Just before Jim Furyk stepped up to his two-footer for par on 18, he flipped his dripping wet cap backward. Minutes earlier he nearly holed a bunker shot to cash in the biggest payday in golf.
Furyk had a three-shot lead through 15 holes, but bogeys on 16 and 17 and Luke Donald’s chip-in for birdie on 17 cut it down to one stroke on the final hole. Donald waited in the scoring trailer while Furyk played the last hole. If Furyk bogeyed the long par-3 18th, he would face Donald in a sudden-death playoff for both the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup, not to mention $11.35 million.
I was probably the only person in the media center secretly hoping for Furyk to botch the sand shot, only because I wanted to see two guys duel for all that money — you know, the way it should be if the FedEx Cup is supposed to be thrilling.
But, anyway, at least it came down to the last hole and a big bunker save. Furyk was 9 for 9 from the sand this week. After tapping in for par, he threw his right arm in the air and yelled — it appeared to be out of elation, but speaking to the press, Furyk, who isn’t known to show much emotion, said, “I was relieved. It had been a long time since I had won, I was leaking oil down the stretch. I actually think that I had a broken leg down the stretch at that one, but I got it done. It was more of a big deep breath and a sigh of relief that I’ve got a win.
“And then here, just — hey, these two trophies, a lot of people out there. I get criticized a lot and you hear a lot of people from the crowd sometimes say, ‘God, would you just smile? I’m playing well, and would you smile; it’s my way to kind of stay in my own little world and stay focused.”
Not only did Furyk win the FedEx Cup, he also captured his third victory of the year, a career-high, which will probably also win him Player of the Year honors.
What’s more, Furyk joins Tiger Woods as the second player in the four-year history of the FedEx Cup to miss the first leg of the so-called PGA Tour playoffs and still win the big prize. I mean, how can you miss an entire playoff event and still win the playoffs? That sure makes a lot of sense — it’s just another testament to what a joke this all is.
But for Furyk, it wasn’t exactly voluntary. He was “ineligible” for The Barclays because his cell phone alarm clock didn’t go off, causing him to miss his Wednesday pro-am tee time by about five minutes. At the time, he was No. 3 in FEC points, but dropped to No. 8 after the tournament. He entered the Tour Championship at No. 11, making it difficult mathematically for him to win the FedEx Cup (according to the info provided by the Tour). But things have a funny way of working themselves out — just like it was comical that of all the players in the field, Furyk overslept.
Even though it’s his biggest paycheck, it’s still not a major (you can’t buy a US Open trophy).
“My first major championship, my only major championship, was the US Open in ’03 and that kind of trumps your first win,” said Furyk. “That one will always be special. And we get judged by the number of tournaments we win and by the number of majors we win. It was a big feather in my cap. So I would put this up there very close.
“But a major championship is huge and this win is probably — it’s not my first, it’s my second biggest win.”
[Photo by Kyle Auclair/insidetheropes.com]