BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Jim Furyk is ready to move on from a bitter finish at the U.S. Open.
Trouble is that no one will let him.
Furyk was tied for the lead at The Olympic Club two weeks ago when he came to the par-5 16th to find the tee had been moved forward 100 yards. He was expecting that, and it showed. His swing was quick. The shot was a duck hook into the trees. He made bogey, and couldn’t recover over the last two holes to catch Webb Simpson.
“I’ve had my share of close calls, and I have myself to blame,” he said Wednesday at the AT&T National. “Didn’t get the job done when I really needed to.”
This one stung for a number of reasons. It would have been his second U.S. Open and 17th career win on the PGA Tour, moving him clearly into the conversation for the World Golf Hall of Fame. He would have been a lock for the Ryder Cup team.
“I think for the first couple of days, it stings a little bit more and it’s tough to deal with personally,” Furyk said. “What I’ve always done is gone through in my mind about the things I think I could have improved on, and what I could have done better, and why exactly did I make the poor swing at 16 … and then try to figure out how you can improve upon it. I’ve always been kind of good at putting it behind me.”
But he is easily recognized, even out of his golf attire, and he has earned his share of fans over the years. Furyk realizes the comments are meant as support, but there have been comments about the U.S. Open, and any comment is a reminder.
The grocery store. The gas station. The restaurant.
“I’ve had hundreds upon hundreds of people just seeing me in public … ‘I was rooting for you, I was pulling for you,” Furyk said.
And then there was PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. Turns out he was at the dry cleaners the other way — the same one Furyk visits — when the employee was talking about Furyk and trying to figure out why he hooked a 3-wood into the trees.
Finchem tried to rally to Furyk’s defense by saying he didn’t intend to hit the shot, and the employee said he still shouldn’t have hit it that way.
“Yeah, no (kidding),” Furyk said. “I guess that’s why you shouldn’t break the buttons on my shirts. But it happens once in a while.”
Furyk attributes the mistake to not being prepared on the 16th tee, and to not be committed on the shot, causing the quick swing. While he hears from so many people, as a player, he has chalked it up to a tough lesson.
Time to move on. His next stop starts Thursday at Congressional, and while he’s trying to put the last major behind him, the course might remind him of another U.S. Open.
Congressional looks more like a U.S. Open course than the U.S. Open did last year.
The fairways are tight. The rough is thick and ankle-deep in spots, and this was after they cut it down a few weeks ago. The greens are firm and bouncy. It has all the trappings of a U.S. Open, and Congressional has hosted three of them.
But this is just the AT&T National.
“I was probably a little surprised in the setup,” Furyk said. “The mowing lines, the rough lines are usually brought in narrow for a U.S. Open. And they never pushed them back out. The rough is … I don’t want to say it’s the longest I’ve seen it, but it’s very, very thick and difficult to play out of. And the greens still being somewhat new are very, very firm. It definitely has a U.S. Open style feel to it.”
The USGA was at the mercy of the weather last year — difficult conditions during the growing season, overnight rain during the championship that didn’t allow the course to dry out. The result was a record score by Rory McIlroy, who finished on 16-under 268 for an eight-shot win.
McIlroy isn’t back this year because he loves home just a little more than he loves Congressional. The Irish Open is this week at Royal Portrush in his native Northern Ireland, a revered course that has produced the first four-day sellout in European Tour history.
Tiger Woods is back, even though he wasn’t at Congressional last year. Woods wound up missing the middle two majors in 2011 to fully recover from injuries to his left leg, so all he could do was watch from home as McIlroy shattered his U.S. Open scoring records. Woods previously was the only player to finish a U.S. Open in double figures under par (12 under), and he tied the Open scoring record at 272.
McIlroy beat both those marks by four.
In some respects, Woods can consider himself the defending champion. The last time the AT&T National was played at Congressional was in 2009, when he closed with a 67 to finish on 13-under 267 for a one-shot win.
But this isn’t the same course.
It was played as a par 70 in 2009, with the sixth hole a long par 4. Now, the course is playing the same length as the U.S. Open, a par 71 at 7,569 yards, using some of the new tees the USGA had built for its premier championship.
Whether it stays fast when the AT&T National gets under way on Thursday remains to be seen. No rain was in the forecast, but the temperatures began climbing into the 90s on Wednesday, and with hot weather, officials might have to keep more water on the greens to keep the grass alive.
Woods was asked what he would like to see as the winning score, and he cut off the question when a reporter said, ‘Would you like it to be below …”
“Below 16 under?” he said, smiling in reference to McIlroy’s record score.
“As long as I’m that person,” Woods added, “yes.”