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In 12 previous Open starts, Jim Furyk has four top-10 finishes and had a tie for 12th at Carnoustie last year. (Photo: Getty Images)

Furyk finds right ball flight for second straight 71

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Once Jim Furyk figured out that on the rock-hard courses that play host to the Open Championship success requires a low ball flight, he got his groove back. Just like he has the last two days at Royal Birkdale.

By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer

SOUTHPORT, England -- It's no secret that the player who keeps his score in the vicinity of par over the course of a major championship should be in great shape to contend in the final round.

More so than any other of the four majors, it could be argued that the Open Championship requires the most patience. Mentally, players have to deal with a lot of factors they can't control -- the wind, the rain and the cold, to name a few.

No, they obviously can't control any of those elements in the United States either, but the schedule is set up to basically follow the sun.

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All of that is why it's no surprise that Jim Furyk is near the top of the leaderboard in the 137th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He's been an elite player his entire career on TOUR and has had a win in all but two seasons since 1995, including the 2003 U.S. Open. He's still looking for his first win in 2008, but it might be just around the corner.

Thanks to a pair of 1-over 71s over the first 36 holes, Furyk was at 2-over 142 and just two shots off the pace set by surprise clubhouse leader Greg Norman.

"The round was solid, hit the ball in the fairway quite often and put the ball on the green," Furyk said. "I need a few more putts to drop here and there, but so does everyone else."

With more nasty weather expected for Friday evening and Saturday, Furyk loves his position because he doesn't think Royal Birkdale is an easy course to attack.

"Sunday is supposed to be a little bit nicer, but we all know that can change quickly," he said. "If the wind dies down, yes [birdies can be made]. If the wind stays up at this pace, it's going to be very difficult to attack.

"But you need to pick and choose your spots, and there's some holes out there where you get some short irons in your hand, you have an ability to make some birdies, and there's some -- No. 6 comes to mind right off the bat -- where bogey is not a bad score at times, and making a par feels like a birdie."

In 12 previous Open starts, Furyk has accumulated four top-10 finishes and had a tie for 12th at Carnoustie in 2007. Furthermore, one of his best finishes was the tie for fourth he managed here at Royal Birkdale in 1998.

However, Furyk has also had some rough spots in the Open -- see his five consecutive missed cuts from 2001-2005.

What gives?

"I kind of go back to early in my career I played well," he said. "I hit the ball well, very naturally. I played well in the States when it was windy. I won in Hawaii a bunch. I was comfortable hitting the ball down."

But then, Furyk said, he had to find a better way to play the lush PGA TOUR courses in order to get more consistency with his finishes. That required learning to hit the ball high and making it spin more -- a bad combination at the windswept Open venues with rock-hard fairways and greens.

"As I worked the ball up in the air higher and higher and higher as we need in the U.S., I came over here and struggled to make the transition, and I should have done a better job," he admitted. "Then the last few years I think I've done a lot better job on that transition and really have, I think, just made a concerted effort to really get over here and get the job done.

"For some reason in there I just did a bad job in the early 2000s. I think I had five years in a row where I missed the cut, and it was my best major up to that point. Hopefully I can continue a better streak now."

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