Furyk battles to front as Dufner hangs tough
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Jim Furyk has had a few chances to add to his major championship resume since winning the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields.
There were the back-to-back runner-up finishes in the 2006 and 2007 U.S. Opens. Then, there was that painful tie for fourth in the 2012 U.S. Open – a tournament where the he looked to be in total control until late on the final day.
Well, through 54 holes in the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill, the 43-year-old Furyk has himself with another great opportunity to pick off major championship career victory No. 2.
With a remarkable birdie-par finish to Saturday’s third round, Furyk shot a 2-under 68 to get to 9-under 201 for a one-shot advantage over Jason Dufner; two better than Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.
“People always ask, would you rather be one ahead or one back,” Furyk said. “Well, I'd rather be one ahead. There's going to be a winning score tomorrow, and whatever that score is, it means I don't have to shoot as low as everyone else, if that makes sense. But overall, I'm comfortable with where I'm at. There's a crowded leaderboard at the top and instead of really viewing it as who is leading and who is not, I'm really viewing it as I need to go out there tomorrow and put together a good, solid round of golf, fire a good number and hope it stacks up well.”
Furyk showed the heart of a champion in the way that he managed to get through Oak Hill’s final two holes on Saturday.
The 509-yard, par-4 17th hole has played as the most difficult all week long. Furyk made it look easy, rolling in a 20-foot birdie putt.
Then, at the 497-yard, par-4 18th – the second most difficult hole at Oak Hill – it looked as though Furyk might give the birdie right back. A popped-up tee shot that settled in the first cut of rough right of the fairway forced him to lay up.
Once in lay-up range, Furyk sent his third shot just a touch right. It settled in the fringe, roughly 15 feet from the hole. After examining the line, he released a confident stroke and the ball dropped in the hole for a fantastic, unlikely par that Furyk acknowledged with a strong fist pump.
“Well, obviously nice way to cap off the day,” he said. “I hit a poor 3-wood off the tee, to say the least, but was able to kind of laugh it off. Was happy to see the ball was in the second cut of rough where I had a decent lie and just kind of wedge it out there.
“I knew where the pin was. I knew I could bring it off that slope and hopefully get the third shot close and was a little disappointed to see it spun more than I wanted it to off the front fringe,” he explained. “But it was nice to knock that putt in and knock the one in on 17 for birdie. So good finish to the day.”
The strong finish was icing on the cake for Furyk after weathering a rather bumpy start to the day with bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3 before rebounding with birdies on Nos. 4 and 8.
“The start of the day didn't really go that well,” Furyk admitted. “I fatted an iron off the downhill lie on No. 1 short, got it up and down, and then bogeyed 2 and 3. Really hit some loose shots in those first three holes. I kind of double crossed the hybrid into No. 3 left of the green and put it in place where I couldn't get up and down, and was able to not let things faze me today. Slowly kind of got my rhythm back.”
Dufner, meanwhile, surrendered his 36-hole lead with a 1-over 71 Saturday.
He got off to a steady start, but hit a snag at the 428-yard, par-4 fifth hole, where he took a double bogey.
Hitting 3-wood off the fifth tee, Dufner misjudged the wind and hit a poor shot. The ball rattled around in the trees before falling into the hazard.
Dufner bounced back with a birdie on No. 7, but gave that shot back with a bogey on No. 8. He birdied No. 10 and then rattled off eight straight pars to finish off the round.
“I have been pretty good with being consistent with my routine,” Dufner said. “I will be focused on my routine just like any other event and get ready to play. I think that's what's gotten me here so far. I think that's what going to be successful tomorrow. I'm pretty good at putting today behind me and moving on to tomorrow and follow the routine that I've had for the last five or six years.”
Like Furyk, Dufner has some major heartache of his own.
In 2011 at Atlanta Athletic Club, he lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley. While that stung, Dufner did a magnificent job of making it a springboard for his career, winning twice on the PGA Tour in 2012.
Now, in a week where he became the 26th player in major championship history to record a round of 63 and set an Oak Hill course record with that number, Dufner feels ready to win his first major.
“I'm not trying to have a top-5 or top-10 out here,” said a confident Dufner. “I'm trying to win this thing. So that plays an important part. I'll probably poke around maybe around the seventh or eighth hole and see where I'm at. When the back nine comes, you've really got to look and see where you're at because it dictates how you might play and how aggressive you want to go at some hole locations or how you might play some holes.”