Furyk wins US Open, Leaney outright second
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2003 US Open | Wrap | 16 Jun 2003
The year 2002 was a year of first time winners on the US PGA Tour and perhaps the way it is shaping up, the year 2003 may well be remembered as the year for first time major winners.
Following the win by Mike Weir at this years’ Masters one of the game’s most accomplished players without a major to his name, Jim Furyk, has finally got the job done with his three shot win at Olympia Fields. To say the very least it was an impressive an emphatic win. He got out of the blocks early on Thursday with an opening 67 and although he trailed the first round leaders, Tom Watson and Brett Quigley by two, he was, even by that stage, looking threatening. By early in round two the lead was his and it was to remain so from that point on, although he shared it with Vijay Singh at the end of round two.
Furyk’s game, it could be said, is made for US Open golf but interestingly enough his record there, more especially in recent years, has not matched the suitability of his game for golf’s toughest test. His best finish here in his last five starts leading into this years event had been 14th, although he had recorded two top fives earlier in his career. His form this year has, however, been simply brilliant. It is true he has not won, but his consistency of top ten finishes (10 in 14 starts prior to this week), left him as one of the main chances leading into the event. The swing changes to his much and perhaps unfairly maligned swing have worked in that regard, turning one of the game’s already consistent players into one who seldom now turns in a bad finish.
He is not the longest of hitters on tour but the key ingredients necessary to win an event such as the US Open, are very much the keys to his game. He hits many fairways and greens, is a very solid putter and above all has the constitution to remain calm when many of those around him are not. The win takes him to 7th on the all time career money winner’s list with just over $US17 million and reflects the remarkable consistency he has shown year in year out. He has not finished outside the top twenty on the money list in any year since 1997 and has produced top twenty five finishes in more than half his 260 PGA Tour starts.
He won today on a golf course that reared its ugly head. After threatening to succumb early in the week to low scoring, Olympia Fields showed today why she was chosen as a US Open venue as player after player fell to the changing nature of the golf course.
Furyk had an early birdie chance from ten feet at the first but missed but then made crucial putts for par at the second from twenty feet and the fifth from fifteen feet, which kept him at arm’s length from what would turn out to be his only pursuer in Stephen Leaney. Furyk finally succumbed to the course with two late bogies but by then the job was done and he had his first major in safe keeping.
For Stephen Leaney this has indeed been a career and perhaps life altering week. Trailing the more experienced and credentialed Furyk by three into round four and with the likes of Singh and Price breathing down his neck, he could have been forgiven for bowing to the intense pressure he was no doubt feeling. But Stephen Leaney is a very cool customer. Some of his early holes revealed a swing that was not quite as free flowing as those earlier in the week, but that was more than understandable and that he was able to stay in touch and provide the only serious challenge to Furyk throughout the last round, speaks volumes for not only his game, but his strong constitution.
Leaney will come away from this week with a greater belief in himself than ever before and is now in a position where he can accept as many sponsors’ invitations as he likes in the US between now and the end of the year. He can then take on the US PGA Tour full time as a full member. He has after all been chasing a place on this tour in recent years, narrowly missing his card twice at the tour school. He is now eligible for whatever major events he chooses to play in worldwide as his finish here will have him jumping many places from his current 55th place in the world ranking.
Leaney overcame a further complication earlier in the week when his original caddy, who had replaced the one poached by Colin Montgomerie three weeks ago, fell ill following Thursday’s first round and was hospitalized. He was replaced by Mattie Goggin’s caddy who just happened to be at the US Open, watching the event. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
Of the others, the last round efforts of Vijay Singh and Nick Price were to say the least, a shock. Playing so well coming into and even during the event, their last round demise came as a significant surprise, especially the last round 78 by Singh. With just two holes to go on Saturday, Singh was just two from the lead. Twenty holes later he finished eleven shots behind Furyk. Price too got off to the start he didn’t want today with three consecutive bogies and although he got back into the tournament in the middle of the back nine, two late bogies put paid to any chance of a high finish. He tied for fifth with Ernie Els and David Toms.
It was left to perhaps the game’s hottest golfers at present, Mike Weir and Kenny Perry, to come through the pack and grab a share of third.
The only other Australasian to make the cut apart from Leaney, Peter Lonard, had the enjoyable task today of sitting in the clubhouse making money following his last round 68. He moved from 45th or so when he finished his round, to 20th as player after player fell victim to the treacheries of an ever changing Olympia Fields. Peter benefited from advice from his caddy, Ken, to turn around a wayward front nine, which included three consecutive bogies on the 7th, 8th and 9th holes, and storm home in three under 31 and eventually finish 20th. His ball position had been creeping too far forward and when Ken mentioned this walking to the tenth tee he made the adjustment and in his words " played as good as I had all week on those last nine holes."
This will also be remembered as the US Open where we may have well have seen the last of Tom Watson and his long serving caddy, Bruce Edwards at this event. Edwards has Lou Ghering’s disease, a degenerative and terminal disease of the nervous system and the emotions were high as they made their way around a US Open together for the last time. It was one of the many fine moments in a tournament that will come to be remembered as Jim Furyk’s US Open.