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Jim Furyk, with his dad, Mike Furyk, believes the shotmaking required at Southern Hills fits his game. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jim Furyk, with his dad, Mike Furyk, believes the shotmaking required at Southern Hills fits his game. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Tulsa heat is helping his back feel better, says Furyk

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Count Jim Furyk as a fan of the high temperatures at Southern Hills this week. The world No. 2 arrived with a sore upper back, but he finds it easier to get loosen up when it's hot outside. He's pain-free for now, and looking forward to playing.

By T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer

TULSA, Okla. -- Thanks to some last-minute therapy, Jim Furyk doesn't foresee his recent back problems preventing him from teeing it up Thursday morning in the 89th PGA Championship.

The No. 2-ranked player in the world and recent winner of the Canadian Open presented by Franklin Templeton Investments was forced to withdraw from last week's World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational because of an upper-back injury.

"Last night I went into the trailer and received some treatment," Furyk said on Wednesday. "And I had a joint, I guess, in my upper back in my thoracic spine that was really stiff and not really mobile, and it actually was able to be adjusted, by the same gentleman who had been working on me for quite a long time, and I guess everything was just so tight, muscularly locked up in there.

"I went from being pretty miserable and not really being able to make the movement in the swing that I wanted to, to actually finding a lot of relief," he explained. "I was one happy person last night when I went to bed because I felt so much better, and woke up this morning less stiff in the morning than I really was at my best yesterday."

Though he hasn't been able to prepare for the year's final major the way he would have liked to -- he's played just 27 holes in three days -- Furyk said he wouldn't be playing if his health was a concern.

So he would have skipped a major?

"Seventy percent in this game, I don't care who it is, when they're playing at 70 percent, they're not winning," he said. "You can't play against anyone."

Furyk said he gets tired of hearing golfers being compared to athletes in other sports when it comes to injuries, because "it's such a totally ignorant comment would be the best way I could say it."

The difference between golf and other sports, he said, is that in team sports a player like former Dallas Cowboys star running back Emmit Smith, who had been known to play with injuries, would never compete if he didn't think he could help his team.

"If I felt like I wasn't healthy enough to swing like I wanted to, I wouldn't be doing myself any good, or anyone any good, going out into the tournament trying to play," he said. "You go out and tough it out and shoot 78 -- it's not doing anyone any good."

Furyk attributed the recent back issue to his travels.

"I think a lot of it was the travel, to be honest with you; getting over to the British (Open), being on those flights, being stagnant for so long," he said. "And trying to work it out with the therapy guys over there on the European Tour and really working hard in Canada to loosen up, I felt like I did. Obviously I played very well. I didn't feel any effects physically or feel limited. But playing all those events in a row and adding the long travel back and forth definitely put some stress on me, and possibly that's what took its toll."

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Furyk's best finish in 12 previous starts at the PGA Championship was a tie for sixth in 1997 at Winged Foot. While the stifling heat might cause concern for some players in the field this week, Furyk believes it will suit his back well.

"One of the reasons I like the heat is it always makes it nice when you can go out there and make 10 swings and feel like you can go to the first tee rather than, you know, going to the British and it's raining sideways and it's 48 while we're warming up," he said. "You don't feel all that loose. Take a little car ride to the first tee, you're already stiff again. I've always liked it hot and the hotter the better."

Furyk, who has one major championship to his credit -- the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields -- believes that Southern Hills is a course that fits his game since it involves strategy and shot-making rather than booming drives. But he's not sure what to expect.

"When I'm playing well, I pride myself on being able to maneuver the golf ball. Power is not going to come into play," he said. "It's really limiting off the tee in spots the way it's set up. So guys are going to have to play from the same spot in the fairway on a lot of holes. And being aggressive is not going to be a smart play on most holes off the tee. In most instances that would kind of even me up on the field off the tee and possibly give me an advantage. But I really don't feel that well about my game. I feel rusty."

Though he's rusty, Furyk said he's not feeling any pain.

"My movement is pretty good," he said. "I'm still not 100 percent, but I'm healthy enough to make the swings that I want to. I have the ability? If I felt like I did yesterday, I probably would have just went home and rested because I couldn't move enough to make the swings I wanted to, and today was really a different story. So I was happy about that. And I'll have to think about how I want to attack the golf course and how I can make some better swings for tomorrow."

Despite the injury and the rust, a major win for Furyk this week wouldn't be a huge surprise. His worst finish in the first three majors this season was a tie for 13th at the Masters. Furthermore, he's finished in the top 5 in five of his last seven events.

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