By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Over the course of a very successful PGA Tour career, Jim Furyk has amassed 19 top-10 finishes in major championships.
Remarkable, no doubt, but one gets the feeling Furyk is too good to have won just a single major - the 2003 U.S. Open - based on his consistency.
On Thursday, in the first round of the 95th PGA Championship, Furyk was impressive, firing a 5-under 65 - despite a bogey on the ninth hole, his last of the day - to take the early clubhouse lead.
"Obviously I'm pleased with the round," said Furyk, whose 65 was his best opening round in a PGA Championship and one shy of the Oak Hill course record. "I really felt in control this morning. It was nice to get off to a good start with a birdie on No. 10 (his first hole of the day). I knocked in a nice putt from about six feet and then knocked in a good par putt on No. 11.
"I got off to a good start with the putter. I had some testy 4-, 5-, 6-footers to start the day and was able to knock a bunch of those in and get some rhythm with my putter. That eased some tension with the rest of my game, as well. I hit a bunch of fairways today, controlled my iron shots very well. I hit 15 greens. I felt good with the putter, so it's a fun day when stuff like that happens."
Following a perfect tee shot on the 10th hole - his first of the day - Furyk stuffed an 8-iron approach to set up an 8-foot birdie try that he would covert for a fast start.
Furyk grabbed his second birdie of the day at the par-4 16th hole after holing a 40-footer and followed it up with a rare tap-in birdie on the nearly 500-yard, par-4 18th hole to make the turn in 3 under.
"Any time you get a tap-in at No. 18, that's always fun," he said.
Furyk holed birdie putts from inside of 10 feet on Nos. 1 and 4. His final birdie of the day came at No. 7. Furyk hit a hybrid off the tee that didn't travel quite as far as he anticipated. Instead of having a 5- or 6-iron in for his approach, Furyk had a 4-iron.
That proved to be no problem for Furyk. He hit the 4-iron to within 15 feet of the hole and knocked in the putt.
The lone blemish for Furyk in Round 1 was that bogey on his final hole. He sent his tee shot right into some heavy rough and was forced to chip back out into the fairway.
"Usually you're disappointed ending the day with a bogey, but you know, a 65 at the PGA isn't so bad," Furyk said. "I'm feeling pretty good about today."
To say Furyk likes Oak Hill might be an understatement. As has been the theme all week, this is a ball striker's course. With the fairways as narrow as they are, the longer hitters can't be quite as aggressive as they'd like.
That's setting up well for a player like Furyk, who isn't quite the longest hitter, but an accurate one.
"The way they set the golf course up, they have pinched the fairways longer off the tee, and 18 is a pretty prime example in that it's a hole that's close to 500 yards and I'm hitting 3-wood off the tee, and then 4-iron for my second shot, because I felt like that was the best opportunity to get the ball in the fairway," he said. "You know, you can hit driver if you wanted to, but the fairway becomes about two thirds the size, for me. So, yeah, I can see I guess my one thing, it's easier to get a 3-wood in the fairway than it is a driver and it's easier to get 2-iron in the fairway than a 3-wood, still, there's got to be some advantage to being long. It's not the leaps and bounds, but rarely do we ever go to a major championship where the golf course is wide open and they just let you flail away and hit it again. It's not that common."
Furyk's solid play on Thursday shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Since missing the cut at the Open Championship, Furyk has tied for ninth in each of his last two starts - the RBC Canadian Open and last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Furyk is happy with his play lately, but that missed cut at the Open to go along with a missed cut at the U.S. Open certainly stung.
"I felt like I played a couple good events in there from the Masters to the British, but never really strung four rounds together, or always had a lapse in the middle of the day that maybe ruined a round, but I did play some decent events in there," Furyk said. "Also, missing the cut poorly at the U.S. Open and missing the cut poorly in the British Open are probably the thorns in my side."
The putter also seems to be coming around for Furyk lately. While a finicky short stick might be maddening for most, Furyk was never overly concerned by his putting woes.
"I feel like putting, even at your most hopeless point, even when you're out there on the course and you're really struggling, we've all been there before every player has been in that position before," Furyk said, "sometimes it takes a day; sometimes it takes a week; sometimes it takes a month, but eventually you get the putter in your hand and it feels great one day. It felt great today.
"That doesn't mean it's going to feel great tomorrow, and whatever. But I feel like I'm moving in the right direction, and I've always had a lot of confidence in my game and my short game has always been a strength. But putting is streaky. And I feel like I'm a very streaky putter at times where I've had some really good moments in my career, and I think great years with the putter, and I've also had my struggles, as well. But I think if you're out here for 20 years, you're going to go through that."