Tour Report: Revitalized Furyk opens with 63

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Shamus/Getty ImagesJim Furyk’s opening 63 at Firestone Country Club was one shot off his career low.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

AKRON, Ohio — Jim Furyk wasn’t playing poorly. It’s just that when he added up the strokes at the end of the day, Furyk realized he wasn’t getting much out of his rounds. 

All that changed on Thursday during the first round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational as Furyk fired a 63 that was one shot shy of his career low and two off the course record — which he said he didn’t even know.

The round of 7 under gave Furyk a two-stroke lead over England’s Lee Slattery. World No. 1 Luke Donald and Masters champion Bubba Watson were among six players shooting 66 on a day when 30 players in the field of 78 broke par on the surprisingly generous South Course at Firestone Country Club.

Furyk has had a solid season as he seeks his 17th PGA TOUR victory and his first since a three-win, Player-of-the-Year campaign in 2010. He lost in a playoff at the Transitions Championship and tied for fourth at the U.S. Open but since he left the Olympic Club things have tailed off a bit with two missed cuts and two ties for 34th.

That’s why a few extra days at home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., after he made an early exit at the RBC Canadian Open were so important for Furyk.

"For one reason or another I felt like from a physical standpoint, mechanical standpoint in my game, I felt pretty good about my ball striking, I felt like my short game was decent, I felt like I was rolling the ball decent with the putter, but every day I’d kind of add up my score, and the British Open was always even, 1 over, 2 over, even, didn’t get much out of it," Furyk said. "Same thing at Canada, went there and shot two 70s and felt like I played a lot better than that."

So he got on a plane Saturday morning and flew back to Florida. He played with his two kids and relaxed on the back porch with his wife Tabitha, then gathered up the clan and headed to Akron.

"I think more than anything I needed a little time to clear my head, think about what was going wrong," Furyk said. "It wasn’t anything that was going wrong, why I wasn’t playing better. I just felt like I needed to come in here and quit concentrating on trying to be so mechanically sound and just go play some golf and try to score and get the ball in the hole a little bit. It worked today. I did a lot better job of scoring."

Indeed he did. Furyk started on the back nine and birdied his first two holes. A bogey at the 12th was only a temporary halt to his momentum as Furyk reeled off three birdies on putts of 18 inches, 24 feet and 17 feet to turn in 31.

After a 28-foot eagle putt on the second hole found the bottom of the cup, Furyk was in complete control.

"It’s been a while since I made seven birdies and an eagle in a round, so it was a lot of fun," he said.

Furyk has a solid record at Firestone with a second-place finish in 2001 and six other top-10s. He has additional motivation to succeed this week, too — Furyk ranks 15th in the Ryder Cup standings with the eight automatic qualifiers finalized after next week’s PGA Championship.

Counting the Presidents Cup, Furyk has represented the United States in the last seven international competitions.

"I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t on my mind,” Furyk said. “But I’m also wise enough to know that it’s there in the back parts of my mind right now, and I know the only way to take care of business is to really focus on golf and the next shot and the next round and kind of forget about it and just try to play as well as I can and let those things work themselves out."