Aug 08, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Just a group ahead of him in Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club, Jim Furyk could see the large crowds, chaos and commotion that surrounds Tiger Woods every time he tees it up.
By the time he was done, though, Furyk was the center of attention, thanks to a five-under-par 65, one short of the Oak Hill course record, that had the 43-year-old veteran tied with Masters champion Adam Scott atop the leaderboard through the opening round of the final major of 2013, one shot ahead of Lee Westwood and David Hearn.
More than a decade removed from his lone major title (the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Field near Chicago), Furyk has, by his own admission, thrown away all kinds of chances to get that second major that would elevate his status among the game’s greats.
Now Furyk has yet another opportunity, but that will mean continuing to play well against a diverse and eclectic group of chasers that includes both major winners and surprise guests, all of whom took full advantage of a kinder, gentler Oak Hill.
With a quarter-inch of rain falling overnight and stopping just before the first players teed off, and no wind to speak of, Oak Hill was as easy as it could possibly play, and plenty would take advantage – but Woods was not of them.
Heavily favored going into the PGA, Woods was two under when he saw his round stall, starting with a short missed birdie putt on 2 (his 11th hole of the day). Then he bogeyed the par-five 4th, the easiest hole on the course, and finished with a double bogey on 9 for an unsatisfying 71.
Just behind him, Furyk was having, in his own words, his “best putting round of the year”. A 40-foot birdie putt on 16 and a rare birdie on 18 highlighted a first-nine 32, and he added three more birdies to get to six under.
Threatening the course-record 64 shared by Ben Hogan and Curtis Strange and the PGA-record 63, Furyk drove poorly on his last hole, the 9th, but still put up a 65, the best of the morning by one shot over Hearn, , the Canadian who himself got to five under before a bogey on the 18th left him with 66.
Matt Kuchar, Paul Casey, Robert Garrigus and Marcus Fraser each shot 67 in the morning, with eight others, including Steve Stricker, Jason Dufner, Bill Haas and Henrik Stenson, managing 68 before the afternoon players got moving.
Scott, proving to be a continual force in all the majors, played the first three holes in par, and then caught fire. Birdies on five consecutive holes – 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 – led to a front-nine 30, the best nine-hole score of the day, and a tie with Furyk.
But as Scott teed off on 11, the horn blew at 4:25 p.m. A rainstorm hit Oak Hill, sending the 30,000 spectators scurrying for cover. Play resumed 70 minutes later, and with more moisture on the course, all sorts of players sought to catch or pass Furyk, most notably Scott and Westwood, the English veteran still looking for his first major title.
Only Scott would catch up. In fact, at one point Scott passed Furyk and took the outright lead with a birdie on 14, only to give it back with a three-put bogey on 16 before scrambling pars on the last two holes gave him his 65.
Westwood may have enjoyed the steadiest round of the day, never making a single bogey in his 66 that put him one shot back, quickly recovering from squandering the 54-hole lead to Mickelson a month ago in the Open Championship at Muirfield.
As for the man that passed Westwood at Muirfield, Phil Mickelson got off to a terrible start, three over through four holes, but then went four under par through the middle stages of his round before a closing double bogey left him at 71, the same score as Woods.
Justin Rose, the U.S. Open champion at Merion earlier this year, posted a solid 68, one behind the totals posted by Jason Day and Scott Piercy among afternoon groups.
Scott tees off Friday morning at 8:35, 40 minutes after Westwood starts. Furyk heads into his second round at 1:55, nearly an hour after Hearn’s tee time.