Ageless Jim Furyk, golf’s most consistent player, is at it again at the Barclays 2014. He'll square off against the aggressive Aussie Jason Day, with whom he is tied for the lead going into the final day.
This is old hat for the 44-year-old Furyk who has been victimized in the past in a number of tournaments by the same cautious, steady play that got him into contention in the first place.
The question is, can he change his recent history and win, something he hasn’t done since 2010?
Furyk is 0-7 in tournaments where he has held the lead or was tied for it after 54 holes.
But, like Jim Carrey in the movie Dumb and Dumber, the optimistic Furyk sees a chance.
"Excited about one more opportunity," Furyk told The Associated Press' Doug Ferguson (h/t ESPN.com) after his Saturday round. He talks like he plays in a succinct and direct manner.
Yet, only one month ago, he held a 54-hole lead at the RBC Canadian Open only to lose to a surging Tim Clark. Furyk looked like he was standing still as Clark posted five birdies in the last eight holes. He then missed a 12-foot putt on the final hole that would have sent them into a playoff.
At Ridgewood Country Club, where the Barclays is being played, Furyk has put up only three bogeys in three rounds. Typically, on moving day when most guys leap around the leaderboard, Furyk methodically hung a two-birdie, no-bogey round of 69 on the board.
Ho Hum! Another day, another subpar round. In all, he has put up scores of 66-69-69.
The 26-year-old Day, meanwhile, whacked his ball into the rough on 16 twice and double-bogeyed. He needed a birdie on the last hold to tie Furyk for the lead.
Despite not winning a tournament, Furyk has had a great year with three second-place finishes and eight top-10 finishes while amassing over $4 million dollars. He has made the cut in each of his 17 events and finished in top 25 14 times.
His record has launched him into sixth place in the world rankings and fifth in the FedEx Cup race. Should he win the Barclays, he will be in first place in the title race.
In his best year, 2010, he won the Tour Championship and finished first in the FedEx Cup race. That year he was PGA Player of the Year and PGA Tour Player of the Year. So, he does know how to close.
One doesn't quite know what to make of Furyk, who assuredly has put up Hall of Fame numbers in his long career, including a win at the 2003 U.S. Open and a number of top-five finishes at the other majors.
Even with the quirkiest swing on tour, he is a model of consistency. It is no wonder that he ranks sixth in driving accuracy. In 22 years as a professional golfer, he has never ranked lower than 32nd and for most of his career has ranked in the top 10 in the category that rewards straightness off the tee.
He is always in the game because he is always in the fairway. Put that together with his ranking of 26th in greens hit in regulation, and you get a guy who is putting for birdie more often than not.
In the meantime, he is squaring off against one of the game’s longer hitters in Day. While Day drives the ball consistently over 300 yards, Furyk is lucky to break 280. Of course, Day hits fairways at a 60 percent clip, while the steadfast Furyk puts his ball in play more than 70 percent of the time.
In that sense, we will be watching a battle of aggressive youth vs. cautious maturity.
It was Furyk’s steady and sure approach to the game that won the U.S. Open, where the fairways are narrow and the rough is treacherous. Stay out of the rough and you have the best chance of winning. It is a wonder that Furyk hasn’t won that major more often.
The Ridgewood Country Club is notable for its three-and-half-foot rough and could easily be mistaken for a U.S. Open venue.
Such a course plays right into Furyk’s timeless hands.
It would be easy to align Furyk with the tortoise in the famous race with the hare. Always cool and easygoing, his firm approach to the game signifies a self-confidence that his way is the right way.
But his way has not worked so well of late.
You may remember the 2012 U.S. Open when, while leading on the final day, he snap-hooked his drive on 16 into the woods then bogeyed 18 to finish in a tie for fourth. At the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone, he gave up the lead by double-bogeying on the final hole. The next year he allowed Jason Dufner to pass him on the last day at the PGA Championship, where he also held a Sunday lead.
So, as cool and collected as Furyk may appear, he has had his share of yips at the end of big tourneys.
Not the type, like Rory or Tiger, to pull away from the pack, he will get a chance to show if slow and steady really does win the race.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of PGATour.com.
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