…came down to 2 feet, 5 inches…and was sunk by Jim Furyk to win the Tour Championship and $1,350,000…and win the FedExCup bonus race and $10,000,0000.
Furyk said after the round that the putt was “dummy proof” and he was glad it wasn’t six feet. But it was the bunker shot he hit stiff that won it for him. Actually, that was the one that put him over the top. The fact is that he got it up and down from every one of the bunkers he was in all week long. Every one. Which is interesting because he’s ranked 109th on the Tour in sand saves this year, managing a meager 48% on 102 attempts. The best on Tour is 68%. Today, it was his bunker play that was masterful.
They played in miserable conditions on the back nine. Furyk, playing in the last twosome, was on the ninth hole when play was suspended for over two hours by severe thunderstorms. After the front passed, there was still plenty of rain on the back side of it. The air grew heavy, the fairways slow and the players had to play in rain gear.
The thing about rain gear is that while it keeps you mostly dry, it is cumbersome because you normally play in golf shirts or flexible sweaters. You’re used to that. Now you feel bound up. Despite your caddie’s efforts, the grips and clubfaces get wet and have to be wiped down. The two of you have to juggle the umbrella. Towels and gloves need to be strung from the umbrella struts to keep them dry. Your hat gets soaked and the rain drips off the bill while you’re trying to putt. Some players, including Furyk, turned their hats backwards which also served to keep their necks dry.
The point of all this detail about rain and rain gear is to underscore what a high level of mastery Furyk managed to muster in the face of all of that. As I indicated in the, “How Are Your Nerves,” post, the 18th hole, unusually, was a par-3. But a very long one at 235 yards. In the rain.
Furyk had a three-stroke lead coming off of the 15th green, but by the time he got to the 18th tee, it was down to just one. So standing back there what surely seemed 235 miles from the green, he knew that he had to make par to avoid a playoff with Luke Donald (and Retief Goosen if he, playing with Furyk, made birdie too).
Goosen promptly hit it into the greenside bunker. Furyk followed right behind him. It’s hard to swing freely when over $11 million is on the line.
Goosen played his sand shot first and hit it to 2 feet, 2 inches…from 63 feet. He had to be thinking about making it to get into the playoff. It happens.
Furyk, playing from 57 feet, hit his 3 inches further from the hole. But there was so much more freedom in his shot, so much more clubhead speed, that his club spanked the sand under the ball and the ball came out high and with so much backspin that it screeched to a halt in two short hops. Dummy proof.
So the lesson in all of this for us is that mastery is still possible even when it’s raining, you’ve just bogeyed two straight holes and you’re in a greenside bunker needing a par to win $11 million…and your record says you only have a 48% chance of doing it. Mastery is still possible when the introductory call to a new customer didn’t go well and the first meeting went worse. If you just stay in the moment…and the next…and the next…great things are just around the corner. As Furyk demonstrated, you can’t fold your tent and assume the worst just because of a little adversity.
After the putt dropped, the usually stoic Furyk, dropped his putter, snapped around to the gallery behind him as he shot his arms into the air, fists clenched in victory, and roared his accomplishment to the crowd. Completely out of character.
At the trophy presentation, Dan Hicks, the NBC announcer, marveled at Furyk, “You were really pumped!”
And Furyk, good-naturedly responded, “Wouldn’t you be?
Anybody would be.