This time when he missed a putt on 18, a massive gallery didn’t groan in disbelief. This time, a bogey on the last hole at Firestone Country Club didn’t cost him $735,000. But Jim Furyk still remembers.
Furyk arrived for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this week expecting a barrage of questions about his collapse here last year, when a double-bogey on the final hole cost him a victory and $1.4 million after he led the entire tournament. He was peppered with questions about his return to Firestone in recent weeks and even acknowledged Friday he was “somewhat offended” when Beacon Journal columnist Marla Ridenour suggested to him in June that he was the poster child for golfers who manage to bounce back from heartbreaking defeats.
“Poster child,” Furyk growled at her as he walked through the foyer of the clubhouse at Congressional. “I’ll remember that.”
Sometimes the truth strikes the rawest nerves.
As usual, Furyk is off to a great start again with two solid rounds. His 1 under on Friday left him 4 under for the tournament and tied for sixth. He was irritated he missed another putt on 18, but ultimately it probably won’t matter.
It’s unlikely anyone can catch Tiger Woods after his remarkable 61. Furyk is 9 shots behind Woods entering the weekend, which is about the distance between the Monster’s tee box and green with the way Woods is playing.
At least Woods’ brilliance can eliminate the possibility of another crushing loss for Furyk, who has endured enough of those to stuff a golf bag.
He lost a playoff here against Woods in 2001 when all he had to do was hit the fairway off the tee. Last year’s collapse was worse. Needing only par on 18 to become a wire-to-wire winner, he botched a chip out of the rough on his third shot and pushed a 7-foot bogey putt that would’ve forced a playoff with Keegan Bradley.
In the moments after, Furyk conceded that it was perhaps the most painful defeat of his career. Now he’s done talking about it.
“It’s over with. I’ll never get it back and there’s no sense in really dwelling on it,” he said Friday. “I got it out of my system and thought about how I could have handled the situation better and how I could have played the hole better.”
Furyk said the loss stung him for a week or two, then he was able to let go of it.
“The guys that dwell on that sort of thing and don’t get over it end up hitting road blocks in their careers, and that’s just never been an issue for me,” he said. “It’s done with. It’s gone. By the time I show up to play the next event, it’s out of my system, or really it’s not worth showing up.”
Furyk was masterful here last year — until the end — on the strength of his putter. He has historically run hot and cold with his putting, but has been rather irritated with it for most of this year.
He complained at both the British and U.S. Open about his putting and reiterated Friday his short game has been inconsistent most of the summer. He was hoping for firmer, faster greens here like what he had last year, but the heavy rain in the forecast will likely keep them soft through the weekend.
Furyk, hardly one of the tour’s power hitters, said he hit sand wedge and lob wedge into 18 for two days last year because of the dry conditions. That won’t happen on a wet course this weekend.
“I really don’t even feel like we’re playing the same golf course as we did last year,” Furyk said. “You can be a lot more aggressive on it and you’re going to see more birdies on it this year.”
He’ll need a lot of those to catch Woods this weekend. Then again, given recent history, maybe a nice, quiet top-10 finish void of the drama is better, anyway.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Bridgestone Invitational blog at http://www.ohio.com/blogs/bridgestone-invitational. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloyd ABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.