PARAMUS, N.J. - No need to remind Jim Furyk that a win in The Barclays could be a wake-up call for his season. He heard all the one-liners as soon as he set foot this past week on Ridgewood Country Club, where he was disqualified four years ago for missing his morning pro-am tee time when his cell phone died overnight and the alarm didn't go off.
Besides, what happened here in 2010 stands as an example of turning a negative into a positive. Despite being ousted from the first tournament in the PGA Tour's playoffs back then, he went on to win the FedEx Cup. So here he is again, at 44 and wiser, tied with Jason Day for the lead at 9 under par and ready to go for his first victory of 2014.
Experience tells him it won't be easy in the final round Sunday, with what he called "a ton of guys" (22 to be exact) from 9 under to 5 under. His season reinforces the message of how hard it is to close the deal, given that he has finished second three times. Still, he is proud of the way he has played -- against guys little more than half his age -- and is looking forward to a better ending.
"Sometimes there's not a big difference between a real solid year and a real great year. Sometimes it's a shot here, a shot there or a putt going in," he said after his bogey-free round of 2-under 69 Saturday. "It's having the belief that something good is going to happen and it's all going to work out in the end. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't."
The third round ended just fine for him. With Day having made a rare birdie on No. 18 to tie him for first place, Furyk hit his tee shot well right and knocked his second shot into a deep greenside bunker. That could have meant a poor finish, but he pulled off the explosion shot that raised the loudest, longest roar of the day from the crowd.
His ball went well over the flagstick and touched down on the back fringe. Then it checked up and rolled back, nearly going in the cup. He had a tap-in for par. It is said, at least by weekend players, that the long bunker shot is the hardest in golf. It is not so easy for tour pros, either.
"Well, it is a difficult shot. But good news, bad news. I had that backstop," he said, referring to the way the back of the green sloped toward him. "I was able to stay aggressive and hit a good, solid shot. It came out a little faster than I was hoping." He was so below the green he could not watch it, but, he added, "I could hear the reaction from the fans."
Furyk would like to hear the same sound on the last hole Sunday, for a change. Not that he feels burdened by "almosts."
"I don't really block anything out. It's done. It's over. I've thought about those situations and how I could handle them better. You've heard me talk about it at length. Just put it behind me and try to use it to my advantage in the future," he said.
What promises to make Sunday exciting is that Ridgewood, unlike many courses, offers the possibility that a player can go backward, fast. The rough here is more punishing than it was at any major this season, explaining in part why second-round co-leader Adam Scott shot 75 and fell into a tie for 23rd.
Day, Scott's fellow Aussie, is happy just to be playing. After winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play, he missed much of the season with a thumb injury. "When you have an injury and it's slowly not going away," he said after shooting 68, "you kind of play little mind games. You're thinking, OK, when will I be back fully healthy again, when can I practice again, will I ever play again?"
He, Furyk and a "ton of guys" will play a spirited round Sunday.