Jim Furyk Seems Ready for a Major
As he heads into the heart of the season, the planets are
aligned in his favor
Jim Furyk has been so good for so long that it seems as if the
only thing separating him from his first win in a major is some
good karma. If that is the case, his victory at last week's
Memorial, at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, was
pregnant with possibility.
First off, there was Furyk's putter, which inexplicably caught
fire after spending most of the year packed in ice. There were
his two chip-ins on the final nine holes, including one for
eagle on the 15th hole (page G12) from a bunker so deep that
Furyk had to rely on the roar of the crowd to know that the ball
had gone in. There was Furyk's wife, Tabitha, whom he met at
this event seven years ago and who is now only five weeks from
delivering the couple's first child. (It's a girl.) Even the
baby's due date is propitious: July 3, neatly nestled between
the U.S. and British Opens. Finally, there was the surprise
visit on Sunday by the golf team from Furyk's alma mater,
Arizona. The team was in nearby Columbus for this week's NCAA
championships at Ohio State. (Furyk has had two previous wins
after visits by the Wildcats. Now, if he could just get the team
to come to Bethpage Black in June for this year's U.S. Open.)
Despite a famously loopy swing, Furyk, 32, has worked hard to
turn himself into one of the game's better ball strikers--he is
fourth on Tour in driving accuracy and greens hit in
regulation--which is why he has never missed the cut in seven
starts at the U.S. Open. He has 62 career top 10 finishes (not
that far behind Tiger Woods's 75), and in September he will play
on his third U.S. Ryder Cup team. Going into Sunday's final
round in 10th place, five shots behind leader Bob Tway, Furyk
shot the lowest final-round score ever by a Memorial winner, a
seven-under-par 65. "Jim is a grinder," says Mike Furyk, Jim's
father and swing coach. "The harder the course, the more it
favors his game."
Furyk has been off his game for most of this year, partly
because he has been battling a lingering case of vertigo caused
by an infection in his right ear. Uncharacteristically, he had
missed the cut in four of his six starts before the Memorial and
was ranked a dismal 152nd in putting, long the strongest part of
his game. He was fifth in putting at Muirfield Village. "I
wouldn't say I'm 100 percent right now," Furyk said on Sunday
evening, "but I'm feeling much better. I've tried a couple of
different medications, but the thing I need most is rest. The
more tired I am, the dizzier I feel."
Though he recently shot a 74 (with a few gimmes and mulligans)
during a practice round at Bethpage, Furyk said his win at the
Memorial was "a big confidence booster," heading into the U.S.
Open. Looking even further ahead, Furyk conceded that caring for
a newborn will not be the best way to prepare for the British
Open, but he also noted that the tournament will be played at
that other Muirfield, the storied one in Scotland. "I definitely
would like to see two wins at Muirfield this year," he said.
Given all the good karma surrounding him at the moment, maybe
that's not too much to ask.
The Masters would be wise to do without honorary starters (as
the tournament did from 1977 to '80) until a suitable successor
to Sam Snead is ready to step forward. In other words, Hootie,
don't call Arnie. He'll call you.
Several European tour players believe Miguel Angel Martin of
Spain is giving new meaning to the term lie. After playing with
Martin in last month's Portuguese Open, Maarten Lafeber of
Holland accused Martin of illegally improving his lie in the
rough by pushing down the grass behind his ball with the head of
his driver, ostensibly while deciding which club to hit. Later
at the same event, Martin found taped to his locker a magazine
article by Tiger Woods titled "How to Play Out of the Rough,"
and during the French Open the following week, a sign bearing
the word CHEAT was stuck to Martin's locker. The issue was
raised during a players' meeting last week at the Volvo PGA.
According to Lafeber, nobody mentioned Martin by name, "but
everyone knew who they were talking about." Martin wasn't at the
meeting. "It doesn't make me feel good because there is no
evidence I did what [Lafeber] said I was supposed to have done,"
says Martin, who adds that he has recently had balls and gloves
stolen from his bag.
--Sergio Garcia had a new man, Anthony (Ant Man) Knight, on his
bag at the Memorial after his regular caddie, Glenn Murray, went
home to South Africa to be treated for reactive hypoglycemia, a
--John Cook secured a U.S. Open berth with a tie for second at
the Memorial, which vaulted him to 42nd in the World
Ranking--the top 50 through last week are automatically exempt.
Charles Howell, meanwhile, dropped from 50th to 53rd by
finishing 27th at the Memorial and will have to get through
--It seemed every picture that ran with a Sam Snead obituary
last week featured him in his trademark straw hat, but Byron
Nelson told SI that Snead's heady habit was due to more than a
sense of style. "Several guys used to call him Nude Knob,"
Nelson said. "Once that name got around, you never saw Sam
anywhere without that hat on."
--Bad Hair Days, Part II. Dottie Pepper on LPGA Hall of Famer
Kathy Whitworth, who was as famed for her hair-sprayed bouffant
as she was for her 88 wins: "Whit used to help us with club
selection. If her hair was moving, it was at least a two-club
MORE THAN BEAR BONES
Unlike the World Golf Hall of Fame, the new Jack Nicklaus Museum
has all kinds of cool stuff for the fans
Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer ever (pending the day Tiger
Woods calls it a wrap), and the Jack Nicklaus Museum, which
opened last week in Nicklaus's hometown of Columbus, Ohio,
befits such a player. The museum (www.nicklausmuseum.org), which
is on the Ohio State campus by the new basketball arena, may not
be a perfect 10, but it's 10 times better than the World Golf
Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla., where Sam Snead's lunch
pail and Nancy Lopez's Barbie doll pass for star attractions.
The Nicklaus Museum is everything the antiseptic World Golf Hall
isn't. The museum is teeming with personal artifacts and offers
video highlights in practically every one of the 20 display rooms.
The museum succeeds because most of Nicklaus's career was
captured on film, so each room of the museum is a case of goose
bumps waiting to break out. Plus there is a family-scrapbook
quality to the exhibits. There are his baby shoes; a crudely
crayoned Mother's Day card drawn by Jack the toddler; the note
Nicklaus scribbled and left on his parents' refrigerator door
when he was 10: "Gone to the club--Jack"; and his basketball
letter sweaters from Arlington High.
Each major championship, plus the 1959 and '61 U.S. Amateurs,
has its own room complete with video and trophies, magazines,
badges, photos and clubs. A wonderfully done 18-minute film on
Nicklaus and his career is shown 23 times a day in the 100-seat
theater at the museum. For a hoot, check out the endorsement
room--anybody remember Jack Nicklaus Rent-a-Car and the
commercials Nicklaus shot in Japan, with Jack attempting to spit
out a few words of Japanese?
Admission costs $9, but you won't get out of the gift shop that
cheaply. A mounted, autographed flag from one of the 2000
majors--that was the last year Nicklaus played all four--goes
for $750. That's pricey, but a visit to his museum is priceless.
--Gary Van Sickle
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LAST WEEK: This week's Kemper Insurance Open telecast will be
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