Friday, May 25, 2018

Furyk looks to quiet Cup critics

ATLANTA — Jim Furyk, the only American on the Ryder Cup team without a win this year, put himself in position Friday to join them.

Furyk made seven birdies through 10 holes at East Lake — including seven 3s to start the round — until he missed a few greens on the back nine that slowed his momentum. He wound up with 6-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Justin Rose going into the weekend at the Tour Championship.

As for anyone questioning whether Furyk should have been a pick for the Ryder Cup?

He was more bothered by missing a 5-foot par putt on the 18th than what anyone thinks about his game or being in the Ryder Cup for the eighth straight time. With 16 wins, including a U.S. Open, and having qualified for every U.S. team since 1997, Furyk stopped believing he had to prove himself a long time ago.

"Look at the way I play golf — the way I swing the golf club and grip the putter," he said. "Look at the way I go about my business. I don't hit the ball very far. I'm short. If I really cared what the critics thought the last 19 years, I really wouldn't be here. … My teammates know that I'm going to give 110 percent. They know I have a lot of heart. I have a lot of grit, and that's what I'm going to do.

"But I've never felt like I have to justify myself."

All he cares about is winning the Tour Championship, with an outside shot at the FedEx Cup title and its $10 million bonus. Furyk was at 7-under 133 on a course where he won just two years ago.

Rose, who shared the 18-hole lead with Tiger Woods, made four birdies on the back nine for 68.

Woods went the other way.

A series of bad swings put him in bad positions on the back nine and led to four bogeys. He had to scramble for par on 18 for 73, his worst score at East Lake in 14 years, dating to the 76 in the second round in 1998.

"I didn't play very good. Didn't hit it very good and definitely didn't putt well," said Woods, who was six shots back at 139. "So it was a struggle all day."

Bo Van Pelt made three bogeys on the last four holes and still had 68 that put him two behind at 135, along with Masters champion Bubba Watson (66). Dustin Johnson, who had to summon his college teammate from Coastal Carolina to caddie for him when his regular had back problems, shot 67 and was another shot back, along with Georgia Tech alum Matt Kuchar (69).

Rory McIlroy, who is leading the FedEx Cup, had 68 and was four back. He still has the best shot at the $10 million bonus, though he remains far more interested in winning his third straight tournament, and fourth in his past five starts. McIlroy was fortunate not to tumble down the leaderboard, but he scrambled for par on three of five holes at the start of his round and made up plenty of ground with a 40-foot eagle putt on the 15th.

"I just have to try to think of my standing in this golf tournament, not really think about anything else," he said.

LPGA: Defending champion Lexi Thompson shot 3-under 69 for a one-stroke lead after two rounds of the Navistar LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala. The 17-year-old was at 12-under 132. She matched the tournament record Thursday with a career-best 63. Mindy Kim and Mi Jung Hur were a stroke back. They played in the same group and each shot 65. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome had the shot of the day, a hole-in-one on the par-3 16th using a pitching wedge from 130 yards. She shot 2-under 70 and was at 142. Tampa resident Kristy McPherson (73—144) and Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse (76—150) didn't make the cut.