HILTON HEAD ISLAND. S.C. – Jim Furyk will be unable to defend his title next month in the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines Resort as he continues to recover from left wrist surgery.
But that didn't deter the 17-time winner on the PGA Tour from visiting his favorite tour golf course to take part in a press conference in advance of the 48th playing of the tournament.
Furyk had surgery in early February to remove a bone growth known as an osteophyte on his left wrist, and though he's not close to pinpointing a return date to the PGA Tour, late April or early May are possibilities.
"It's kind of open-ended when I'll return," Furyk said. "I know May is definitely in my target zone. April would be very difficult but we'll kind of keep things open and see how it goes."
Furyk hasn't played since withdrawing Sept. 17 from the first round of the BMW Championship, the third of the PGA Tour's four playoff events.
He said the osteophyte first appeared on an MRI 10 years ago. "I guess eventually it kept growing and getting bigger and there's not a lot of space in the wrist so it was starting to wear cartilage out and bother other areas," Furyk said.
He was having another strong year in 2014-15 with the Heritage win, six top-five finishes, and just two missed cuts in 19 events. He tied for 11th and fourth in the first two FedExCup playoff events.
"It started to get sore throughout the playoffs," Furyk said. "It was bothering me in Boston. I tried to take some time off before the BMW week in mid-September and by the time I got to the pro-am I could barely get through the pro-am on Wednesday. I couldn't bear the pain anymore and I had to withdraw.
"... After trying to rest it for months and months at a time, it seemed like I'd get back to about three, four or five days of golf before it would start to get painful again. So I needed to have it removed."
Furyk began physical rehab two weeks ago and has made progress in strengthening and gaining range of motion in the wrist. Doctors have told him he could be hitting balls within three or four weeks. He has been putting at home and hitting chip shots for about a week.
"It has been fun to have a club in my hand," Furyk said. "If all goes well, and so far it seems like rehab is going pretty well, it will be another four weeks before I start hitting balls. It will be starting slow and ramping up."
Furyk often begins his year on tour at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in early to mid-February, and this year was eligible for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in early January.
"It was disappointing to not be able to finish up FedExCup and also the Presidents Cup," said Furyk, 45, who served as an assistant captain on the U.S. Presidents Cup Team. "... It started to hit home [the week of Pebble Beach] that I was missing some more time."
He has made the most of his time away from the tour with his wife, Tabitha, and their two children.
"I love being home with the kids," Furyk said. "It's been a blessing to spend so much time with my family and be involved in school work and their after-school activities and sports, so I've enjoyed that immensely."
But he's disappointed he'll be missing the Masters and Heritage, both for the first time in 12 years. At Harbour Town, he has two wins and seven top-10 finishes in 17 appearances since 1995.
"For years it's been my favorite event on tour," Furyk said.
He won last year by making birdies on both holes of a playoff to outlast Kevin Kisner and earn his first tour victory since the 2010 Tour Championship. The relief was evident in his emotional reaction, as he tossed his putter to the ground and screamed in exultation upon draining the winning putt.
"It meant a lot. To be honest, I was frustrated," Furyk said. "I hadn't won since the Tour Championship in 2010 and that was my best year on tour. I had real good seasons in '12, '13 and '14 and came very close to winning a number of times and wasn't able to get over the hump.
"The emotion on  and the fist pump I think was just a bunch of years of pent up frustration and 4 1/2 years of not winning. It just felt good to get that one under my belt."
The Pennsylvania native always has a lot of support from vacationers and northern transplants in Hilton Head. "I swear half of Pennsylvania has a second home in this area," Furyk said. "It's a beautiful island. ... In my opinion it's the best golf course we play on tour. It's my favorite. I enjoy it. It's not overly long and doesn't have long rough, but it's a shot-makers golf course. It's through the trees, you have tiny greens and you have to hit every shot in the bag during the week.
"If you can't maneuver the golf course here, you can't compete."
Furyk was on pace to make his 10th Ryder Cup team this year prior to his injury, and has been named a vice captain under Davis Love III on the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup Team, along with Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker. He attended a dinner at the Florida home of Jack and Barbara Nicklaus on Feb. 25 following the first round of the Honda Classic.
"I miss the guys and miss being around everyone. I wanted to make the trip down," Furyk said. "Everyone is confused with me. They don't know whether I'm a captain or a player. The guys don't know what to do."
He hopes his return from surgery goes well enough for him to fill both roles in late September.
This article was written by Alan Blondin from The Sun News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.