Furyk back-to-back wins at Nedbank

BY iseekgolf.com | Southern Africa Tour | 2006 Nedbank Golf Challenge | Wrap | 04 Dec 2006

Jim Furyk, if golf tournaments were contested over more than 72 holes might have failed to successfully defend his Nedbank Golf Challenge title at Sun City on Sunday, but they’re not and he collected his second cheque for $1.2 million.

Furyk, by his own admission was “leaking oil” on the back nine but even though he stumbled home in two-over 74 nevertheless retained the crystal golf ball trophy he won last year by two strokes from Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.

And, if the truth be told, Furyk had in fact already made sure of his triumph by the 56th hole – his second of the final round.

The quiet American, who started the day three shots ahead of Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, made a strong statement with a pinpoint approach to set up a birdie three at the first and then added a par at the second.

At the point Furyk had played 56 holes without dropping a shot and he was four strokes clear of a field who were already finding it difficult, in the blustery conditions and with the ball not spinning on hard greens, to get close to the flags to set up birdie chances.

It was then that Furyk showed that he was human after all by dropping a shot at the third, after playing short off the tee and then putting his second with a hybrid club into the right-hand bunker, to raise the possibility that there might be a fat soprano lurking somewhere in the grandstand at the 18th green.

But none of Harrington, Ernie Els or Stenson, who were really the only ones with any chance of putting pressure on Furyk, was able to make any headway in unrelentingly difficult conditions that would eventually result in the 12 players being collectively 26 over par for the final round.

Harrington, Furyk’s closest chaser, could not re-produce the magic of the previous day when he one-putted 13 times, and instead dropped a stroke at the fifth and then ran up a double bogey at the notorious 8th.

That left Els, who was playing beautifully from tee to green but yet again struggling to either pick the right line or get his putts on it on the greens, to try to disturb Furyk’s serene pace.

It was what the crowd wanted and for a brief moment the scales hovered promisingly with Furyk on the 8th and Els on the 9th.

However Els, who had put his second just over the back of the island green, failed to seize the moment when he did not get up-and-down and Furyk, while getting another bogey, contained the damage to only one shot.

Next Furyk coolly birdied the 9th and when Els, who had made a six at the 10th in the second round, again powered his second shot over the green at the par five and into the stand at the back his challenge was over.

This time the ball clanged into a stanchion and ricocheted back toward him across the green and when he failed to pitch and putt for a birdie it was all over bar the graphic artist inscribing a neat “Jim Furyk” on one of the biggest winning cheques in the game.

It was a tough, blood-on-the-fairways kind of day and even the imperturbable Furyk, who saw his lead climb to five, fell victim of the agony as he slipped shots at the 11th and 12th and then another at the last to stumble home in 39.

“I didn’t think I would be standing on the 18th tee one-over par holding a three-shot cushion,” he admitted afterwards. “It was really tough out there though. The wind was nothing like it had been on the first three days and in the end I was able to card a 74 and still win.”

Amazingly Furyk found himself in a spot of bother with a sloppily played last hole, leaving his second short of the right-hand bunker and then dumping his third in the sand-trap, and a “hallelujah” of a birdie putt by Stenson bumped him up to second on his own and a $600,000 payday.

All it did was make the outcome look closer than it really was with Furyk writing his own testimonial with a superb bunker shot to within centimetres to ensure that he dropped no more than one stroke.

Source – Nedbank Challenge

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