- Last Updated: 4:17 PM, June 18, 2012
- Posted: 2:32 AM, June 18, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO — The easiest part of a difficult golf course proved to be the undoing for Jim Furyk. The plodder imploded over three of the final six holes at The Olympic Club yesterday, costing himself a chance to win his second U.S. Open and prove “middle aged” men can still win majors.
“It was right there,” the 42-year-old Furyk said later. “It was my tournament to win.”
We heard all week how difficult the first six holes would be at the 112th U.S. Open, and throughout the tournament that proved true. It was at the closing holes where the U.S. Open figured to be won. Few could have imagined that’s where Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, would lose it.
A steely-eyed competitor with loads of experience playing under pressure, Furyk entered the final round sharing the 54-hole lead with Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open winner, at 1-under. All seemed well when Furyk managed par on the first five holes before suffering a bogey at the sixth. No big deal.
With the toughest part of the course behind him, Furyk played the kind of game you expect him to play: patient, precise, avoiding mistakes and protecting par. It’s why McDowell had called him “a plodder” earlier in the week. It was a term of respect.
“I really felt like I had a lot of confidence in myself and a lot of belief in myself and you feel like you’re going win the golf tournament,” Furyk said.
Six straight pars, including a 35-foot save at the par-4 12th, sent Furyk to the par-3 13th with the lead at even par. But that’s where his troubles began. His tee shot on the 199-yard hole landed in the green-side rough. His chip out of the thick grass ran 18 feet past the cup. His putt for par curled short and right. A simple par 3 had cost him bogey.
It got even worse at the par-5 16th. The USGA had moved the tees up almost 100 yards, making the 670-yard hole more tempting to reach in two. It caught Furyk off guard. He never envisioned the tee would be moved up that far. He grabbed a 3-metal and over-cooked his drive around the sharp dogleg left. His snap hook sailed deep into the trees.
“I just didn’t handle it very well,” Furyk said. “And I’m not sure I hit the wrong club off the tee, but probably hit the wrong shot off the tee. And that probably as much as anything forced me to make a poor swing.”
After some mild grumbling about the tee location, Furyk conceded: “The rest of the field had that same shot to hit, and I’m pretty sure no one hit as [bad] a shot as I did.”
It took him four more shots to reach the green. Instead of a potential birdie, he had to make a 4-footer for another bogey. A lead that was once two strokes was gone. He was 2-over and trailing eventual winner Webb Simpson by a one stroke.
A birdie on the 18th would have gotten Furyk into a playoff. But he “tugged” on his second shot from 105 yards and sailed it long and left. The ball splashed into the bunker. There was no chance for birdie. The dejection was clear on Furyk’s face. A final bogey at the 18th left him with a 4-over 74 for the day and plus-3 for the tournament, two shots behind Simpson.
“I just wasn’t able to hit that one good golf shot, that one great golf shot that I needed,” Furyk said.
At 42, Furyk knows time is running out for him to win another major. That’s why he so desperately wanted to win here.
“I played poorly last year, and all of a sudden I’m middle ‑aged,” he said. “I got to be honest with you with you, that [ticked] me off. I think I have a few more good years. I’ve been saying it all year and I would like to get another opportunity. I know I let one slide today.”
The plodder imploded.