The return of a tough, mean and ornery Oak Hill Country Club in Saturday’s third round of the 95th PGA Championship in suburban Rochester led to a scramble to see who would have the best chance to win the year’s final major.
And when the scramble was complete, Jim Furyk found himself atop the standings, trying to add a legacy-building second major to the United States Open title he claimed 10 long years ago.
With a gritty two-under-par 68 capped by long putts on the last two holes - one for birdie, one for par - Furyk finished at 201, nine under par, one ahead of second-round leader Jason Dufner and two clear of Henrik Stenson heading into Sunday’s final round.
Furyk won the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields near Chicago. Ever since, he has added to his PGA Tour win total, which now stands at 16, but has seen multiple chances at another major slip out of his hands.
Now, a month after 43-year-old Phil Mickelson altered his career legacy at Muirfield with his British Open triumph, Furyk, also 43, could redefine his own legacy and make a Hall of Fame argument, and he goes there with, as he puts it, some peace of mind.
“I’ve been very comfortable and relaxed this week,” said Furyk. “Even when I didn’t hit good shots, it didn’t bother me at all.”
A very different Oak Hill greeted the players on Saturday. Cooler temperatures, higher breezes and lots of hole locations tucked into corners seemed to assure that no one would get near the record-tying 63 that Dufner posted on Friday afternoon to take the 36-hold lead.
Matt Kuchar and Justin Rose personified that trouble. Starting out two shots back, Kuchar birdied the 1st hole to slice that margin by one. But he dropped two shots on the the par-three 3rd and began to slide backward, eventually posting a damaging 76. Rose, who started the day six under, did even worse, ballooning to a front-nine 42 on his way to a 77.