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Rock-solid Success After a win at the Buick, Jim Furyk has the PGA, and more, in sight

Aug. 11, 2003
Aug. 11, 2003

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Aug. 11, 2003

College Football 2003

Rock-solid Success After a win at the Buick, Jim Furyk has the PGA, and more, in sight

Saturdays rarely provide definitive performances in golf, but Jim
Furyk, he of the idiosyncratic swing and quirky preshot routine,
is not a player bound by convention. During the third round of
last week's Buick Open, Furyk shot a 65 to his playing partner
Tiger Woods's 69 to take a one-stroke lead and set up his second
victory of the summer. More impressive than the numbers on
Furyk's scorecard was his demeanor. He not only outplayed Woods
but also out-cooled him. Tuning out the antics of an enormous
crowd that was openly rooting for Woods, the defending champ,
Furyk was completely comfortable and confident.

This is an article from the Aug. 11, 2003 issue

As he effortlessly navigated his way around Warwick Hills Golf
and Country Club, in Grand Blanc, Mich., it looked as if par was
the worst score Furyk could make, in stark contrast to Woods, who
was fighting his swing and putting stroke all day. Afterward
Furyk was impressively blase. "I don't think it really matters
that much," he said of showing up Woods. "I wanted to go out and
get a low number, and whether I'm playing with Tiger Woods or
someone else, it doesn't make that much of a difference."

Furyk's studly Saturday and his calculating 68 on Sunday to
close out the victory confirmed his standing as the scariest
opponent in golf. As he displayed with his ruthlessly efficient
win at the U.S. Open in June, there are no big numbers in his
game, which can't be said about Woods or, for that matter, Ernie
Els or Davis Love III or Phil Mickelson or any of the other long
hitters against whom Furyk is supposed to be overmatched. In an
era obsessed with length, he has something more
important--reliability. His game is built on straight driving
and conservative shotmaking, a low-frills approach that works on
any course. The first two rounds of the Buick were rare
occasions when Furyk's iron game was less than precise, so he
relied on his fabulous wedge game and one of the purest putting
strokes in golf. He found his swing on the weekend, hitting 34
of 36 greens in regulation.

With all the weight training Woods has done, he's looking more
and more like a martini glass, but the lanky Furyk has in
abundance the crucial body parts you can't see: heart, guts and
brains. Woods's aura is much discussed, but it is Furyk who is
undefeated in Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup singles, with a
combined 4-0-1 record.

Enjoying what he calls "definitely my best year," Furyk picked up
$720,000 with his victory, vaulting him to second on the money
list, a mere $400,000 behind Woods. With 11 other top 10 finishes
to go with his two wins, Furyk may now be the favorite in an
already crowded player-of-the-year race, though next week's PGA
Championship will go a long way toward determining the final
outcome. In that regard Oak Hill is a perfect venue for Furyk. It
is a tough, relentless course where par is always a great score.
When the 1989 U.S. Open was played there, two under was the
winning number, while at the '56 Open, plus-one prevailed. At the
'95 Ryder Cup, the course earned the nickname Choke Hill, and not
because it gave up a lot of cheap birdies.

Woods, Love, Els, Kenny Perry, Vijay Singh and David Toms--all
majorless, multiple winners this year--will have to win the PGA
to have any shot at usurping POY from Furyk or Masters champ Mike
Weir. Asked last week if it's possible to win the award without
winning a major, Woods said, "It's hard. We proved that in '98.
[David] Duval had a better year than [Mark] O'Meara with more
wins, more top 10s, better stroke average and first on the money
list, but he did not win the player of the year award."

Furyk was typically low-key about potentially being the golfer of
the year, saying it would be nothing more than "icing on the
cake." After making a meal out of Woods and the rest of the Buick
Open field, Furyk ought to allow himself the thought of his just
deserts.

COLOR PHOTO: REBECCA COOK/REUTERS [INSIDE COVER INSET] PGA PREVIEW Jim Furyk: A Solid Pick G25COLOR PHOTO: REBECCA COOK/REUTERS (FURYK) TOUCHDOWN! Furyk didn't celebrate until the 72nd hole, but he set up his win by dusting Woods in the third round.COLOR PHOTO: CATHY CRAWFORD/CORBIS (TOASTER)COLOR PHOTO: CHASE SWIFT/CORBIS (SIGN)COLOR PHOTO: STEVEN FREEMAN (BAT)COLOR PHOTO: DAVID WALBERG (DUVAL)COLOR PHOTO: DAVID BERGMAN (WOODS)

TRUST ME

The PGA will be the year's best major, again. A rainy Masters
ended with an X, the U.S. Open was a snooze and the British was
defined by collapses, including four bogeys on the champ's back
nine.

THE NEW MATH Tiger Woods ties for second in his first event with
his old Titleist driver

(NIKE DRIVER - SPEED LIMIT) + WONDERBOY - SLUMP = [TIGER WOODS
TIES FOR SECOND IN HIS FIRST EVENT WITH HIS OLD TITLEIST DRIVER]