PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Jim Furyk returns to home state in U.S. Senior Open title defense
June 22, 2022
By Bob McClellan , PGATOUR.COM
- June 22, 2022
- Jim Furyk finished runner-up at both the 2007 and 2016 U.S. Opens at Oakmont CC in his home state of Pennsylvania. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
Jim Furyk is in his happy place, aka a USGA major.
He’s one of eight players in history to win both the U.S. Open and the U.S. Senior Open. When he won the U.S. Senior Open in his debut last year, he joined the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Hale Irwin. Decent company.
“It’s an honor. It's humbling,” Furyk said at a news conference on Tuesday. “You mentioned the names that were able to win both the U.S. Open and the U.S. Senior Open, and I'm blessed to be named in that group. So excited. It was real nice to come out last year.
“Probably the U.S. Open was the one I had the most opportunities to win, as far as major championships. I definitely had some heartbreak, but the '03 win was the highlight of my career. Then to come out and in my first U.S. Senior Open to be able to win the golf tournament was a lot of fun.”Jim Furyk won the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields and 2021 U.S. Senior Open at Omaha CC. (Getty Images)
This year Furyk is even happier because the U.S. Senior Open, which begins Thursday, is being held in his native Pennsylvania, at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem. He spent time as a youth in the Pittsburgh suburbs before attending high school in Lancaster County, less than two hours from Saucon Valley.
Furyk notched runner-up finishes at both the 2007 and 2016 U.S. Opens at Oakmont CC outside Pittsburgh. This week, he’ll aim to go one step further and raise a USGA trophy in his home state.
“One of the things about winning an event like (the U.S. Senior Open) is you don't come back to the same golf course, but to be coming back to Pennsylvania, my home state, only a couple hours from where I grew up, is a lot of fun,” Furyk said. “I heard so much about Saucon Valley growing up but never had been here, so kind of a great place for me to be able to come and defend.”Jim Furyk addresses his home-state fans after a runner-up at the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Furyk expects plenty of friends from around the state to come watch him play this week. But that can be a double-edged sword.
“I mentioned at media day you can look at it a couple different ways,” Furyk said. “Probably I put plenty of pressure on myself and try too hard most of the time anyway, so I'll try not to -- really trying to play well at home sometimes can be difficult. I did it in (adopted hometown) Jacksonville for THE PLAYERS and never had a lot of success there.
“You can look at it two ways. You can really enjoy the support and the love and being in your home state, or you can put too much pressure on yourself and have it go the other way. So I'll probably try to really enjoy the week and have some fun with it. I'll probably see some faces in the crowd that I don't get an opportunity to see that often.”
Furyk had plenty of fun in his rookie season of 2020-21 (an elongated one because of COVID), when he finished in the top 25 in all 26 events he entered on PGA TOUR Champions, including 18 top-10s. But 2022 hasn’t been nearly as much fun. In nine starts, he has just one top-10, and that was in the limited-field, season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. In his past four events, he has finished T65, T68, T35 and 64th.
So the U.S. Senior Open couldn’t arrive at a better time, because USGA majors long have fit with Furyk’s game. In addition to his 2003 victory, he had six other top-five finishes and four other top-20s. It’s the kind of record few can boast when the fairways get tight, the rough gets long, and the greens get quicker than a 10-handicap’s swing on the first tee of a pro-am.
“I've shot some of my highest scores in U.S. Opens as well, but I think when I'm playing well, this style of golf lends itself to my game,” Furyk said. “You know, hitting fairways, putting the ball in good positions with iron play, short game, getting the ball up and down.
“U.S. Opens are held on kind of old, historic golf courses for the most part, Winged Foot and Pebble Beach and a place like Saucon Valley. I grew up in the Northeast playing courses like that. It feels comfortable -- I'm at home when I'm playing the U.S. Open. If grinding it out and making pars and shooting even par is a good score, I'm very comfortable with that.”
Furyk played the U.S. Open last week at Brookline and missed the cut by a stroke. His even-par 70 on Friday proved to be a very good round as scores soared.
“I felt good about it,” Furyk said. “Conditions were tough. I definitely got the bad end of the tee times last week. Thursday in the afternoon it picked up a lot more and the scores were higher, but to go out there on Friday and shoot 70 and play a good, solid round of golf, hit a lot of good shots, good recoveries, putted real well last week. So there's a lot of positive I pulled from it.”
The biggest difference for Furyk between this season and last has been his driving. It’s off dramatically, both in terms of distance and accuracy. In 2021, he ranked 21st in accuracy (72.06) and 30th in distance (275). So far this year he’s 59th in accuracy (66.23) and 70th in distance (263.1).
“It (driving) is getting better,” Furyk said. “Des Moines (Principal Charity Classic) wasn't real pretty. Madison (American Family Insurance Championship) got a little better. I definitely drove the ball, not the way I wanted to at the U.S. Open last week, but it got better, so I feel like I've seen some improvement.
“Kind of hit-or-miss this week in practice rounds. I've had some good streaks where I've driven it really well and I've had a few holes where I haven't. I've been working hard on it and I feel like I'm making some headway. But definitely you can jump off the cliff and you get to the bottom a lot quicker than you can climb back up to the top, but right now I'm working on that climb.”