A $10 million bunker save for Furyk
ATLANTA – One clutch shot gave Jim Furyk two big trophies Sunday.
He sat between them Sunday afternoon after his dramatic victory in the rain at East Lake, the crystal trophy for the Tour Championship on his left and the sterling silver FedEx Cup trophy on his right.
Which one meant more?
Furyk reached out his right hand and gently tapped the silver cup, which might be more valuable than the $10 million that comes with it.
Clinging to a one-shot lead, in a bunker so deep he could only see the top of the lip, Furyk hit a clean shot and watched it head for the flag. It landed inches from the cup and spun to a stop 21/2 feet away for an easy par and a one-shot victory over Luke Donald.
He put his name on a trophy with Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh. He finally won the Tour Championship, giving him three victories in a season for the first time in his career. He stated a strong case – three victories and FedEx Cup champion – as PGA Tour player of the year.
Maybe that explains why his stoic demeanor gave way to a celebration never before seen out of Furyk.
“It just hit me,” said Furyk, who closed with an even-par 70. “I was excited and dropped the putter and … I don’t know. I guess at that moment, you’re not really responsible for what happens next.”
He thrust his fist toward the grandstand with such force that it looked like he heaved his golf ball into the crowd. And he shared a hug with his wife, Tabitha, asking her, “Did I win the bonus?”
Furyk had a pretty good idea when he walked off the 18th tee, and the cheer of the crowd when he tapped in only confirmed it.
It was the kind of finish the PGA Tour had in mind when it created the FedEx Cup four years ago. Six players had a chance to claim the $10 million prize over the final hour at East Lake, from Matt Kuchar as the top seed to Nick Watney all the way down at No. 28.
Then came the final hole.
Donald chipped in for birdie from 100 feet on the 17th hole to keep his hopes alive. Furyk, who had a three-shot lead with three holes to play, made bogey on the 16th and 17th holes and hit his hybrid into a bunker on the 18th. If he made bogey, Furyk and Donald would go back to the 230-yard 18th hole for a sudden-death playoff with $11.35 million riding on the outcome.
Then came a bunker shot that defined a career worth of grit. He was in a bunker nine times at East Lake, and saved par every time.
Donald didn’t bother going to the range. He waited in the scoring trailer.
“I didn’t feel like going out in the rain and drowning myself even more,” Donald said. “So I was just watching the action, seeing if there was a chance I was going to get in a playoff. But Jim made a great up-and-down at the last and deserved the victory.”
Furyk finished at 8-under 272 and earned $1.35 million, along with the $10 million bonus, the biggest payoff in golf. He moved to No. 5 in the world ranking.
Furyk was the No. 3 seed when the playoffs began, but was disqualified from the opener when he missed his pro-am time at The Barclays because the battery died in his cell phone, which he used for an alarm. He was No. 11 in the standings going into the Tour Championship, and became the first player out of the top 10 to win the cup.
Turns out he joins Woods as the only FedEx Cup champions to miss the first playoff event – Woods in 2007 because he didn’t want to play, Furyk this year because he couldn’t.
He still ranks the U.S. Open as his biggest win, although this was a close second.
“It’s only 4 years old,” he said of the FedEx Cup. “But 40 years from now, there should be a lot of history in this trophy. And to have ‘Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk’ … I’m very proud of that, because those two can flat play – two of the most dominant players of my era, for sure.”
This Sunday was so bizarre that Kuchar, who shot 71 and tied for 25th in a 30-man field, still had a chance to win the FedEx Cup. He wound up second for a $3 million bonus. Donald moved up to third in the standings and picked up an extra $2 million.
Retief Goosen also had a chance at both trophies until a bogey on the 17th. He shot a 71 and finished alone in third at the Tour Championship. Watney (67) and Casey (69) tied for fourth.
The celebration was dampened by a two-hour rain delay that sent most of the fans home from East Lake. For those who stayed, it was tough to applaud with one hand on the umbrella as the rain pounded the players over the final hour of competition.
Even so, a FedEx Cup finale has never had so many possibilities, so much movement.
Watney wasn’t even a remote candidate when he went into the weekend tied for 25th in the 30-man field, 13 shots out of the lead. Then came a 63 in the third round, and he kept right on going. Watney shot a 28 on the back nine Saturday, then had a 30 on the front nine Sunday to pull within one shot of the lead.
Watney could have won the FedEx Cup with a victory at East Lake, provided Kuchar did not finish alone in 25th. Kuchar missed a 7-foot par putt on the final hole.
That became irrelevant when Watney failed to birdie the par-5 15th and made his first bogey of the round on the 16th.
Even when Furyk had a three-shot lead after his birdie on the 15th, the FedEx Cup remained in doubt.
Casey, who has not won a tournament all year, could have claimed the $10 million bonus by finishing alone in second place. Casey was at 6 under – one shot behind Goosen in second – when he hit his approach toward the corporate tents on the 17th. After a free drop, he hit a wedge to just outside 5 feet and badly missed the putt.
Furyk has no time to celebrate. He was to join his teammates on a charter flight to Wales on Sunday night with another cup to try to win – the Ryder Cup – this one worth no money at all.