without consulting a sports psychologist, and his early discussions with Rotella were more about managing his life than managing his golf game.

But the more they visited, the more Furyk has opened up, and the chats eventually turned to the many disappointments that the game of golf can hand a player.

“Definitely his thoughts and ideas have left me at ease on the golf course a little bit more, and in life, and have helped me be more patient this year,” Furyk said.

Rotella has helped Furyk recognize that often when his game started going awry, it coincided with his attitude going awry as well.

“I was able to turn those things around a lot quicker,” Furyk said.

There wasn’t too much to turn around on Thursday. Five birdies on a clean scorecard. Simple, setting himself up in nice position. Just the way Furyk likes it.