Furyk full of confidence

Jim FURYK looks as comfortable leading a golf tournament as he does on his living room couch.

CLIFTON BROWN

Jim Furyk hits his tee shot on the third hole during the final round of the Buick Open. Furyk finished at 21-under 267 for the tournament, two strokes ahead of Woods, Ogilvy, Briny Baird and Chris DiMarco. — Pic. SCOTT HALLERAN/GETTY IMAGES-

Jim FURYK looks as comfortable leading a golf tournament as he does on his living room couch.

Even when he missed some short putts, or was threatened by Tiger Woods, or was tied with Geoff Ogilvy, Furyk was never rattled during the final round of the Buick Open. It was almost as if he already knew the outcome. That is how confident Furyk has become after winning his first major at the United States Open in June and solidifying his place as one of the best players in the world.

Furyk shot a smooth four-under-par 68, holding off Woods and a host of others and adding more lustre to the best year of his career.

Furyk finished at 21-under 267 for the tournament, two strokes ahead of Woods, Ogilvy, Briny Baird and Chris DiMarco. Ogilvy shot a 65 to tie for the low round of the day; Woods and Baird shot 66's and DiMarco carded a 67. Furyk, a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour, had never won twice in one season, and the first-place cheque for $720,000 pushed him over the $4.4 million mark for this year. He moved to No. 2 on the money list, trailing Woods by just under $410,000. At this point, Mike Weir, Woods, Kenny Perry and Davis Love III can make a case for player of the year, but Furyk's case has begun to look as strong as anyone's.

"Leading the money list or being voted player of the year would be a great thing," Furyk said. "But it's not the motivation for the year. I'm trying to win golf tournaments. If those awards come at the end of the year, it's kind of icing on the cake. If they don't come, it's not going to lessen my year.

"It's definitely my best year. I've won two tournaments. I've never done that before. I've won a major championship. I've never done that before. Why? I've putted better this year. I don't know if the stats show it, but I've had more confidence, and I've made more putts. The last two years, my ball-striking was good, and my putting was mediocre. This year, my putting has been good as well."

Furyk was tied with Ogilvy at 19 under par, but he took the lead for good with a birdie at the par-5 13th, hitting a beautiful pitch shot from 47 yards that stopped 3 feet from the cup, leaving him an easy birdie putt. He followed with a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 14, giving him a two-stroke lead with four holes to play. And giving Furyk a two-stroke lead with four holes to play is almost as good as giving him the trophy.

"He's a tough guy to catch," DiMarco said. "He knows how to win when he's a couple shots back, and he knows how to maintain a lead. He's a great player. He's very, very consistent. I don't think he's overpowering, but he's a lot longer than people think he is. And he's a great putter, a great driver of the golf ball. He puts it in the fairway a lot, and that's a key."

Ogilvy, a 26-year-old Australian, moved to one stroke back again with birdies at Nos. 15 and 16, but he had a sloppy bogey at the par-3 17th, hitting a poor tee shot and a bad chip, then missing a 14-foot putt. That allowed Furyk to coast in with pars on the final holes, even though he missed a 3-foot birdie attempt at No. 16.

"That could have proved costly," said Furyk, who started the day with a one-stroke lead. "Luckily it didn't, and I played solid the rest of the way."

It was a day of missed opportunities for Woods, whose ball-striking was superb but whose putting was mediocre. Starting the day four strokes behind Furyk, Woods pulled to one stroke behind with a birdie at the par-5 13th. But he missed three crucial birdie attempts on the back nine, a 5-footer at No. 12, an 8-footer at No. 14 and a 9-footer at No. 18.

"I didn't make any putts, and it's hard to say that when you shoot a 66," Woods said. "I lipped out four, five putts for birdies, and if those go in, it's a ho-hum 62 or 61. I played that well.

"I still consider myself relatively young at 33," he said. "I feel like I've got a lot of years, a lot to prove to myself, and a lot to do. It's a thrill to wake up Sunday morning knowing you're in contention. I love the nervousness. I'm really proud of what I've accomplished, and I want to keep going."

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