PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Jim Furyk has been competing at the Players Championship longer than some kids in the field have been alive. He made his debut here in 1995, but his lengthy relationship with TPC Sawgrass can’t be described as a love affair.
“You know, it’s not that I dislike the golf course, it’s just I have a lot more that I like on Tour,” Furyk said after signing for a second-round 64 that vaulted him into the upper echelon of the leaderboard. It was his lowest ever score in 80 tours around Pete Dye’s infamously demanding course.
”If you asked me to rank it, is this one of your three, five favorite courses on Tour, I’d say absolutely not because I’ve never won here and my track record. We’re all selfish, my track record is not that great around this golf course.”
Furyk lives near TPC Sawgrass but treats it as one would an irritating neighbor. Twenty-two Players starts have yielded only four top 10s for the 17-time PGA Tour winner, who was second to Martin Kaymer five years ago. In the last year he has played only six holes here (for a photo shoot) and admitted the course keeps him on edge.
“Pete Dye has a very good way of making things look awkward, intimidating. He makes fairways that have ample room look narrow and greens that have ample size look very small. That’s his architectural style,” Furyk explained. He wasn’t showing signs of being intimidated Friday, hitting all 14 fairways and 15 greens, and needing just 25 putts.
Furyk has just one PGA Tour win in almost nine years and turns 49 in May. And on a course like TPC Sawgrass, the wily veteran knows there is a fine line between the value of experience and the cost of scar tissue. It’s a place where painful memories can accumulate rapidly. “I think when we get courses that have a lot of scar tissue we tend to just not go and play there, but we don’t have that option in this event,” he said. “I’m sure folks have that at Augusta. But if a player gets to a point where he’s uncomfortable for too long, you take that one off your schedule and find another place to play.”
In six starts this season, Furyk has found a vein of form. He finished T6 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic and T9 at the Honda Classic two weeks ago. He acknowledged that he wasn’t sure what to expect after several years plagued by injuries and time devoted to his captaining the U.S. Ryder Cup squad last year in Paris.
“No lie, it takes a lot of time, and I hate to use the word work because no one ever really associates that as fun. It’s a labor of love being the Ryder Cup captain. But it did take a lot of time and pulled me away from golf at times,” he said. “Being with the best players in the world on both sides really, I don’t know, kind of reenergized me a little bit. I wanted to get out there, and I kind of had an open mind. Three or four years removed from really playing my best golf, and I kind of wanted to see what I was capable of.”
Furyk turns 50 in 14 months, but a 64 on the Tour’s most exacting venue can give a man pause about joining the cart-riding senior set. “If I’m competitive and I feel like I’m knocking on the door and having opportunities to win, I’d like to play some out here,” he said. “If that’s not the case, I’ll go to the Champions Tour and see if I can be competitive out there.”