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.