Jim Furyk walked into a banquet room at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club on Sunday night as a small but energetic gathering was reliving the last moments of the Transitions Championship. If most of the sporting world missed the final strokes of the tournament—thanks to a rash of channel switching to catch the latest Tiger Woods media eclipse—the group of Innisbrook officials, volunteers and onlookers was happy to let Furyk's moment linger. "You have to admire a guy who's not afraid to do things his way in this day of cookie-cutter swings," Gary Koch, the NBC commentator, was saying as Furyk posed for pictures while clutching a trophy designed by Tiffany. "His preparation to hit a shot is as precise and meticulous as anyone I've ever seen."
Woods used to be known merely for his relentless pursuit of excellence, and he has often praised Furyk by noting the similarities in how they approach the game. But while Gentleman Jim remains celebrated for doing the right thing on—and off—the course, the scandal-plagued Woods continues to rankle as he reenters public life. On Sunday night ESPN and Golf Channel aired simultaneous "exclusive" interviews with Woods that had been filmed earlier in the day. Woods appeared more relaxed and human than during his first public apology last month, but he offered very little new information, refusing to discuss the details of his late-night car crash or even say what kind of treatment he has been receiving. The backstory to the interviews was more revealing. Both networks acquiesced to an absurd five-minute time limit—CBS reportedly declined to interview Woods because of the constraint—and on Sunday evening Golf Channel reported that Ari Fleischer had removed himself as an adviser to Woods, citing the distraction created by his own controversial high profile. The Woods camp had embargoed the release of the interviews until 7:30 p.m. EDT, presumably to avoid interfering with the finish at Transitions, but typical of the bungled stage-managing of Woods's comeback, this backfired when weather delays left Furyk on the finishing hole as the world trained its attention on Tiger.
"I won the damn thing, and [being upstaged by Woods] really doesn't matter to me," said Furyk, who closed with a 69. It was his 14th victory but first in 2½ years, the longest drought of his career. In a season in which young players are laying up because they want to, Furyk, 39, lays up because he has to, an old soul who takes apart golf courses with his mind, his wedge and his putter. Speaking of both his game and disposition, Furyk said, "I've never been someone who has craved the notoriety or the limelight." On Sunday night he got neither, but he was the only winner.