Jim Furyk an unlikely contender at Players ChampionshipMarch 17, 2019
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Jim Furyk has no business being here.
Don’t tell him that, though.
He didn’t figure to be on the first page of the Players Championship leaderboard entering Sunday’s final round because he didn’t figure to be competing in the Players Championship at all.
Furyk is 48 years old and has one PGA Tour win in the past nine years. His previous two years had been consumed with his duties as the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, which left his playing and practicing on the back burner.
Yet here is Furyk with an outside chance to win the Players Championship as he enters the final round in a tie for sixth at 10-under, five shots behind the lead held by Jon Rahm.
After Rahm are Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood and Jason Day, among others. All younger, more powerful players in the primes of their respective careers. So Furyk’s chances of winning aren’t great, but don’t tell him that.
“You got Jon Rahm, McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’re all ranked in the top six or seven in the world,’’ Furyk said.
When told they’re among the top 13, he joked, “Top 13 in the world? Oh, they’re terrible, then.
“They’re just world-class players. I honestly don’t know how Jon’s been playing as of recent, but I know Tommy’s been playing great and I know Rory’s been playing great and obviously Jon’s round of 8-under was something special.’’
Furyk followed his third-round bogey-free 64 with a 1-under 71 Saturday and walked off the course annoyed he bogeyed 18.
Perspective must prevail here.
Furyk began this season playing from a limited category after finishing outside the top 125 on last season’s FedEx Cup points list, and he barely qualified into this elite field with his tie for ninth at the Honda Classic two weeks ago thanks to 68-67 on the weekend at PGA National.
“Until I finished at the Honda Classic, I honestly didn’t know that I had that opportunity,’’ Furyk said. “A couple players told me there in the locker room that I may get in the field, and I was excited, did my homework, and realized that there was a good chance.’’
This is Furyk’s 23rd start at the Players Championship, and his record at the Stadium Course is indicative of his love-hate relationship with it. He finished runner-up in 2014 and was third in 2006. Other than those finishes, his performances have been forgettable despite the fact he has made Ponte Vedra Beach one of his homes for years.
“It’s not that I dislike the golf course, it’s just I have a lot more that I like on Tour,” Furyk, always the straight shooter, said. “If you asked me to rank it — is this one of your three, five favorite courses on Tour? — I’d say absolutely not, because I’ve never won here and my track record. We’re all selfish, my track record is not that great around this golf course.’’
In six starts this season entering this week, Furyk has a tie for sixth at the Mayakoba Golf Classic to go with that tie for ninth at the Honda Classic. It seems he’s finding some form again after the Ryder Cup distracted him from focusing on his game.
“It’s a labor of love being the Ryder Cup captain, but it did take a lot of time and pulled me away from golf at times,” he said. “Being with the best players in the world on both sides really, I don’t know, kind of re-energized me a little bit. I wanted to get out there, and I kind of had an open mind. Three or four years removed from really playing my best golf, and I kind of wanted to see what I was capable of.
“If I’m competitive and I feel like I’m knocking on the door and having opportunities to win, I’d like to play some out here. If that’s not the case, I’ll go to the Champions Tour and see if I can be competitive out there.”
That looks like it’ll have to wait for a while.
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