Furyk inches closer to victory at Bridgestone

AKRON, Ohio — Eventually, Jim Furyk is gonna finish the job in Akron.

And after three rounds and an 11-under total of 199 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, it could be soon.

Furyk has never won at Firestone Country Club, but he sure has come close — with three top-five finishes and seven in the top 10. Today, he owns a one-stroke lead over Louis Oosthuizen heading into the final round.

It was hardly a dominant day for Furyk, who at one point held a five-stroke advantage. But he stayed in front with a short-and-steady game to stay in front of a clan of mostly big-hitting opponents. Along with Oosthuizen, that group includes Keegan Bradley (7-under), and Rory McIlroy and Steve Stricker (each 6-under).

Unlike Furyk, all are relative newcomers to the Firestone leaderboard. And that type of veteran edge may prove to be all Furyk needs. After all, Furyk has a history of playing better in his final two rounds than the first two on this course.

Then again, that will be tough to do after a first-round 63. Also, after the first two hot and especially dry days, the moisture left the greens. Throw in a little wind, and Day 3 was hardly a strut on the beach. A crawl in the dessert would be more like it.

Furyk seconded that notion after finishing a round in which he collected just one birdie.

“We had a little bit more wind going on, the greens firmed up a little bit, and I just felt like it was a lot harder to get iron shots close to the pin,” he said.

Others echoed those sentiments — although it could all change Sunday. With afternoon storms expected to roll in, golfers will play in threesomes off tees Nos. 1 and 10, beginning at 8 a.m.

Either way, history is on Furyk’s side here, as 10 of his 16 PGA tour wins have come when he’s leading entering the final day. Mostly, he’s been unshakable so far, a guy who’s stayed the course even in the rare moments it seemed like they might head south.

Meanwhile, Oosthuizen has been strong as of late, losing in a playoff (to Bubba Watson) at this year’s Masters. This is also the third time this season he’s been in the top three heading into the final round, and like Furyk, he’d like to finish the job.

On the other hand, Bradley hasn’t finished in the top 20 in his last nine events. So being just three strokes behind Furyk entering Sunday is a nice accomplishment. A strong final round might help erase the memory of some of his most recent outings.

As for Tiger Woods, the most-followed man on the tour and someone who has historically done well on this course, this may be too large a gap to overcome. Woods had his best round of the tournament Saturday, finishing with a 2-under 68. Still, he’s tied for 24th and 11 strokes back of the leader.

“Hitting fairways and greens, you’re shooting high rounds of 2-under par and 3-under par, that’s a good sign,” Woods said following Saturday’s round. “Those are your worst scores you can possibly shoot that day. It’s not good when you’re shooting those scores and you get absolutely everything out of it.”


•  Lee Westwood struggled with an 11-over 81 in the third round, his third-worst score at a PGA event and the worst since he finished with an 82 at the PGA Championship in 2002.

• McIlroy is seeking his sixth straight top-10 finish in a World Golf Championships event. If McIlroy were to win and Luke Donald (currently tied for ninth) finished outside the top 10, McIlroy would regain the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

• Oosthuizen is looking to become the first South African to win the Bridgestone Invitational. David Frost was the last to win at Firestone (1989).

• Ben Crane withdrew Saturday with a back injury.