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The game is fun again, Jim Furyk admits.
Sure, there’s the camaraderie of playing against former buddies with who he used grind it out on the PGA Tour, but one of the reasons the 2003 U.S. Open champ has quickly taken to the PGA Tour Champions is the simple fact that he’s again become friendly with his short irons.
It’s a rekindling he hopes to continue this week as Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, hosts the fourth edition of the Sanford International. The event runs through Sunday and a field of 76 players from the 50-and-over tour will compete for a $1.8 million purse, with a winner’s share of $270,000.
“It’s one of the reasons why I really enjoy the Champions tour. Not the only reason, but I joke that I got to know my 4- and 5-iron really well playing the PGA Tour and kind of missed hitting the 8, 9 and wedge into par 4s,” Furyk said on Wednesday. “I get an opportunity now to attack a little bit more at times and get some shorter irons in my hand and make a few more birdies. It’s a lot of fun.”
But while Furyk was mandated by PGA Tour rules to play the world’s best courses at their very longest, he said it’s a mistake that common players make when enjoying the game in middle age.
“As amateurs get older, it’s very common that if they grew up playing the blue tees, they want to play the blue tees. It’s hard to move up to the whites,” Furyk said. “When they finally do, they go, ‘Wow, this is fun, why didn’t I do this earlier? I should have been doing this five years ago.
Jim Furyk plays his shot from the first tee during the final round of the U.S. Senior Open Championship at the Omaha Country Club on July 11, 2021, in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo: Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
“That’s kind of what coming out to the Champions tour, I’m back to kind of playing like I was maybe in my mid-30s on the PGA Tour and hitting a lot of those same clubs in.”
Of course, the game is more fun when you’re succeeding, and Furyk’s been doing plenty of that in recent months since moving to a more consistent Champions schedule. He’s posted top-10 finishes in seven of his last nine events, including a T-6 at last week’s Ascension Charity Classic in St. Louis and a victory at the U.S. Senior Open in July at Omaha Country Club.
“They are good golf we’re playing. It’s still challenging, but you can see by the scores that we shoot and the way the golf courses are set up. … last week I want to say 10 under won. That was a pretty high score for a winning score out here on the Champions Tour, so a good, hard test of golf,” he said. “Depending on the conditions and the wind this week and the severity of the greens, I can see the same thing if conditions are right.”