Posted on: November 19, 2011 3:09 am
Edited on: November 19, 2011 4:30 am

Furyk, Mahan lead USA to cusp of win in Oz

ORLANDO, Fla. -- For a good long while on Saturday, the Presidents Cup began taking on a familiar feel for Hunter Mahan and his American mates.

That is, if numb counts as a feeling.

It was wet, the fans were getting all wound up and the U.S. fortunes were heading in the wrong direction again, just like last year at the Ryder Cup in Wales.

But this time, they weathered the cool weather, quieted the home-field crowd and got one hand clasped firmly on the trophy heading into the final day of the Presidents Cup at treacherous Royal Melbourne.

“It definitely had a Ryder Cup atmosphere and today we had Ryder Cup weather,” said Mahan, whose birdie on the 17th hole helped win a crucial point in the afternoon best-ball session. “Boy, there was a lot going on here today – this was the Australian team we were playing here and you heard it all day.”

Just not so much at the end.

Just as the International team mounted a brief and frantic rally at the end, the Americans scored key best-ball wins behind Mahan and veteran Jim Furyk to take a commanding 13-9 lead into Sunday singles.

It ain’t exactly over, but fat women are warming up their chords at the Sydney Opera House. In the eight previous eight President Cup matches, no team that has trailed entering the 12 Sunday singles matches has managed to win to cup.

After demonstrably winning Saturday’s morning alternate-shot session 4-1 to take an 11-6 lead into the afternoon best-ball format, the International team finally made some noise as the situation got close to desperate. All five best-ball matches went to the 17th or 18th holes, in fact, but the Yanks mostly dodged the heavy mortal fire.

Furyk won his match with Nick Watney, 1 up, when opponent Adam Scott missed birdie putts from seven and 25 feet on the last two holes that could have resulted in the Americans losing a full point.

Furyk, one of four players on the U.S. team in his 40s, was the only one of the foursome who hasn’t sat out a match and improved to 4-0 for the week after one of his most disappointing seasons. He and Phil Mickelson teamed for wins in their first three matches before Lefty took the afternoon session Saturday off to rest.

After this week’s utterly unforeseen spurt, Furyk now has a PrezCup record of 19-10-3, matching Tiger Woods for most full points in event history. He’s 4-2 in career singles in the event, too.

Last year, Furyk was the PGA Tour Player of the Year, but he was winless in 2011 and rarely was in the Sunday mix. This week marked the first time in 14 combined Ryder or Presidents Cups that Furyk, 41, amassed a 4-0 mark.

Mahan redeemed himself some, too. He lost the deciding point at the Ryder last year when he flubbed a chip shot in the final match against Europe’s Graeme McDowell. Saturday, after animated Aussie Jason Day drained a 35-footer for birdie on the 17th hole to seemingly extend the match, Mahan dropped a 20-footer of his own to secure a 2-and-1 victory. In other words, the Internationals won the afternoon best-ball session, 3-2, but it could have been far worse for the Yanks.

"The putt Hunter Mahan made on the 17th hole was clutch," International captain Greg Norman said. "That is what makes you the professional golfer, what you are. That's why these guys win golf tournament, because they love that moment."

The wins by the Mahan and Furyk pairings certainly let some air out of the Aussie arena, so to speak. In the five times that the Yanks have led by four or fewer points heading into Sunday play, the team has never lost the singles session.

In broad terms, the Internationals must muster 8 of the 12 points to have a chance to secure a tie in the matches, in which case the U.S. would still retain the cup. Only once in eight previous Presidents Cups has either team managed eight points in singles, when the U.S. won the 1994 Sunday session, 8-4, to win the cup in an overall 20-12 rout.

Barring a complete crash and burn, the Americans will be 7-1-1 in the event on Sunday night.

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 18, 2011 1:44 am
Edited on: November 18, 2011 10:01 am

New mates Lefty and Furyk pave way for U.S.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The guy who grew up within blocks of the course hadn’t often seen the Presidents Cup’s venerable host venue with more teeth bared.

The greens were turning a crispy brown, the winds whipped players and shots all over the property, tree limbs rattled overhead and the conditions were as tough as anybody had seen in the history of the competition.

“Royal Melbourne doesn’t get any harder than this,” said Geoff Ogilvy, an International team veteran and a former caddie at the famed Melbourne track.

That said, who better, then, to lead the American charge than the two most experienced players on the squad, a pair who has just about seen everything the game has to offer?

The pairing of international veterans Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, who both played in the Presidents Cup matches at Royal Melbourne in 1998 and have some familiarity with the venue, held on to win 2-and-1 in their best-ball match Friday and remained unbeaten after two days of the play.

It’s been the most pleasant surprise of the week for the Yanks.

Born within a month of each other -- they attended rival schools in Arizona -- the two 41-year-olds were paired at the request of Mickelson, who thought they might mesh effectively. They have turned into the best twosome on the American side, which split six matches Friday and holds a 7-5 lead with two days of play remaining.

Few would have envisioned Lefty and Furyk leading the way after the decidedly mediocre seasons each experienced. Furyk, the PGA Tour Player of the Year in 2010, didn’t win a tournament this year and Mickelson rarely contended after winning in April in Houston. Both have had huge issues this season on the greens.

But in whistling winds at Royal Melbourne, they were at their experienced best. All Mickelson could do was laugh afterward at the difficulty of the course, where the greens were harder than linoleum.

“This is crazy,” Mickelson said. “When you get winds like this on greens that are 14-plus on the Stimpmeter, it’s hard to imagine because you never see it at a local club.

“This was a case where we were trying to read the wind on putts. Apparently, we did a good job because Jim made a bunch of good, solid four- and five-footers.”

Mickelson, who was unbeaten in the last Presidents Cup matches in San Francisco two years ago, is 6-0-1 in his last seven matches in the event. He has played in all eight Presidents Cup matches and Furyk has made the team six times.

Amazingly, they had never been paired.

Despite playing with a broad range of partners, Mickelson is now undefeated in his last 10 matches at the event and has absorbed one defeat in his last 17, dating to 2005.

At the other end of the spectrum was teammate Tiger Woods, the third member of the current team who played at Royal Melbourne in 1998. Woods and partner Dustin Johnson lost 1 up, leaving Woods as the lone American player who hasn’t scored at least a half-point after two days.

Woods, a controversial captain’s pick by Fred Couples, was on the losing end of a 7-and-6 decision on Thursday, which matched the most lopsided loss in event history.

Over two days, Woods has been credited with two birdies in two days, though his play improved on Friday.

Still, it marked only the second time Woods has lost two consecutive matches at the Presidents Cup -- the other instance was at Royal Melbourne in 1998, when he lost three matches in a row.

Woods fell to 5-8-0 in best-ball play at the Presidents Cup, giving him more losses in the format than any other player in event history. The former No. 1 and his two partners have only won one hole over two matches this week, over a span of 30 holes played.

Category: Golf
Posted on: September 26, 2010 1:43 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2010 2:11 pm

Rain dampens Watney run at FedEx miracle?

ATLANTA – In the middle of the hottest run on the PGA Tour all season, with an astounding $11.35 million potentially on the table, the weather gods are trying to cool down the blistering pace of Nick Watney .

They might the only ones capable.

The rising tour standout, who shot 30 on his front nine at the Tour Championship on Sunday to move into contention, was one stroke out of the lead at the huge-money FedEx Cup season finale when play was suspended at 1:10 p.m., ET, because of thunderstorms.

With the points in crazy fluidity – that’s not a rain joke – Watney has a chance to complete the biggest Hail Mary in these parts since Billy "White Shoes" Johnson was hauling in miracle passes for the Atlanta Falcons.

Watney started the week as an absolute also ran, in 28th place in a 30-man field. It would have taken a series of utterly improbable events for him to win the $10 million bonus for having the most FedEx points, yet when the weather horn sounded, it was looking darned possible.

Put on your thinking caps. This is some crazy, syncopated, algorhythmic fare.

Watney was 13 shots off the lead after 36 holes, then moved into marginal contention Saturday with a 7-under 28 on his back nine, a course record. Thus, he shot a spectacular 58 over his most recent, composite 18 holes before making pars at Nos. 10 and 11 Sunday when the horn sounded and players were ordered off the course.

He was one shot behind leader Jim Furyk at the time, setting up some insane statistical possibilities. Because many of the other frontrunners in the seasonal points scheme have stumbled, if Watney can pass Furyk to win and the rest of the leaderboard doesn’t change, Watney will have 2,730 points – three more than Matt Kuchar.

Kuchar entered the week first in FedEx points, yet was tied for 25th and standing on the 18th tee when the horn sounded. He needs to finish 25th or worse and Watney must win for the latter to have a chance. However, if Kuchar finishes in solo 25th and Watney wins, they will tie in points, forcing a sudden-death playoff for, gulp, the $10 million bonus.

The points runner-up gets $3 million and the tournament title itself is worth $1.38 million.

When play was suspended, Kuchar’s fate quite possibly was going to be directly affected by Steve Stricker and Bo Van Pelt, who each had several holes left. Van Pelt was tied with Kuchar in 25th and has four holes left, while Stricker – who must catch a charter flight to Wales on Sunday night to play in the Ryder Cup – was T23 and one stroke ahead of Kuchar with five holes left.

If either surges or falters, affecting the status of Kuchar in 25th on the scoreboard, they could directly help or hurt him with regard to cementing the $10 million bonus.

Category: Golf
Posted on: September 4, 2010 6:47 pm

Furyk laments latest obscure rules casualty

NORTON, Mass. -- Here's a phrase you don't often hear. Too many potential punchlines could be added.

Asked what he thought of veteran Chad Campbell's disqualification from the Deutsche Bank Championship on Saturday for another obscure PGA Tour regulations infraction, Jim Furyk paused for a moment and admitted that he is acutely sensitive to such developments, having been disqualified last week himself.

"I am trying to decide whether I want to be Phil Mickelson or not," Furyk said, actually biting his lip.

He doesn't mean being a left-handed vegetarian, either. Mickelson rallied to Furyk's defense after the latter missed his pro-am time and called the violation "ridiculous." Mickelson spoke out in such animated fashion, the tour, coincidentally or not, rescinded the rule a few days later.

Furyk split the difference.

He gave a long pause after hearing the details of the Campbell incident -- the Texas forgot to register before the tournament, though the tour didn't notice until after he played the first round Friday -- and was booted from the field when he showed up for his second-round tee time Saturday. Campbell is outside the top 70 in FedEx Cup points and thus has no chance to advance to next week's event in Chicago.

Furyk picked his words carefully before decideing that the tour was partly culpable, too, for not checking that all 100 players in the field had signed in properly.

"First and foremost, it's our job to register," Furyk said. "It's our job and our responsibility."

Furyk noted that in past instances where he'd forgotten to register, he was reminded before Wednesday pro-am rounds by a tour official, who sometimes had an entry form in hand for him to sign. So, Furyk was annoyed to hear that yet another player had been kicked to the curb in as many weeks, this time for a seemingly avoidable infraction.

"There's supposed to be checks and balances and somebody didn't do their job," Furyk said. "Somebody failed to do the backup plan. Two people screwed up."

Campbell shrugged off the DQ and noted that he flew to Hawaii last year for his season opener without committing the Friday before, as required by tour regulations.

"It's starting to be a trend," Campbell said.

Same for ringing up players with quirky rules violations of late. Dustin Johnson, Juli Inkster, Furyk and Campbell have all been disqualified or drawn heavy penalties for violations that struck the general public as being head-scratchers. 

Splitting hairs here and not pointing blame anywhere specifically, but the violatioons of Campbell and Furyk did not affect play one iota.

The tour was unable to confirm the last time a player had been DQd for a registration violation. Tour rules official Mark Russell recalled an incident with Brandel Chamblee in 2002, though the Associated Press learned that Hunter Mahan was sent packing for a similar offense at some point in his career, though the year of the violation was unclear.
Posted on: August 25, 2010 3:47 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2010 3:48 pm

Phil bares teeth over "ridiculous" pro-am regs

PARAMUS, N.J. – Phil Mickelson is sticking to his vegetarian diet.

Which doesn’t mean he won’t sink his teeth into meaty affairs relating to the PGA Tour.

Hours after he felt compatriot Jim Furyk was unreasonably disqualified from this week's event for missing his pro-am tee time on Wednesday morning, Mickelson launched into an thorough criticism of the rule on the eve of The Barclays at Ridgewood County Club.

Mickelson, whose objections about the rule prompted some off-season modifications, thought he had succeeded in getting the DQ provision rescinded for those who miss their times.

He learned when Furyk was benched that he was mistaken. A total of 54 players in what was originally a 125-man field were in the pro-am field, which stands at the crux of Mickelson’s beef.

“The rule itself applies to only half the field,” he said. “So if you're going to have a rule that does not apply to everybody, because not everybody played the pro-am, you cannot have it affect the competition.

“It's got to be a different penalty. It can't be disqualification if it only applies to half the field. So this rule, it's not protecting the players, it's not protecting the sponsors. It applies to only half the field and yet it affects the integrity of the competition.

“I cannot disagree with it more. I have no idea how the commissioner let this rule go through. It's ridiculous.”

It’s hard to dispute his points.

Players such as John Daly at Bay Hill and Retief Goosen at Riviera have been disqualified in the past for missing their appointed pro-am time slot.

The pro-am rule is six years old and Mickelson has been trying to force a revision ever since. Over lunch after his pro-am round Wednesday, he gave dining partner Tim Finchem, the tour commissioner, another earful on the topic.

“I made my viewpoint very clear to him, yes,” he said.

Mickelson cracked that he is 1-for-22 in the policy proposals he has pitched to Finchem for consideration. Ironically, his lone “win” related to the pro-am DQ policy. This year, with certain restrictions, players have been allowed to make appearances at golf clinics, sponsor dinners or meet-and-greet sessions in lieu of playing the pro-ams.

“I went 1-for-22 recently with what I thought was the pro-am modification this year where we're able to opt out of one or two pro-ams, but change it with a dinner or a stop by the hospitality tent,” he said. “I thought that that also included if you missed your tee time you were able to make it up by going to the hospitality tent Thursday or Friday.

“Which is why I was so shocked that he [Furyk] ended up being DQd because I thought that was included in that rule change.”

So maybe it’s 0-for-22?

“That was my one,” he said.

Mickelson said he would support a player fine in the event of a missed tee time and that Furyk should have been allowed to join his group on the second or third hole after he arrived. The battery on Furyk’s cell phone, which he uses as an alarm clock, went dead overnight.

“But either way, the penalty, whether it's fine him or what have you, it cannot affect the competition,” he said. “This is not a competitive round. It's the pro-am and only half the players are playing it. So whatever penalty you have, it cannot affect the tournament when it only applies to half the field. That's just wrong.

“And again, how the commissioner let that slide or get through is ridiculous.”

Since he was on the bully pulpit, Mickelson was asked for his views on the proposed designated tournaments rule, wherein top players will be forced to add an event from a group of preselected, third-tier events with weak fields. He made his position clear even without fessing up. He's not a fan of the proposal.

“Do I support it? I don't know,” he said. “I mean, we'll see what happens. It will be kind of interesting to see how it plays out. But I'm not really a part of the discussion.”

Well, unless you count the ones he’s already had with Finchem.

“No, I have lot to say, but just not publicly yet,” Mickelson added. “I've made sure that he knows my feelings on some of that stuff, yeah.  I don't know if it matters, but I know that he knows at least how I feel.”

Posted on: June 2, 2010 4:47 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2010 6:17 am

Woods shines in 9-hole skins game

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Granted, you have to take the comment with a grain of salt, given the source's recent history.

After playing nine holes with Tiger Woods on Wednesday, Jim Furyk said he felt the catcalls about the state of the world No. 1's game had been greatly exaggerated. Then again, Furyk is the guy who shot 80-76 to miss the cut by seven miles at the Masters, then won his next start.  

Woods, playing against Furyk and three others in one of two fivesomes at the Memorial Skins Game, won six of nine skins in the nine-hole outing and started the round with four consecutive 3s, including an eagle on the second hole. In his last official action, Woods missed the cut and withdrew in his last two starts and has struggled mightily to balance his professional and personal lives.

"It looked good in spots," Furyk said of Woods' game. "I never thought he was all that much trouble. I was wondering what the heck you guys were worrying about."

Furyk was asked if the worst for Woods might finally be behind him.

"I don't know," Furyk said. "I'm not a mind-reader and I don't have a crystal ball. But it's just a matter of time before he's back."

Fivesome member Rory McIlroy had never before played with Woods before Wednesday, even in practice. He thought Woods -- off the last three weeks with a neck strain -- looked solid, too.

"He was ready to go," said McIlroy, who won in Charlotte the week Woods missed the cut. "He's looking pretty good."

Category: Golf
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com