Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Furyk takes lead into final round of PGA Championship

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Oak Hill finally had enough elements for a strong test Saturday in the PGA Championship, and Jim Furyk was up for the fight.

Grinding to the end in swirling wind that cast doubt on so many shots, Furyk closed the third round with two big putts — one for birdie to regain the lead, one for par to keep it — for 2-under 68 and a one-shot lead over Jason Dufner at 9-under 201 going into today's final round.

"This week I haven't let too much bother me," said Furyk, who with playing partner Dufner could be on the U.S. all-laconic team. "It was a nice way to finish the day."

Dufner followed Saturday's record-tying 63 with a pedestrian 1-over 71 that nonetheless included clutch shots down the stretch, one of them a putt on 18 that gravity pulled into the cup for par.

"You're going to hit poor shots. You're going to get bad breaks. You've just got to move on past it," said Dufner, who did show some emotion in the round, including tossing his club with disdain and stalking down the fairway after an errant drive at 18.

Henrik Stenson, runnerup to Phil Mickelson at the British Open last month, dropped only one shot over the last 16 holes and ran in a pair of 12-foot birdie putts for 69 and was two shots behind. He plays in the penultimate group with countryman Jonas Blixt, who was another shot back after 66. A Swedish man has never won a major.

Still with an outside chance was defending champion Rory McIlroy, who came to life with three birdies in his last six holes for 67 to sit at 3 under. Trending downward were Tiger Woods and Mickelson. Woods opened with two bogeys in three holes and shot 73 to fall 13 shots behind. Mickelson sprayed the ball all over Oak Hill on his way to 78, matching his highest score in the PGA.

Furyk wasn't overly excited when he opened the PGA with 65 to share the lead with Adam Scott — in the year's first three majors Furyk shot a combined 28 over and missed the cut at the U.S. and British Opens — and he has kept his eyes in front of him since.

Starting Saturday tied for second with Scott and Matt Kuchar, one shot behind Dufner, he wasn't even sure what the leaderboard looked like at the end, except that his name was at the top.

"I'm comfortable with where I'm at," he said. "There's a crowded leaderboard at the top, and instead of really viewing it as who is leading and who is not, I'm really viewing it as I need to go out there (today) and put together a good, solid round of golf. Fire a good number and hope it stacks up well."

Furyk, in his 20th PGA Tour season, has 16 career wins and earned more than $54 million, fourth on the all-time money list behind Woods, Mickelson and Vijay Singh. But he spoke earlier in the week about the sting of losing in big events. Furyk was the runnerup at the 2007 U.S. Open, and at last year's U.S. Open, he lost the lead on the 70th hole by snap-hooking his tee shot on a par 5 and finished tied for fourth.

This is the third time Furyk, 43, has held at least a share of the Round 3 lead at a major. The others were at U.S. Opens, last year and 2003, his only major win. He said he might have put too much pressure on himself in the past to win that second major but won't do that today.

Since 2003, Furyk is 6-for-7 converting outright 54-hole leads into wins. Only four 54-hole leaders in the past 19 majors have gone on to win.

If Furyk wins, following Mickelson in the British, players 43 or older will have won back-to-back majors for the first time since 1986 (Jack Nicklaus, Masters; and Raymond Floyd, U.S. Open).

PGA leaderboard

Jim Furyk 65-68-68 201 -9

Jason Dufner 68-63-71 202 -8

Henrik Stenson 68-66-69 203 -7

Jonas Blixt 68-70-66 204 -6

Steve Stricker 68-67-70 205 -5

Adam Scott 65-68-72 205 -5


Rory McIlroy 69-71-67 207 -3

Matt Kuchar67-66-76209-1

Tiger Woods 71-70-73 214 +4

Phil Mickelson 71-71-78 220 +10