Struggles off tee hinder Furyk's chances to win
By Stan Awtrey, PGA.com Contributor
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Once again Jim Furyk had a major championship within his grasp, and once again he couldn’t quite grab it.
Furyk didn’t do much wrong on Sunday. He just didn’t win. He wound up losing to an opponent who was just a little more accurate and slightly better at avoiding mistakes, two of Furyk’s typically strongest traits.
Furyk began the final round of the PGA Championship with a one-stroke lead over Jason Dufner. He shot a closing 71 and lost to Dufner by a pair of shots. It was the third runner-up finish in a major for Furyk, whose only major victory came at the 2003 U.S. Open champion.
“I’m disappointed that I didn’t win the golf tournament because I felt like I played well enough to do so,” Furyk said. “I have a lot of respect for the way Jason played. I got beat by somebody that played better today.”
It was quite a difference from the last time Furyk had a chance to win a major. That occurred a year ago at the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club, when he didn’t handle the final-day crush very well, closed with a 74 and dropped into a tie for fourth.
“At the end of that tournament, I felt I lost the tournament,” Furyk said. “Today I feel like I got beat. I didn’t beat myself, I don’t think. I felt like I got beat by Jason.”
If there was a stagger in Furyk’s swagger on Sunday, it came from the tee box. He was constantly playing from the rough, finding the fairway only four times. That nasty rough, coupled with Furyk’s lack of distance off the tee, made it difficult for him to land many approach shots close enough to give him a good look at birdie.
The punitive rough required him to scramble for par, which he failed to do three times.
The first and most costly instance came at the long par-4 ninth hole, where his approach ended up in the rough on the right front. Furyk failed to get up-and-down and took his only bogey of the day. That, coupled with Dufner’s birdie on the previous hole, turned out to be the difference in the outcome.
“Nine was a tough bogey,” Furyk said. “I was dead center of the fairway after probably my best drive of the day and kind of between clubs and didn’t really commit to that 6-iron and left it short right. Jason was in trouble and made a great up-and-down, so where it looked like I could possibly pick up a stroke, I lost one.”
His other mistake came on the 17th. Coming off a birdie but still down two shots with two holes left, Furyk’s approach shot wound up in the rough on the right of the green. His wedge came up short and fell back in the rough, leading to a bogey and leaving him to hope for a miracle.
“Tough to get the ball up-and-down out of that stuff,” he said.
His fleeting hopes were dashed at the 18th. His tee shot found the rough, leaving him 204 yards to the hole. His 5-iron was a little fat and ended up short, on the infamous hill in front of the green. He pitched up and two-putted to finish in solo second place.
“Wish I could have put a little heat on him and made him work those last two holes a little bit harder,” he said. “Wish I had made a couple pars, at least, and put some heat on him, but wasn’t able to do it.”
Furyk has proven the ability to compete at the highest level. It was the 19th time he has finished among the top 10 in a major. It was his best finish in 19 appearances in the PGA Championship.