LAKE FOREST, Illinois (Reuters) - Having shot a magical 59 the previous day, Jim Furyk knew he faced a near-impossible task to follow that up with another low score in Saturday’s third round of the BMW Championship.
Though he finished up 10 strokes worse by carding a two-under-par 69 at Conway Farms Golf Club, the veteran American was delighted to end a challenging day on a fast, firming layout with a one-stroke lead.
“Even if you go out and fire a 62 or a 63, it’s always difficult to kind of follow that up with a low number,” Furyk told reporters after posting a 13-under total of 200 in the penultimate FedExCup playoff event of the PGA Tour season.
”It probably took me a few holes to really get in the flow out there and feel good. Made a couple mental errors I felt on the front nine with shots, hitting shots in the front places, short-sided myself a couple times.
“But felt like I played a very, very good nine holes of golf on the way in and was happy how I played on the back nine,” said the American, who is renowned for his unorthodox loopy swing.
Furyk collected three birdies after the turn to separate himself from the field and, even with a three-putt bogey at the last, he ended the day a stroke in front of fellow American Steve Stricker, who fired a 64.
Throughout his round, the 43-year-old was warmly applauded by huge galleries at Conway Farms after becoming only the sixth player ever on the PGA Tour to shoot a 59, 24 hours earlier.
”It kind of felt like a victory lap,“ smiled Furyk, who is bidding to win his first PGA Tour title since the 2010 Tour Championship. ”People kept cheering for me all the way around.
“It was a good day, a lot of positive fans, the occasional one that likes to give me a hard time, but 99.9 percent were very positive. It was fun.”
Asked what made it so hard to follow up a low score with another one, Furyk replied: ”You just don’t see a lot of guys go shoot 61-62. You see a lot of 61-68s, 61-69s.
”I felt good with my swing today. I felt like I played a solid round of golf. I hit the ball well. I had a lot more opportunities yesterday. I hit the ball better yesterday.
“But you’re not going to have many days like I played yesterday. You know, I’ve done it. I’ve shot low numbers back-to-back. It seems to be a mental battle more than a physical.”
A 16-times champion on the PGA Tour whose only major victory came at the 2003 U.S. Open, Furyk has failed to add to his career tally over the past three years despite several close calls.
At last year’s U.S. Open, he squandered a golden opportunity to win a second major title when he bogeyed three of his last six holes to wind up in a five-way tie for fourth, two shots behind winner Webb Simpson.
Last month, Furyk led by one shot going into the final round of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club but was outplayed by compatriot Jason Dufner, who carded a two-under-par 68 to claim his first major title by two strokes.
Asked whether he felt any added pressure to triumph at Conway Farms on Sunday because of those near-misses, along with a few others, Furyk replied: ”There’s always pressure to win.
”And I‘m going to put pressure on myself because I expect myself to play well, and I expect more of myself than anyone else. It’s been three years. No one has to remind me of the Tour Championship in ‘10.
“That’ll be part of the mental game and the mental aspect of it tomorrow, to go out there and stay in the moment and just play golf and not really worry about it. I’ll play my best if I‘m focused on the task at hand, not on the results.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Peter Rutherford