Jim Furyk points after his errant tee shot on the ninth hole during the first round of the 2013 PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York on Thursday. (REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)
ROCHESTER, New York — Jim Furyk has seen it all during a long PGA Tour career, giddy highs and painful lows, and he was delighted to build on a recent uptick in form by charging into contention for the PGA Championship on Thursday.
With his usually sharp short game once again clicking after he had surprisingly struggled for much of this season, Furyk putted superbly on the way to a five-under-par 65 in rain-softened conditions at Oak Hill Country Club.
Though the American veteran with the unique loopy swing signed off with a bogey at the par-four ninth, his final hole of the day, he was in an upbeat mood after setting the early pace in the year’s final major.
“Usually disappointed with ending the day on a bogey, but you know, 65 at the PGA is not so bad, so I’m feeling pretty good about today,” 2003 U.S. Open champion Furyk told reporters after piling up six birdies in his first 16 holes.
“I’m happy that I played a good round. Trust me, I’ll be in a good mood the rest of today. But I’m wise enough and been there enough that, it is only Thursday. Right now we are jockeying for position.
“I hit a bunch of fairways today, controlled my iron shots very well. Felt good with the putter, so a fun day when stuff like that happens. Today was probably one of the best putting rounds, if not the best putting round I’ve had this year.”
Furyk, a 16-times winner on the PGA Tour, had been more than frustrated after missing the cut in the last two majors, the U.S. Open in mid-June and the British Open at Muirfield which followed five weeks later.
“Those are probably the thorns in my side,” said the 43-year-old American, who has posted just four top-10s in 17 starts on the U.S. circuit this season with his best finish a tie for third at the Texas Open in April.
“I did not feel confident with my putter and that was putting a lot of pressure on the rest of my game and quite honestly, I wasn’t particularly driving the ball that well.
“Basically two of the three most important components of playing well, and usually two strengths of my game. So I worked real hard at Canada and last week on kind of fixing those problems, and feel very comfortable with what I’m doing.”
Furyk, who has not won on the PGA Tour since his stellar 2010 campaign when he triumphed three times, felt his game turning around with top-10s at the Canadian Open and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in his last two starts.
“I felt great today,” he said of his putting. “Doesn’t mean it’s going to feel great tomorrow, and whatever, but I feel like I’m moving in the right direction.
“I’ve always had a lot of confidence in my game and my short game has always been a strength, but putting is streaky. I’ve had some really good moments in my career, and I think great years with the putter, and I’ve also had my struggles, as well.
“This sport beats you up. If I played 25 events a year and I win one event a year for my entire career, you would be a hell of a player, you won over 20 times on the PGA Tour and you’re going to lose 24 times a year. You’ve got to take your lumps.”