Sport Golf

Sunday 11 December 2016

Furyk lifts giant gorilla off his back in play-off

William S Callahan

Published 20/04/2015 | 02:30

Jim Furyk celebrates as his winning birdie putt drops in the hole on the second play-off hole at the RBC Heritage
Jim Furyk celebrates as his winning birdie putt drops in the hole on the second play-off hole at the RBC Heritage

JIM FURYK’S loud bellow of delight and the full-blooded punch he threw in his moment of victory on Harbour Town’s 17th green said it all.

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“That was four and a half years of frustration right there,” Furyk admitted with a smile after donning for a second time the garish plaid jacket of RBC Heritage champion.

Not even a superlative final-round 63 had been enough to get the gorilla off Furyk’s back, when Kevin Kisner forced extra-time with a 72nd-hole birdie for a 64 of his own.

Furyk then had to hole a nerve-wracking nine-foot putt for birdie to match the 20-footer from Kisner that toppled into the left side of the cup when they were sent down 18 once again.

The 44-year-old sealed his long-awaited first win in 100 US starts since the 2010 Tour Championship by draining an eight-footer at 17 for an incredible 11th birdie in 19 holes yesterday. It was a repeat of Furyk’s play-off win over England’s Brian Davis on Hilton Head exactly five years ago.

INITIATIVE

No fewer than nine times since 2010, Furyk had taken the lead into the final round of PGA Tour events but failed to win. This time, he came from behind, completing the front nine in a faultless six-under, four of his birdies coming in a row to the turn as he grabbed the initiative.

Furyk then rebounded from a three-putt bogey at 11 with further birdies at 12, 13 and 15 for an 18-under aggregate that only South Carolina native Kisner (31) could match.

“I’ve put myself in a position to win quite a few times in recent years,” said Furyk. “In truth, some I lost, while others were won by guys who played brilliantly.

“I’ve got to be honest, I drove it awful for the first five holes today but my ball seemed to keep bouncing out of the trees and back into the fairway, so I began to think ‘this could be my day’.” 

Exhausted by his win at the Masters and the aftermath, which saw him take the Green Jacket on a whirlwind 72-hour visit to New York, jaded Jordan Spieth closed with a final-round 70 for a share of 11th on 10-under.

Graeme McDowell, winner here  in 2013, holed a monster birdie putt at 18 for a 72 and a tie for 26th on seven-under.

Meanwhile, Michael Hoey found his putting touch at the weekend in China to pick up his biggest cheque of 2015 (€23,054) in a tie for 25th on six-under at the inaugural Shenzen International. Hoey needed 66 putts on Thursday and Friday but took 10 fewer in the final 36 holes as rounds of 68 and 69 left him six outside the play-off.

Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat (25) clinched a second European Tour title to go with the 2013 Malaysian Open by pipping  China’s Hao-Tong Li (19) with a sweet birdie on 18, the first tie hole.

The 54-hole leader had looked a bit nervous during his final-round 72. He needed to make an outstanding eagle three at 17, where he holed from 18 feet, to regain a share of the lead on 12-under after Li followed up Saturday’s fabulous flawless 65 with a closing 67.

Solo third at Genzon sealed Tommy Fleetwood’s place in the upcoming Cadillac World Match Play.

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