LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Before he could take his place in PGA Tour history with a 59, Jim Furyk had to get in the right frame of mind.
And that wasn’t easy.
He was grouchy after the opening round of the BMW Championship. The day that began over breakfast with two friends who are on the Presidents Cup, a stinging reminder that Furyk was left off an American team for the first time in 15 years. Then, he opened with a 72 at Conway Farms and already was nine shots out of the lead.
“I kind of kicked myself in the rear end and said, ‘You know, it’s done with. There’s nothing I can do to change it now. It’s over, and let’s just focus on this week,'” Furyk said. “I talked to my dad a little bit about my round and told him I felt like I played a lot better than 1-over. He gave me advice that it’s a long week, it’s four rounds. … ‘You’ve got three days to get it back.'”
Furyk paused to smile.
“I did it all in one day,” he said Friday.
It was one magical day north of Chicago, where Furyk became the sixth player to shoot 59 in PGA Tour history. The significance of his round could be measured in how he did it — the first 59 that featured a bogey — and the response from his peers.
In so many words: “Are you kidding me?”
Furyk was 11 shots better than the course average Friday, and a whopping six shots better than anyone else could manage in 20 mph wind at Conway Farms.
Zach Johnson shot a 70 when he was told Furyk was 11-under on the day with two holes remaining.
“For the day? Seriously?” he replied. “He’s on No. 8 to go to 59? I don’t have anything to say about that. That’s ridiculous.”
Brandt Snedeker had no idea he was nine shots ahead of Furyk at the start of the day, so when he saw Furyk’s name quickly climbing the leaderboard, he just assumed it was a good round of golf — not a great one. That changed when Snedeker saw a video board as he was finishing on No. 18 that Furyk needed a birdie on No. 9 for a 59.
“I thought, ‘What the heck? Are you serious? There’s no way,” Snedeker said. “On a day like this when the wind is blowing 20 mph out of the north, I don’t think anybody out here saw that score coming.”
Furyk simply couldn’t miss. He made only three putts longer than 12 feet, and one of those was for par on No. 16, the only green he missed. He holed out with a 9-iron from the 15th fairway for eagle. He played the back nine in 28.
But when he three-putted for bogey on No. 5 to fall back to 10-under with four holes to play, a 59 looked bleak. Furyk then rolled in a birdie putt from just inside 12 feet on No. 7, and even during the FedEx Cup playoffs, this was simple math.
He had two holes. He needed one birdie for a 59.
One was the par-5 eighth that could be reached in two with quality shots. His second shot wasn’t the highest quality, and he missed a 12-foot birdie putt. The other was No. 9, which played only 386 yards and had a hole location favorable for making birdies.
“It’s sitting there, front left with a right-to-left wind just begging you to hit it close,” Furyk said.
Standing in the fairway, 103 yards away and a gap wedge in his hand, he realized what was at stake.
“I said, ‘How many opportunities are you going to have in life to do this again?'” Furyk said. “Got to take advantage of it. Tried to knock it in there tight and make it as easy on yourself as you can.”
That he did. The ball settled 3 feet from the cup, and Furyk received a huge ovation walking to the green. It’s the kind of crowd he only sees at the majors, or when he’s playing with Tiger Woods. And that’s when the magnitude of the moment hit him.
The putt was familiar, too — only 3 feet away, sliding away to the right. It was just like the one he made at East Lake three years ago at the Tour Championship, which he won to capture the $10 million FedEx Cup.
This wasn’t for money. It was for history.
Furyk repeatedly pumped his fist as he turned toward the gallery, and then hugged caddie Mike “Fluff” Cowan.
It was the first 59 on the PGA Tour since Stuart Appleby in the final round of The Greenbrier Classic in 2010. The others with a 59 were Al Geiberger in the 1977 Memphis Classic; Chip Beck in the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational; David Duval in the 1999 Bob Hope Classic; and Paul Goydos in the 2010 John Deere Classic.
“That makes me feel depressed about my round,” Snedeker said with a laugh after his 68.
Now comes the hard part for Furyk — there’s still that matter of winning a tournament for the first time since the 2010 Tour Championship. His 59 gave him a share of the lead with Snedeker at 11-under 131. Johnson was three shots behind.
Tiger Woods thought he was in the group five shots behind until he was told about his ball moving as he removed twigs around it on the first hole. Video confirmed, though a rules official said Woods argued that his ball only oscillated without leaving its original position. Video — and the tour official — won, and Woods was docked two shots. His double bogey turned into a quadruple-bogey 8. His 70 turned into a 72. And those two shots meant he would be paired with Sergio Garcia on Saturday.
Snedeker was watching on a TV screen when Furyk made the putt for 59, and he was genuinely excited for him.
“I guess my job now is to make sure that everybody forgets about it by Sunday,” Snedeker said.
As for Furyk?
“I’ll have to calm down later on tonight and realize that I’ve got myself in contention in a golf tournament where I was nine back starting the day,” he said. “I still have a weekend ahead of me. I’m excited for that. But I’ll enjoy these next few hours at least and have fun with it.”
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