CHARLES SCHWAB CUP
Jim Furyk comes up just short of Schwab Cup
November 16, 2021
By Randy Youngman, PGATOUR.COM
- November 16, 2021
- Jim Furyk at the 2021 Charles Schwab Cup Championship. (Ben Jared/Getty Images)
For most of the last four days of the 2021 PGA TOUR Champions season, Jim Furyk was projected to win the wrap-around season points race for the Charles Schwab Cup.
So close to his name being engraved on the gleaming silver trophy.
So close to putting it on his fireplace mantel next to the 2010 FedExCup trophy from the PGA TOUR, which would make it the first mantel in golf history to hold the playoff trophies from both Tours.
So close to earning the $1 million annuity bonus that goes to the winner of the season-long points race — in this case, the cumulative Schwab Cup standings covering the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
All Furyk had to do was hold on to his lead and hold off points leader Bernhard Langer, who was nursing a bad back and had fallen back in the pack during the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Phoenix Country Club.
Furyk shared the first-round lead after a 65, was tied for third after a second-round 67 and seized a one-shot lead with a third-round 65. He was projected to win the Cup when he went to sleep each day, even after 64-year-old Langer’s Lazarus-esque 63 in the third round vaulted him from 31st into a tie for ninth.
And despite a slow start in Sunday’s final round that gave hope to a handful of other competitors, Furyk still had a one-shot lead when he made the turn. It was still his tournament, and Cup, to win or lose.
But Furyk couldn’t close it out.
The record shows that Phil Mickelson birdied three of the final four holes to win the Charles Schwab Cup Championship by one shot and that Furyk faded to a fifth-place tie, enabling Langer to win his record sixth Charles Schwab Cup. But those undeniable facts obscure how close Furyk came to hoisting the Cup instead of Langer.
Even after a number of near-misses on back-nine putts, including a lip-out and several burned edges on birdie attempts, Furyk birdied the par-4 17th and had a mathematical chance to catch Mickelson on the par-5 18th.
As Langer conceded during the dual trophy presentation afterward, “Furyk still had a chance coming down the last hole. If he had eagled the last, he would be lifting this trophy right now.”
That, however, didn’t happen. Playing from the middle of the fairway, with 239 yards to the front edge of the green and 251 yards to the flagstick, Furyk pulled his second-shot 3-metal toward the greenside private boxes left of the green.
Despite getting relief from a temporary immovable obstruction—essentially line-of-sight relief from the grandstand—he was forced to take his free drop in mulch instead of the surrounding grassy area. That made his challenging, third-shot chip even more difficult, and it landed on the green without spin and rolled off the back of the green into deep rough. At that moment, Langer (17th-place at 12 under) officially won the Schwab Cup in the points race.
Though Furyk got up and down for par, he finished at 16-under, three shots behind Mickelson, two behind runner-up Steven Alker (18-under) and one behind Darren Clarke and David Toms (both at 17-under).
Here’s why it was closer than that sounds. After Furyk’s 17th-hole birdie got him to 16-under, he was one shot out of a second-place tie. If Alker hadn’t made an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 18 shortly thereafter to get to 18-under, Furyk would have needed only a birdie on the final hole to finish in a tie for second. And it’s very possible he wouldn’t have played as aggressively on his second shot on No. 18, perhaps avoiding his disappointing closing par.
And there were a handful of other putts that could have changed Furyk’s fate in the final round, only two of which needed to go down to move him up into a tie for second with Alker. A sampling:
• On the par-4 ninth, Furyk’s birdie putt stopped on the lip.
• On the par-4 10th, Furyk nearly holed his third-shot bunker shot for an improbable birdie, but then missed the comebacker for his first bogey of the day, dropping him into a five-way tie for the lead.
• On the par-4 12th, he left a 10-foot uphill birdie putt a foot short of the cup. (That is also when Furyk finally fell out of the lead in the tournament and the projected Schwab Cup points lead.)
• On the par-3 13th, Furyk lipped out a 6-foot par putt and made bogey, dropping him into a tie for 7th.
• On the par-4 14th, where then-leader Kirk Triplett hit his tee shot out of bounds and fell from title contention, Furyk missed a 5-foot birdie putt.
• On the par-4 16th, Furyk’s 18-foot birdie attempt looked good until the last few inches, when it turned over the left edge. All he could do was look to the heavens.
Furyk obviously had many realistic chances to cap his three-victory rookie season on PGA TOUR Champions by winning the Schwab Cup trophy, but he “settled” for a second-place finish and $500,000 annuity bonus to go along with his fifth-place check of $138,125.
Even so, a gracious Langer said afterward that Furyk will be a Schwab Cup contender for years to come.
“He had a chance to eagle the last to win the Schwab Cup,” Langer said. “Unfortunately, he didn’t hit his best 3-wood in there, but what a great champion and gentleman Jim Furyk is. He’ll have more chances to lift this trophy.”