By Dave Shedloski
“I wouldn’t mind winning again,” Jim Furyk said Saturday morning after he finished his third round in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard.
The notion of winning might have sounded absurd since Furyk had already signed his scorecard more than two hours before the leaders were to tee off, but the former U.S. Open champion had just polished off a 6-under-par 66 on Bay Hill’s Championship Course. That enabled him to leapfrog dozens of fellow competitors and get within hailing distance of the top spot with today’s final round remaining.
Coming off victory last week at the Transitions Championship near Tampa, Furyk got back in the groove and tied the low round of the week after two mediocre days. A slight change in his grip was the key as he hit 10 fairways and 11 greens. His putter was hot, too; he recorded just 23 strokes on Bay Hill’s revamped greens.
It didn’t hurt that Furyk, playing with Henrik Stenson, was in the second group out on Saturday. The greens were smooth and receptive, and there was no wind. The 2003 U.S. Open winner went out in 31, fueled by an eagle at the par-5 sixth from 30 feet as part of a four-hole tear where he gained five shots. As the wind picked up on the back nine, Furyk had to buckle down, and he finished off his day with a nifty up-and-down for par from left of the green.
“I’ve been doing a good job of scoring and getting the ball in the hole,” said Furyk, 39, who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. “My attitude is good. I’ve hit my share of bad shots, but I manage to scrape it around. Anytime you win you know you’re in good shape.”
Even those playing well tend to fall into bad habits, and that’s what happened to Furyk until late in Friday’s round when he weakened his grip, which allowed him to release the club better. “It freed me up a little bit and let me swing aggressively,” he said.
The result was heartening, and gave him hope of trying to win back-to-back weeks for the first time in his career. He enters the final round at 5-under 211, but at least he left Bay Hill knowing his work was done while the leaders were going to battle a more testy, wind-whipped layout.
“Yesterday, things could have been going bad. I just hung in there, ground it out, 2 over was the best I could do, but it kept me around,” said Furyk, proud of his effort just in making the cut when he was fighting his mechanics. “Today, I was able to fire a good round today, and maybe got me back into the golf tournament.”
Back in the tournament and thinking about winning again.