Heading into the 2010 PGA Tour season Jim Furyk had a lot on his mind. Despite perennially being ranked in the top-ten players in the world and a bank account that was swelling from big finishes, his last PGA Tour win dated all the way back to the 2007 RBC Canadian Open. A trophy hunter by nature he longed to return to the winner’s circle.
When I caught up with him and caddy Fluff Cowan in the player’s lot at the Transitions Championship earlier this year you could tell he was even more stoic than usual. His focus, always at great heights, was on an even higher level. On the range he was grinding and that week he got what he was looking for, a single stroke victory over K.J. Choi and a trophy he could take home.
It had taken him 58 starts to get that 14th PGA Tour victory and the 40 year-old wanted more. At the Verizon Heritage Classic he took that career total to 15 with a playoff victory over Brain Davis – the two wins in a year matching career best totals from 2003 and 2006.
That’s what made the opportunity he faced at the Tour Championship so important this week, among other reasons. As the overnight leader we was in prime position to have his biggest win total ever in a PGA Tour season, never mind the chance at a $10 million payday if the math worked out in his favor.
In trying conditions Sunday Furyk faltered slightly but did what he had to down the stretch to win the Tour Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club with a tally of 67-65-70-70-272. Furyk’s bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes, plus an errant tee shot on the par 3 eighteenth, gave a glimmer of hope to challenger Luke Donald but his successful bunker extraction virtually sealed the outcome. A two foot putt and an uncharacteristic burst of emotion later Jim Furyk was not only the winner of the Tour Championship but the FedEx Cup as well. More than $11 million in cash was headed his way as was the third win he desperately wanted.
“Three wins is very, very special to me. I’ve always put a big emphasis on winning golf tournaments. I was very disappointed in ’08 and ’09 not to win, and obviously you all are doing your job and we spoke about it quite a bit. To go out and turn that around and get three Ws this year is pretty special, and then to top it off here at the right time at the TOUR Championship — this golf course, I love this golf course,” Furyk commented after being presented with two very meaningful trophies.
Faced with what might be one of the most consequential sand shots outside of a major championship, Furyk coolly played his bunker shot at eighteen just as he had with everyone this week, flawlessly. His successful up and down from the beach was his 9th of the week. Of the shot he commented, “Let’s just say I had a lot of confidence, and it came off the club perfect, was getting a lot of those skips. A lot of our pitch shots on the back nine were almost hydroplaning. You could almost hear them spinning. And then after two or three hops, they would grab and stop dead. From my perspective I had kind of the worm cam. I was just stop, stop, stop, I knew I was spinning like crazy, but I heard everyone cheering from down there. I couldn’t tell if it was five feet or two feet. It kind of appeared like it was a four-footer, like I still had some work left. I was happy to see it was pretty much dummy proof.”
As for which trophy of the two he acquired on Sunday was most important to him, he did not hesitate with his response. “(Points at FedExCup.) This one. They both mean a lot to be honest with you, but this one is a season. This one is in this one, if that makes sense.”
Furyk becomes just the 3rd player to win the FedEx Cup, joining 2-time winner Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh, something not lost on him. Said Sunday’s big winner, “…hey, it’s only four years old, but 40 years from now there should be a lot of history in this trophy, and to have Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk sounds — I’m very proud of that because those two can flat play.”
– Furyk bought the Yes! Putter he is using at Joe & Leigh’s Golf Shop near Boston during the week of the Deutsche Bank Championship . The used putter with a ding on the top line and a nick on the flange was on sale for $65. He says they sold it to him for $39 without any negotiations.
– Furyk says he did not even check the loft or lie on the putter as he usually does and the grip was slightly off-center but in a way that he likes. “I guess we were meant to be. Who knows?” he said of the flat stick.