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Archive for Sunday, June 15, 2003

Furyk on fire

Golfer shatters 54-hole record with 200

June 15, 2003

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— Jim Furyk knew the putt was going to be a problem even before he left the tee. Now, staring down a 40-footer over a ridge, he reminded himself par never hurts at the U.S. Open.

Especially with a one-stroke lead -- and trouble waiting on every hole.

"I said to my caddie, 'That's going to be a tough putt.' I'm trying to get it up there and lag it close," he said.

He leaned right as it neared the cup on the par-3 15th and shook his fist when it dropped, a rare show of emotion from a guy known more for his steely demeanor.

"That," Furyk said, "gave me a burst of energy."

Better yet, it gave him a cushion that grew to three shots by the end of the third round, putting Furyk in the record books and on the cusp of his first major championship.

As Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and everyone else collapsed around him, Furyk stayed the course Saturday at Olympia Fields for a 3-under 67 to shatter the 54-hole record.

Not since Woods has anyone been under par by double digits at a U.S. Open.

Not since Woods has anyone looked as much in control.

Jim Furyk hits out of the rough on the first hole en route to a
third-round score of 67. Furyk, at 10 under Saturday, will carry a
three-stroke lead into today's final round of the U.S. Open in
Olympia Fields, Ill.

Jim Furyk hits out of the rough on the first hole en route to a third-round score of 67. Furyk, at 10 under Saturday, will carry a three-stroke lead into today's final round of the U.S. Open in Olympia Fields, Ill.

"I don't expect Jimmy to slip up," Singh said after bogeys on his final three holes, including a three-putt from 15 feet.

Furyk was at 10-under 200, breaking the previous 54-hole record of 203 last matched by Lee Janzen in 1993 at Baltusrol.

"If you would have told me early in the week that 10 under would be leading, I would have thought it was strange," Furyk said.

There was nothing out of place about his game -- fairways and greens, the winning recipe at any U.S. Open, even an Olympia Fields course that finally showed signs of playing tough.

Furyk capped a remarkable day with a 25-foot birdie putt to take his three-stroke lead over Stephen Leaney, a 34-year-old Aussie who doesn't even have his PGA Tour card.

"I got to this position with a certain type of strategy," said Furyk, a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour. "And I've got to continue to do that tomorrow."

Leaney recovered from a double bogey on No. 10 for a 68.

"I know how to win tournaments," Leaney said. "It's going to be very hard not to think about a U.S. Open possibility."

Singh, tied with Furyk most of the sunny, warm day south of Chicago, missed a three-foot par putt on the 16th hole that sent him to a stunning collapse. He bogeyed the next two holes for a 72 and was five strokes behind.

Dicky Pride hits from a bunker on the seventh hole. Pride is six
strokes back after Saturday's round at Olympia Fields, Ill.

Dicky Pride hits from a bunker on the seventh hole. Pride is six strokes back after Saturday's round at Olympia Fields, Ill.

Nick Price had the lead at one point with five birdies in his first six holes, but gave all but one of those shots back and wound up with a 69 to join Singh at 205.

On an Olympia Fields course that ranks as one of the easiest in U.S. Open history, Furyk made his way into exclusive company.

Gil Morgan was the first player to reach at least 10 under in a U.S. Open, at Pebble Beach in 1992. He faltered on the weekend and tied for 13th.

Woods was the last, winning at Pebble Beach three years ago at 12 under par.

Barring the greatest comeback ever in a Grand Slam event, Woods won't hold a major title since before he won the '99 PGA Championship at nearby Medinah.

He took 35 putts, spent too much time in the rough and wound up with his worst score in a U.S. Open as a professional, a 5-over 75 that left him 11 shots out of the lead.

Still, the biggest collapse belonged to Singh.

He had a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th that would have given him a share of the lead. It took him three to get down for an unlikely bogey, and the Fijian followed that with a tee shot into the bunker on No. 17 and a drive into the rough on the 18th.

"There's no reason to make three bogeys on the last three holes," Singh said. "I'm a little disappointed at the way I finished. But there's a lot of holes to go."

What makes that tougher is the guy he's trying to catch.

Furyk has never won a major, but he is one of the grittiest guys in golf. He showed plenty of that on a back nine that swallowed up so many others, making two par saves from the bunker and two long birdies.

Now comes the hard part.

"I don't think I've ever sat on a three-shot lead on Saturday night," Furyk said. "I just need to go out and play a solid round of golf tomorrow."

Woods, who last won a major in last year's U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, was never in the game. The cheers that resounded across Olympia Fields indicated that birdies were available and a charge up the leaderboard was likely.

What shook him up was a whistle.

Woods was hitting his second shot into the green on the par-5 opening hole when a fan whistled loudly in the middle of his swing. It wasn't clear if the fan did it to try to rattle Woods or was trying to get someone's attention.

Whatever the case, the ball sailed to the right and Woods failed to make birdie. He spent the rest of the afternoon falling further and further behind the leaders.

"I didn't play that poorly," Woods said. "I made nothing. I missed a couple of par putts to compound the problem."

No one was more frustrated than Price.

At age 46 and on a course where he felt confident, Price soared into the outright lead with birdies on his first four holes and a two-putt birdie at No. 6. He was 5 under for his round and in the lead at 9 under.

"The U.S. Open is not about how many birdies you make," Price said. "It's about how many mistakes you don't make."

He made his share of both -- five birdies on the first six holes, five bogeys on the next 10. Only an 8-iron into 2 feet on the 18th hole gave him a round under par.

Price wasn't alone on his roller-coaster ride across Olympia Fields.

Jonathan Byrd, the PGA Tour rookie of the year playing his first U.S. Open, had an eagle putt to tie for the lead at No. 6. He stayed close to the leaders until hitting his drive out of bounds on No. 13 to take double bogey.

Byrd finished with a 71 and was in the group at 4-under 206 that included Ian Leggatt of Canada (68), Eduardo Romero of Argentina (70) and Dicky Pride, whose 66 was the best round of the day.

Justin Leonard birdied three of his first six holes to get to within one shot of the lead, then made five bogeys the rest of the way for a 72 and was out of contention at 208.

Leaney looked as if he might join them.

He was one off the lead at the turn until catching two bad lies in the rough on No. 10 to make double bogey and dropping another shot on No. 11. But he showed plenty of resolve and finished strong to get into the final group today.

Catching Furyk might be the toughest task of all.

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