Saturday, June 23, 2018

Furyk seeks bounce-back at Tampa Bay Championship

PALM HARBOR — Jim Furyk is right where he wants to be this week. As a 42-year-old winner of 16 PGA Tour events, including the 2003 U.S. Open, Furyk doesn't enter any tournament unless he wants to be there.

"If it's a place where you can tee it up 4 inches and rear back and let it fly, go find it and hit it again, it's probably a place where I'm going to take the week off," Furyk said. "Not my style."

Innisbrook's Copperhead Course, with its narrow fairways and small greens, is Furyk's style. He has played it since he was a 16-year-old amateur. He won the Tampa Bay area's tour tournament on the course in 2010, when the event was called the Transitions Championship, and lost in a four-man playoff last year.

But after a subpar 2012 that included collapses in the U.S. Open and the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational and a disappointing Ryder Cup, Furyk is trying to gain momentum this season. His best finish in four starts is a tie for 13th at the Northern Trust Open.

"I'm sitting right on the fence right now," he said. "I see a lot of good things happening, but I need to turn a few of the bad things around."

Though it wouldn't be a surprise to see Furyk near the top of the leaderboard at this year's tour event, now called the Tampa Bay Championship, which begins today, several other players are more likely to make a run for the title.

Eight former champions are in the field. One of them is 2012 winner Luke Donald.

Donald isn't off to a hot start, but he thinks he can get it going any week now. "The results have not been as good as I'd like, for sure," he said. "But I'm not approaching these events with too much worry because I feel I'm very close."

Sergio Garcia is fresh off a tie for third Sunday at the World Golf Championship's Cadillac Championship. Matt Kuchar won the Match Play Championship three weeks ago.

Webb Simpson is the only major winner from last year (U.S. Open) in the field.

Perhaps no player has as much to prove as Furyk. After a down year in 2011, in which he failed to win and had only four top-10 finishes in 26 starts, he refocused during the offseason.

The result was better play but an unsettling trend. His playoff loss at the Transitions Championship was like a bad omen. He blew a 54-hole lead at the U.S. Open. He had a double bogey on the final hole of the Bridgestone Invitational to lose by a stroke.

He also had a fourth place finish at the Colonial, a seventh-place finish at the Tour Championship, and lost a 1-up lead with two holes left to Sergio Garcia on the final day of the Ryder Cup, which the Europeans eventually won over the Americans.

"I was really (ticked) off after 2011," Furyk said. "I was miserable. I wasn't happy with the way I played and really wasn't much fun to be around.

"Last year, the mistakes I made weren't physical. I made mental errors. Every event I lost was due to making poor decisions rather than poor swings. That actually in the long run makes me more mad because I like to consider myself someone who is prepared for those situations, and I made poor decisions, and it cost me."

So Furyk decided to put his clubs away in the offseason. He thought about golf but didn't play it. He wanted to start 2013 with a clean slate. "I really tried to get my mind fresh," he said. "I spent more time with the family. I watched more football on TV."

Whether that approach worked will be determined over a long season.

"I'd like to win soon, but whether that's this week or this year remains to be seen," Furyk said.

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