By Dave Shedloski
Jim Furyk won his 14th PGA TOUR title last week at the Transitions Championship with a gutsy one-stroke victory over K.J. Choi at down the road at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida. Now the No. 6 player in the world has a new goal as he prepares for the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard.
“I’ve never won back-to-back,” said Furyk, a native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, whose victory last week ended a nearly three-year drought. “I’ve missed cuts after winning, and I’ve had opportunities to win the week after a victory. Winning again would be something new, so that’s the goal. But come Thursday the only thing I will be thinking about is playing the course and trying to get myself back into position again. And that’s the goal at the start of every week is giving yourself a chance.”
Winner of the 2003 U.S. Open, Furyk has been one of the TOUR’s most consistent players in the last 10 years. Even without a victory last year he finished fourth in the season-long FedExCup competition.
Furyk is competing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard for the 10th time. He has one top-10 finish, a tie for eighth in 1998 and two other top-25 finishes. But he’s never come to the Bay Hill Club & Lodge off a victory. Not that that’s necessarily a big advantage.
“It’s not easy, that’s for sure,” said Furyk, 39, who now lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. “The whole idea is to get settled and comfortable with the course and my mindset. First thing is to take a big deep breath and exhale and get myself physically and mentally ready again to compete.”
Does winning give him more confidence or make him hungrier?
“Actually, I think the anticipation is greater when you get close and don’t win,” Furyk said, “because it’s really burning inside you and you want to get back on the course and play again,” he said. “That can be kind of dangerous, too, though, because then you can try to force the issue and not let things just happen and play your game.
“Right now I’m very comfortable with what I’m doing. My physical game is in good shape, and I can’t imagine that changing in a few days’ time. But the really important part is the mental aspect. I was really good mentally last week, and getting back into that same mode will be the challenge.”
Furyk’s best finish the week after a victory came in 1998, when he won the Las Vegas Invitational and then tied for third at the TOUR Championship. But he does have one unofficial double on his resume, having won the 1995 title in Las Vegas – his first PGA TOUR victory – and then winning the unofficial Kapalua International in Maui the following month.
Regardless, Furyk is the only player in the field with a chance to keep a winning streak alive. And he’s been getting reminded often on the grounds of Bay Hill.
“I know one thing: I’ve been saying thank you a lot, with people congratulating me,” he said. “That’s a lot better feeling than having people pat you on the back and say better luck next time.”