Jim Furyk Completes Discouraging Double at US Senior Open

BETHLEHEM, Dad. (AP) — Keeping it in one US Open is a challenge. Competing in two Opens on consecutive weeks is twice as difficult.

Jim Furyk will complete the daunting USGA double this week. The 2003 US Open winner will make an abbreviated appearance at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, where he will defend his title at the 42nd US Senior Open at Saucon Valley Country Club’s Old Course.

Furyk, 52, missed the cut by a stroke at last week’s National Championship with rounds of 74 and 71. It was his maiden trip back to the site of the dramatic 1999 Ryder Cup, where he was part of the US team that rally on the last day for a one point win over Europe.

Furyk has put a lot of thought into playing back-to-back Opens.

“I was a little worried about the energy and making sure I didn’t exhaust myself this week,” he said. “The US Open asks a lot of you, both mentally and physically, because it is so demanding.

“But that said, last week’s conditions… that’s all really good preparation coming in this week. This one isn’t going to sneak up on me, so to speak.”

Furyk returns to his native Pennsylvania as one of eight winners of both the US and Senior Opens. He considers himself lucky to be named among some of golf’s greatest champions, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin, Billy Casper and Orville Moody.

“It’s special,” Furyk said. “I’ve won one major in my career, so winning at Olympia Fields is kind of like the pinnacle of my career personally. And then coming here on the Champions Tour and winning my first Senior Open and being able to add that to the record books, that’s very fun, special and meant a lot to me.”

Furyk had the chance to share the emotional experience of winning the ’03 Open with his father and coach, Mike, on Father’s Day. Last year at Omaha Country Club, he struggled early on the last round with a bogey and double bogey on the second and third holes, losing most of his four-stroke lead. During that time, Furyk took on another special father-son dynamic with his son, Tanner.

“A funny moment, I saw my son … after I made the double at three o’clock, and he looked extremely nervous,” Furyk said. “I mean, he looked like he wanted to throw up. And that kind of made me laugh. … He looked exactly as I felt. It just relieved me a little bit.”

Furyk calmed down his game – and soothed his son’s distress – finishing 7 under, three strokes ahead of two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen and ’03 Masters winner Mike Weir.

Saucon Valley will present a quintessential Open test, paying a premium on accuracy from the tee to avoid the deep, gnarly rough and manageable approaches of its fast, rolling greens.

Founded in 1920 by local businessmen, most of them from Bethlehem Steel, Saucon Valley hosts its eighth USGA Championship and is the first to present three Senior Opens. Larry Laoretti (1992) and Irwin (2000) are the previous winners.

Growing up in nearby Lancaster County, Furyk got his first look at Saucon Valley last month and was impressed with the Herbert Strong design that will run 300 yards longer than the 2000 event, at just over 7,000 yards and a par. 71. He believes the layout’s greatest defenses are the greens, especially with a few long par-4 holes requiring long irons in smaller putting areas.

“The difficulty is really on the greens; the greens have some teeth,” said the 17-time PGA Tour and two-time PGA Tour Champions winner.

Two-time US Open champion Ernie Els agreed that putting will likely make all the difference this week.

“Putting will be a factor,” said Els, who won the Open in 1994 and 1997. “It’s always been a factor for me. In a US Open you have to get those putts in the hole, especially clearing the putts. It’s here hard to get putts within five feet due to the slope so the hole out putts you need to be good at.

“That comes down to hitting the ball. … If you take it out of play, you’ll struggle to get the ball where it needs to be, and that’s where putting becomes a factor again.”

The field of 156 golfers includes many big names, such as US Open winners Goosen, Lee Janzen and Michael Campbell. Past Senior Open champions who competed include Bernhard Langer (2010), Colin Montgomerie (2014), Steve Stricker (2019) and David Toms (2018).

Others who pull it off in the 90th USGA Championship to be held in Pennsylvania include longtime PGA Tour champions Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jerry Kelly, along with over-50s David Duval and New Zealander Steven Alker, the winner. from last month’s Senior PGA Championship.

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