Furyk not winning but still cashing big checks

Only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els have more victories on the PGA Tour than Jim Furyk in the last 15 seasons.

However, Furyk does not have a victory in more than two years as he tees it up this week in the Buick Open at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Grand Blanc, Mich.

“He’s been in a funk for a couple of years now,” Mike Furyk, Jim’s father and swing coach, said earlier this year. “If we knew exactly what was wrong, we’d fix it and there would be no problem.”

Actually, it’s not all that bad.

Furyk has finished in the top 10 on 16 occasions since he successfully defended his Canadian Open title two years ago to claim the 13th PGA Tour victory of his career.

The only longer streak he has had without a victory came when he went two years and eight months between winning the 1996 Hawaiian Open and the 1998 Las Vegas Invitational.

When he was winless last season, it was only the third time that has happened since 1994, and he had an excuse in 2004, when he underwent wrist surgery early in the season and took nearly a year to regain his form.

“I’ve played well and had some chances to win,” the 39-year-old Furyk said recently, adding that he is thinking about more than victory No. 14. “So I feel good about my game, pretty confident with it.

“I’ll try to keep a good roll going. I’ve been playing well the last couple of months. I have a lot of confidence. I’m working hard. I want to win a bunch.”

Furyk has been close. He has finished second twice in the last two years, including earlier this season at the Memorial, one stroke behind Tiger Woods.

In addition, he has finished third on two occasions since that last victory.

“I’m disappointed, obviously, because I really felt like I had a chance to win the golf tournament,” Furyk said after closing with a 69 at Muirfield Village while Woods won with a 65. “I cleared the rest of the field by two or three shots and just didn’t beat one guy. It’s no fun, but you know, he played better.

“Tiger is right — second place does suck. It leaves a bitter taste. Third place is easier to take. If you finish third or fourth or fifth, you can smile about having a good week. But when you’re second or lose by one, you can think of a million ways to save that one shot.”

Furyk has plenty of experience with the feeling, having finished second 20 times, including losing seven of the nine playoffs in which he has been involved.

The most devastating of those runner-up finishes came in consecutive years at the U.S. Open, one stroke behind Geoff Ogilvy at Winged Foot in 2006 and one shot in back of Angel Cabrera at Oakmont in 2007.

The latter was particularly difficult to take because he is Pennsylvania born and bred, and what a thrill it would have been for Furyk to claim his second U.S. Open title in the Keystone State.

Somehow, he does not carry those failures around with him, unlike some other players.

“I’ve been in that situation twice in an Open, but for some reason I can let it go,” said Furyk, who won the title in 2003 at Olympia Fields near Chicago.

“It might take three hours, it might take three days, but by the next time I tee it up, it’s gone. I think I’m good at that. I know some people just can’t let it go.

“(In 2006), I had a hard time sleeping that night. It was bitter. Oakmont will always be there, and I’ll always think about it, but it’s done. A couple of days later, I was fine. It doesn’t bother me.”

Warwick Hills might be a place for Furyk to end his non-winning streak, which covers his last 45 events on the PGA Tour.

In 2003, he captured the Buick Open by two strokes over Woods, Ogilvy, Chris DiMarco and Briny Baird about six weeks after winning the U.S. Open.

Furyk also finished second, three strokes behind Woods, in 2006 and tied for second, two shots behind Kenny Perry, in 2001.

“I enjoy the golf course,” said Furyk, who has finished in the top 10 in eight of his 14 appearances at Warwick Hills. “It suits my style of game. You have to get the ball in the fairway, and from that point on it’s a lot of short irons and you have to knock some putts in.

“I’ve had a lot of success there in the past. I enjoy going there, and that’s the reason I play there year-in and year-out. I think I only missed one year (1998) in my career.

“And I’ve won there before.”

Sounds like a man who knows he can do it again.

Notes and quotes

  • Jamie Lovemark, once the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world and the 2007 NCAA champion as a freshman, has turned pro and will forgo his senior season at USC.

    The 21-year-old Lovemark made his pro debut last week in the RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey, rallying to make the cut and finishing in a tie for 46th with a score of 74-66-69-73–282, 6 under par.

    “Playing professionally has been a dream for me for many years, and I’m excited that this dream is coming true,” said Lovemark, who won the 2005 Western Amateur at the age of 17 to become the youngest champion in tournament history.

    “I’ve been able to play in a number of professional tournaments already, so I know it is a big challenge, but I’m looking forward to pushing myself and working to become a better player.”

    Lovemark, a neighbor of Phil Mickelson in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., has played in eight PGA Tour events in the last three years, making the cut five times. His best finish was a tie for 39th in the 2007 Buick Invitational and he also tied for 45th at the AT&T National the same year.

    He also has made three starts on the Nationwide Tour, where his best result came when he lost in a playoff to Chris Riley at the 2007 Rochester Area Charities Showdown at Somerby.

    Lovemark claimed four victories as a freshman at USC, including the national title, and captured the Jack Nicklaus Award as college player of the year, the Haskins Award as the outstanding college golfer and the Phil Mickelson Award as freshman of the year.

    He was an All-American for the Trojans in 2007 and 2008 before being sidelined for the latter part of his junior season this year because of a broken rib. He also posted a 3-0 record to help the U.S. claim the 2007 Walker Cup.

    Lovemark has signed a marketing agreement with IMG.

  • Tom Watson, who stunned the golf world by nearly winning the Open Championship, was asked by reporters at the Senior British Open last week if he is playing in the PGA Championship, the only major he has never won, in two weeks.

    The answer is, only if he receives an exemption from the PGA of America.

    “What week is that?” Watson said. “I’ve got a full schedule coming up. Right now I wouldn’t hold my breath that I’m going to be playing the PGA.”

    By finishing second at Turnberry, the 59-year-old Watson rose to No. 105 in the World Golf Rankings, and the PGA usually makes sure it has most of the top 100 in its field.

    Watson also climbed to 108th on the FedEx Cup points list, and only the top 70 receive exemptions into the final major of the year.

    “He’s being reviewed, along with other players,” said Julius Mason, a spokesman for the PGA of America, who added that the PGA will not decide on the rest of its exemptions until Aug. 3.

    Tom Lehman, a former Ryder Cup champion who won the 1996 Open Championship and hails from Minnesota, and 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan already have been given exemptions by the PGA, which will be played at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.

    Watson is not so sure his game will play so well at Hazeltine, which will have three par-5s longer than 600 yards and play to a length of 7,674 yards.

    “There are certain courses that you can play and that you can compete on and do well,” Watson said. “Not all of them, but there are certain ones. And Turnberry was one for me.”

    The closest Watson came to winning the PGA was in 1978, when he shot 73 in the final round and lost in a playoff to John Mahaffey at Oakmont.

  • At a time when some financial institutions are getting out of the golf sponsorship business because of the sagging economy, one banking executive is defending his company’s decision to stay the course.

    Seth Waugh, chief executive officer of Deutsche Bank Americas, claims a partnership with the PGA Tour has been good business.

    “You can think of the golf tournament as a silly little thing in terms of what’s going on in the world, but these are the bricks that can build the economy back up,” said Waugh, whose bank is title sponsor of the Deutsche Bank Championship, part of the PGA Tour playoffs.

    Waugh cited studies that estimate the economic impact of the Deutsche Bank Championship at $40 million to $70 million annually.

    “Nobody in the world’s going to want to take $70 million less,” he said.

    Waugh added that the event also provides revenue for the charities and local businesses that depend on it.

    The Labor Day weekend stop on the PGA Tour, the second leg of the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedEx Cup, has another good thing going — its association with Tiger Woods, the No. 1 player in the world.

    Woods, who won the event in 2006 and finished second twice, is involved in operation of the tournament, and the Tiger Woods Foundation is the primary charitable beneficiary.

    The tournament donated $3.5 million to charities last year and has raised more than $14 million to that end since its inception in 2003.

    “When you delve into what golf does for the charities and the community impact for the local economies, I don’t think it would be too beneficial to see that go,” said Mark Steinberg, who runs the golf division at IMG and is Woods’ agent. “I think that the numbers speak for the benefit.”

    Vijay Singh won the tournament last year on his way to claiming the FedEx Cup and will defend his title on Oct. 4-7 at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass.

  • Mark Calcavecchia nearly didn’t make the trip to the Open Championship because of a recurrence of the back problems that have plagued him for years. They cropped up again the week before at the John Deere Classic.

    The 49-year-old Calc was glad he did go to Turnberry because he wound up in a tie for 27th that would have been much better if not for a 77 in round three. He gets to play in the oldest championship in the world for 11 more years because he won it in 1989 at Troon about 20 miles from Turnberry, beating Greg Norman and Wayne Grady in a playoff.

    Open champions are exempt in the tournament through the age of 60.

    “Yep, it was 20 years ago, right up the road,” he said. “This has always been my favorite tournament of the year to come to.”

    Calcavecchia’s wife, Brenda, also made it through 72 holes as his caddie despite some wind and rain on the Ailsa Course, hard by the Firth of Clyde on the West Coast of Scotland.

    Last year, she begged out of one round because of stormy weather at Royal Birkdale.

    “I can’t lie, it is physically tough,” she told TNT Sports. “But even when I’m not carrying the bag, we talk throughout the round and I give him encouragement. This is a way for me to be out with him full-time, and it works for us.”

    Calcavecchia is notorious for his temper on the course, often throwing his clubs after a poor shot.

    Brenda found a way to curb that.

    “He did throw one club one time at the Tour Championship,” she said. “It almost hit my ring. I said, ‘If you break the diamond, you buy a bigger one.’ And that was the end of that.”

    His other caddies simply have to deal with it.

  • Kenny Perry announced that he will not defend his title this week in the Buick Open at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Grand Blanc, Mich., so he can be with his mother, who is dying of multiple myeloma, also known as blood cancer.

    Mildred Perry recently was admitted to a hospice in Kentucky.

    “Obviously, I regret not being able to defend my title at the Buick,” Perry said last week. “It’s a great tournament, and I love the course, but I need to be with my family right now (and) we have some tough decisions to make over the next few weeks.”

    Last year, Perry claimed his second Buick Open title, one of his three victories in a seven-week stretch, by one stroke over Woody Austin and Bubba Watson when he closed with a 6-under-par 66.

    He has finished in the top 30 in his last eight appearances at Warwick Hills, including a two-stroke victory over Jim Furyk and Chris DiMarco in 2001, when he shot 64-64 in the middle rounds.

    The 49-year-old Perry nearly passed up the Open Championship, where he tied for 52nd, before doctors reassured him that his mother’s condition was stable enough for him to leave the country for a week.

    The Perrys have been dealing with family health issues for the last year. Kenny’s 84-year-old father, Ken, had two stents put in his heart late last year and lost more than 20 pounds while spending a month in bed.

    Kenny Perry, who was able to share his role as Grand Marshal of the Kentucky Derby Parade with his dad in May, told reporters recently that Ken Perry is doing much better.