JIM FURYK has never had what might be called a classic golf swing. In fact, it has been described, perhaps unkindly, as “like an octopus falling out of a tree.”
But it was certainly good enough on Sunday when the 46 year old shot the first ever 58 on the US PGA TOUR.
And whilst the swing doesn’t excite the purists, it has also been consistently good enough for 17 TOUR victories and already had Furyk as one of the six golfers sharing the previous record of 59.
Furyk is known for his consistency, but he was struggling at The Travelers Championship at the TPC River Highlands in Connecticut.
After his opening round 3-over 73 he needed a 66 on Friday just to make the cut and then slipped back with a 72 in his third round.
Frustrated, he retreated to the River Highlands driving range and via video to the only swing coach he has ever had, his father Mike.
“I felt like someone else leaped into my body and was making the swing,” Furyk said of the round. “I wasn’t hitting the ball solid. I think I hit 12 drivers yesterday, hit the ball in the fairway five times. That’s just not — that’s not my — that’s my strength, so to turn that around and make it a weakness is the reason I shot a couple over par.”
After some dialogue about the length of his backswing and some encouragement from his father, Furyk was feeling better about it. But probably not feeling he was about to make TOUR history.
“You don’t wake up on Sunday morning with an 8:41 tee time thinking that anything exciting is going to happen,” Furyk said. “I mean, really on those days the most exciting thing that can happen is the group in front of you plays quick and your flight takes off a little early and you get home is usually what you’re looking to do.”
After an opening par Furyk rolled in a16 foot birdie putt on the second to get back to even for the championship.
On the third hole the fireworks began when he holed out for eagle from 135 yards out, to the appreciative applause of just a smattering of spectators.
“There was probably about 10 people up there, five to 10 people,” Furyk said. “They kind of hooted and hollered. Fluff [his caddie] didn’t realize it went in because we couldn’t see it, but the way I heard it and then their reaction, I said, ‘I think I just made that.'”
Furyk went on to birdie five of his next six holes to make the turn in 8-under 27, one shy of Corey Pavin’s TOUR record 26 shot at the 2006 US Bank Championship.
As the round progressed Furyk began thinking about his record equalling 59 at the 2013 BMW Championship.
“I had that here-we-go-again turning the front nine,” said Furyk. “I shot 8-under on the front nine [at the BMW Championship], 8-under today. I remember the mental battle, the grind. Same thing, I kind of got off to a good start on the second side at Conway, as well, and then it was more of a — you know, I’m hitting it well, I’m putting it well. It’s just trying to find a way to stay out of your own way really and don’t let any thoughts leak in.”
With a four foot birdie putt on 12 Furyk stretched his birdie streak to seven straight and needed just one more to make the 58 mark.
He missed a makeable birdie chance on the 14th, and then watched another 7-foot birdie chance lip out on the 15th.
With three holes left for history, Furyk hit his tee shot on the par-3 16th on the green, then potted a 23-foot putt that curled into the hole as the now huge following crowd roared their delight.
“The putt at 16 was huge,” Furyk said, “To see that go in and get it to 12-under par, and then it was, again, fighting emotions.”
He parred the 17 then walked up to the 18th green knowing he was putting for 57.
The birdie chance slid past the hole put he then had just two feet to set the all-time record – the first 58 after some 1.5 million competitive rounds played on the TOUR.
“It’s kind of a reminder no matter how bad you feel with your swing you’re never that far away,” Furyk said, “or no matter how good you feel you’re probably not that far away from playing poorly, as well,”
Afterwards, Furyk suddenly realised he would have a big problem when he got home – all the paraphernalia he had accumulated celebrating his 59.
“I’ve got like 300 pictures at home with 59 on them,” he mused. “Gotta throw all that crap away.”
Jim Furyk’s Record 58: Video Highlights
Golfers left on the previous 59 record include Australia’s Stuart Appleby: (2010 Greenbrier Classic (28-31) The Old White Course (par 70)); Chip Beck: 1991 Las Vegas Invitational (30-29) Sunrise Golf Club (par 72); David Duval: 1999 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic (31-28), PGA West (Palmer Course) (par 72); Paul Goydos: 2010 John Deere Classic (31-28), TPC Deere Run (par 71).