A different Open champion's special day

With his 11-month-old daughter, Caleigh Lynn, in his arms after he had putted out to win the 103rd U.S. Open, Jim Furyk turned to his father, Mike, just off the 18th green at Olympia Fields and whispered, "Happy Father's Day.'' Another son of a golf pro had won the Open, the others being Arnold Palmer, Curtis Strange and Raymond Floyd.

DAVE ANDERSONNew York Times News Service

Jim Furyk celebrates with his wife Tabitha and daughter Caleigh after a three-stroke victory in the U.S. Open at the Olympia Fields Country Club.-Pic. DONALD MIRALLE/GETTY IMAGES

With his 11-month-old daughter, Caleigh Lynn, in his arms after he had putted out to win the 103rd U.S. Open, Jim Furyk turned to his father, Mike, just off the 18th green at Olympia Fields and whispered, "Happy Father's Day.'' Another son of a golf pro had won the Open, the others being Arnold Palmer, Curtis Strange and Raymond Floyd.

"Some things are special,'' Mike Furyk was saying to a group of reporters before the trophy presentation. "Jim's our first and only son. His daughter is our first grandchild. It's a special day.''

A special one for a different golfer and a different Open champion whose father let him be different.

Jim Furyk's golf swing resembles the motion of a rodeo cowboy trying to loop a lariat around a calfornia. He putts cross-handed after surveying the green as if he were a highway construction engineer.

But now nobody is laughing at him or telling him he should change to a more traditional swing or putting stroke.

He won the Open with that gloriously goofy swing that kept his ball mostly on the fairways at Olympia Fields and that cross-handed putting stroke that twice saved a par on the second and fifth holes when an early bogey might have unnerved him.

"Jim was a great kid,'' his father said. ``He got A's and B's in school, he was a catcher, a quarterback, a point guard, he could flat play sports, but he got tired of team sports. He told me, `In golf, you're either the hero or the goat and I can handle both.'''

The new Open champion could also handle being different.

In recent years, many of golf's best pros, notably Vijay Singh and Nick Faldo, have adopted the cross-handed putting stroke, also known as left-hand low (instead of placing the right hand lower on the shaft), but Furyk has putted that way ever since his father happened to talk to Arnold Palmer and Gary Player at a pro-am cocktail party near Pittsburgh.

"I asked Arnold, `If you could back and change one thing in your career, what would it be?''' Mike Furyk said. "He thought awhile and said, `I would've putted cross-handed. It's a better stroke.'''

Minutes later Mike Furyk asked Player the same question and got the same answer. So when Jim Furyk began to play golf at age 12, his father insisted he use the cross-handed putting stroke.

As for Jim Furyk's loopy swing, which television commentator David Feherty has described as "an octopus falling out of a tree,'' that was his natural swing growing up as a high-school golfer in Manheim Township, near the Amish country not far from Philadelphia. And he played so well, his father insisted that he never change it.

"Jim's swing is like an old friend you trust,'' Mike Furyk said.

"When you're in a tight situation, it's nice to rely on an old friend.''

Even with a three-stroke lead to begin that Sunday's final round, Jim Furyk was never in a tighter spot. In tournament locker rooms, his good-natured nickname among the other pros has been "T4,'' as in a tie for fourth in a tournament. Before the Open, he had nine top-10 finishes this year, including one second place, two fourths and four fifth places.

He didn't want to be an also-ran again. Not in the Open. Not after holding a three-stroke lead going into the final round.

His best previous finishes in the Open had been a T5 at both Oakland Hills in 1996 and at Congressional in 1997. But at Bethpage Black a year ago he shot 73-80 to miss the 36-hole cut.

Furyk's nickname now should be "Win.''

Overall, he has won eight PGA Tour events as well as the 1997 Argentine Open. He has been a member of two Ryder Cup teams, defeating Sergio Garcia, 4 and 3, in the Americans' memorable comeback in 1999 at The Country Club outside Boston, and posting a 1-2-2 record at the Belfry in England last year.

He's earned more than $17 million during his career.

But now Jim Furyk will forever be introduced as the 2003 U.S. Open champion.

"He had a great career before,'' Mike Furyk said, "but this makes your career complete.''

For much of the week, Olympia Fields was the subject of insults _ that it was not worthy of hosting an Open, that it was too easy. But on Saturday, about 25 miles south of the Windy City, the wind began to blow and when the Open ended, Olympia Fields stood tall.

Only four golfers broke par 280 for the four rounds — Furyk at 8 under, Stephen Leaney at 5 under, Mike Weir and Kenny Perry at 1 under.

Like Jim Furyk's swing and his putting stroke, this Open was different. And another golf pro's son had won the Open on Father's Day, a son whose father let him be different.

The scores ($6 million U.S. Open, played at the 7,190-yard, par-70 Olympia Fields Country Club): Jim Furyk, $1.08 million, 67-66-67-72 — 272; Stephen Leaney, $650,000, 67-68-68-72 — 275; Kenny Perry, $341,367, 72-71-69-67 — 279; Mike Weir, $341,367, 73-67-68-71 — 279; Justin Rose, $185,934, 70-71-70-69 — 280; Fredrik Jacobson, $185,934, 69-67-73-71 — 280; David Toms, $185,934, 72-67-70-71 — 280; Ernie Els, $185,934, 69-70-69-72 — 280; Nick Price, $185,934, 71-65-69-75 — 280; Padraig Harrington, $124,936, 69-72-72-68 — 281.