They teased him in the locker room, but phlegmatic Jim Furyk, out of commission at Westchester from a swallowining injury (SWALLOWING INJURY!) had the last laugh.
After “throwing my head back awkwardly,” and wrenching his back and neck badly last week, Furyk is right in the thick of the hunt at the U.S. Open with just a few extra doses of Aleve.
With only “Reese’s” and “Exelon” gracing his full frontal button shirt, there might have to be one more product placement if he wins.
Furyk has the game and mindset to reprise his 2003 victory at Olympia Fields. Even though the two courses are light-years apart in difficulty, the straight, steady, grinder Furyk could be more like Hale Irwin than he admits.
“I only got an opportunity to play with Hale a couple times. I have a lot of admiration and respect for his game. If I win a couple more, then I’ll start to compare myself to him. It may be a stout comparison at the moment” he said, humbly, but also with a hungry, yearning gleam in his eye.
His eyes seemed to say “Boy, that’d be nice.”
Furyk’s straight steady game almost broke the aggregate scoring record at a mild 2003 setup at Olympia Fields. Winged Foot, perhaps the hardest Open venue of all is at the other end of the spectrum, but with it requirements of accuracy off the tee and severe greens, Furyk may translate all the way to the winner’s circle.
“I think both courses the way they are setup suited my game as not being a power hitter. Although the course is long on the card, power isn’t even one of the top two or three important things. It’s about getting the ball in play in the right spots and thinking your way around the course.”
Furyk’s game is so solid, even with a swing that one writer called “an octopus falling out of a tree” and another dubbed “a man fighting a snake in a phone booth” no one has ever hinted that he had to win a second major to “validate” his win at Olympia Fields.
He has eleven tour victories since 1995. He won the Wachovia Championship a few short weeks ago with a -12 score of 276..
Furyk’s freak injury will make him a hero to all sufferers of back pain and strange injuries. “After brushing my teeth I was taking some Aleve. I was hunched over with bad posture and threw my head back and pinched something in my neck and upper back.” It took three to five days and some more Aleve. It’s ironic.”
Furyk’s trademark quirky swing, blue collar lunchpail work ethic, friendliness and deep knowledge and respect for the game make him a fan favorite and a Furyk-Mickelson battle or playoff would be an epic ending to a U.S. Open played on a course that is often the sight of historic battles. “Winged Foot has got a lot of tradition” he observed fondly. With his grace and gentlemanliness it’s a sure bet that many more than just New York Yankee manager Joe Torre (a huge Furyk fan) will be supporting him.