Jim Furyk has one word to describe the response he has received since he shot a PGA Tour record 58 not far from here, outside Hartford, a little more than two weeks ago: “Overwhelming.” It is a fact that people respond to a super low score much more than they do to a tournament win, about two or three times as much, judging by Furyk’s texts and voice mails.
Furyk also has one word to describe the possibility of someone breaking 60 during The Barclays at Bethpage Black: “No.”
“I’ll make that real simple. No, not this week,” he said Monday before his first practice round for the FedExCup playoffs opener that will begin on Thursday.
“It’s a hard golf course by design. One, it’s long. It’s pretty much the full package. It’s a fair golf course, but it’s a long, hard difficult golf course. It’s going to test all areas of your game. There are some forced carries where you can gain a lot if you can hit the ball far,” he said. “But there are no sub-60s out there.”
You never know, though. Today’s tour pros are awfully good and really long. Plus, the Black will not be set up to play as hard as it did in the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens. The PGA Tour is in the entertainment business and there is nothing quite as entertaining as birdies. When it comes to watching the classic battle of golfer vs. course, fans overwhelmingly root for the golfer.
Thus Furyk, despite having been a U.S. Open champion and 17-time tour winner and the guy who sank the clinching putt in the 2008 Ryder Cup, has become a different kind of celebrity since the final round of the Travelers Championship on Aug. 7. “Everywhere I go now, someone mentions the 58, wants to talk about it. It’s been a lot of fun,” said the man whose scorecard, ball and cap from that day are now in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
If you had to choose someone to enjoy that depth of glory, Furyk would be a good pick. He is 46 and not one of the big boppers on tour, so lots of weekend golfers can relate to him. More important, two weeks ago today, he was named the winner of the Payne Stewart Award for civility, charity and sportsmanship. The Golf Writers Association of America voted him the winner of its 2015 good guy award. Long Island club pro Rob Corcoran called him “the nicest guy on the face of the earth” for the way Furyk treated him during a practice round at the 2014 PGA Championship.
This week, Furyk and his wife Tabitha are helping FedEx promote Dress for Success, a not-for-profit designed to benefit women’s careers and economic independence. The first 100 people who donate a new or nearly new article of women’s clothing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will each receive a free ticket to the tournament. Donations will be accepted in the parking area at Nassau Coliseum.
So kudos to him if he has another terrific round in him this week. But maybe not too terrific.
Would it really be such a great thing if anyone goes amazingly low on the Black? Many of us take a certain parochial civic pride in the difficulty of the course. It is a beast for us to play, and not so easy for the pros either. We are OK with the knowledge that four golfers have shot 64 there: Craig Thomas in the 2007 New York State Open, Lucas Glover and Mike Weir in the 2009 U.S. Open, Padraig Harrington in the 2012 Barclays. But anything much lower would chip away at the course’s mystique.
A foremost expert assures us it will not happen. Only seven times has a PGA Tour player broken 60 in a tournament, and Furyk is the only one to have done it twice (including a 59 at the 2013 BMW Championship). He says not to worry. We will take his word for it and prepare for a pleasant week.
Here’s to high temperatures in the 80s, low scores in the 60s and hats off to Mr. 58, one of golf’s class acts.