Jim Furyk will enter the final round of the 2012 McGladrey Classic with a chance to either move past his recent late collapses or reinforce his choke-induced failures.
At 13-under through three rounds, Furyk is the event co-leader with Davis Love III. The front-running pair fired identical four-under 66s on Saturday, which leaves them two shots ahead of their closest competitors.
This is exactly the kind of situation that has led to the disaster of Furyk's 2012. It's not that he hasn't been playing well: It's been that he hasn't been able to seal the deal.
The 42-year-old has actually been in a season-long groove on the whole. He started the year ranked 50th in the world and he has climbed all the way up to No. 23. His 69.4 adjusted scoring average for the year is third on the tour.
The only problem is that he has no wins to show for this great play, and he has been in a position to claim some serious hardware.
At the Transitions Championship, he lost a four-man playoff to Luke Donald. That's fine. It was a playoff and it was more about Donald winning than Furyk losing. However, that was just the first straw of his regrettable 2012.
Next came the U.S. Open.
Furyk held the lead, but he began to wobble down the stretch. In that tournament, despite playing less than his best in the final round, Furyk stepped up to the 16th tee tied for the lead and he promptly hooked his drive into the woods, which you can watch in the embedded video.
It was a shocking result for the normally accurate Furyk, and he would not challenge for the title after. Fast-forward a bit to the Bridgestone Invitational where Furyk double-bogeyed the final hole of the tournament and wound up finishing second to Keegan Bradley by a single stroke.
And that's not all. Furyk was part of an epic team-wide collapse at this year's Ryder Cup, yet his failure on the final day may have been the most notable. During the final stage of play, Furyk was one up on Sergio Garcia with just two holes to play.
Furyk pulled his tee shot into some beach time and went on to lose the final two holes and the match.
That was just three weeks ago and here Furyk is, once more trying to handle a late lead in what the Associated Press reports is his final tournament of the year.
Furyk cannot let this opportunity slip away.
Golf is an insanely mental game. Little psychological barriers can sabotage a player's confidence and erode an entire game. Furyk already has shown his remarkable resiliency by putting together strong rounds after collapses, but he does not need to add another failure down the stretch to his memory bank.
This is Furyk's chance to give his mind something positive with which to end the season, to combat the inner doubts about his ability to perform in the clutch that will surely arise. Without a win, there will be nothing to keep that self-doubt at bay and, at that point, it would be too much for any golfer to overcome.
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