Jim Furyk, the only American on the Ryder Cup team without a win this year, now has another chance to change that.
Furyk made seven birdies through 10 holes on Friday at the Tour Championship — including seven threes to start the round — until he missed a few greens on the back nine that slowed his momentum. He wound up with a six-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Justin Rose going into the weekend at East Lake.
For all the threes on his card — nine of the first 11 holes — Furyk was irritated about not making one at the par-three 18th. He missed a five-footer, and slammed his yardage back onto the table in the scoring trailer when he went to sign his card.
Perspective returned a short time later. He was at seven-under 133 on a course where he won just two years ago. And while he is remembered for squandering chances to win at the US Open and Firestone this year, the next opportunity is right in front of him.
“Look at the way I play golf — the way I swing the golf club and grip the putter,” he said. “Look at the way I go about my business. I don’t hit the ball very far. I’m short. If I really cared what the critics thought the last 19 years, I really wouldn’t be here ... My teammates know that I’m going to give 110 percent. They know I have a lot of heart. I have a lot of grit, and that’s what I’m going to do, but I’ve never felt like I have to justify myself.”
Rose, who shared the 18-hole lead with Tiger Woods, made four birdies on the back nine and holed a 6 foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 68.
Woods went in the other direction.
He was right in the mix when he made the turn, despite a double bogey on the eighth hole, but a series of bad swings that put him in bad positions led to four bogeys on the back nine, and Woods had a 73. It was his worst score at East Lake in 14 years, dating to a 76 in the second round in 1998. He was six strokes behind.
“I didn’t play very good today. Didn’t hit it very good, and definitely didn’t putt well,” Woods said. “So it was a struggle all day.”
Bo Van Pelt made three bogeys on the last four holes and still had a 68 that put him two shots behind at 135, along with Masters champion Bubba Watson (66). Dustin Johnson, who had to summon his college teammate from Coastal Carolina to caddie for him when his regular had back problems, had a 67 and was another shot back, along with Georgia Tech alum Matt Kuchar (69).
Rory McIlroy, who is leading the FedEx Cup, made an eagle on the 15th that turned around his fortunes. He had a 68 to be only four shots behind and still has the best shot at the US$10 million bonus, though he remains far more interested in winning his third straight tournament, and fourth in his last five starts. McIlroy was fortunate not to tumble down the leaderboard, but he scrambled for par on three of five holes at the start of his round, and made up plenty of ground with a 40 foot eagle putt on the 15th.
“I just have to try to think of my standing in this golf tournament, not really think about anything else,” he said.
Furyk has not won since he turned his cap around in the rain, saved par from a bunker and won the Tour Championship in 2010, along with the FedEx Cup and its US$10 million bonus. He lost in a four-man playoff at Innisbrook. He was tied for the lead at the US Open with three holes to play — two of them par-fives — until he hooked his tee shot into the trees and made bogey on the 16th. And he led at Firestone from the opening round until chopping up the final hole for a double bogey to lose by one.