Furyk becomes the marked man
Golf:The first salvo of the 39th Ryder Cup was fired by the unlikeliest of trigger men, Jim Furyk, who said Rory McIlroy, the world No. 1 from Europe, would be a “marked man.”
He later said his words had been taken out of context, that what he meant was McIlroy had the target on his back at the Tour Championship because he came into the FedEx Cup playoff finale ranked number one in points.
“I promise you,” Furyk said Saturday night, when the Americans’ prospects for reclaiming the Ryder Cup looked hale and the team mood was buoyant, “I’m not one to incite the other team or give them any bulletin-board material, and I’m pretty sure most of them over there know that about me, anyway.”
As the singles matches unfolded Sunday at Medinah Country Club, the bull’s-eye found the back of Furyk, the only golfer on the 12-man US team without a PGA Tour victory this year, a well-liked veteran who was selected for inclusion by captain, Davis Love, with one of his four discretionary picks.
Perhaps the only players who can relate to the pressure felt by McIlroy, whom everybody loves to knock off, are the captain’s picks, whose inclusion everybody loves to second-guess. For those who didn’t play their way onto the team, there’s an extra burden to justify their inclusion.
For Furyk, his moment of reckoning came on the par-3 17th hole of his match, the eighth (contest) of the day, against the Spaniard Sergio Garcia. With victories in the first five matches, the Europeans had put the US celebration on hold.
Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson, the Americans in the sixth and seventh matches, earned points to stem the bleeding, and now Furyk had a chance to be the tourniquet. He was one up and facing an uphill par putt of inside 10 feet. Furyk, a 16-time tour winner and former US Open champion, had missed clutch putts on the way to heartbreaking losses at this year’s U.S. Open and the World Golf Championship event in Ohio.
His shakiness on the greens was the main argument against his Ryder Cup selection, but there he was, belly down, studying a putt for redemption. Furyk’s attempt slid past the cup, and Garcia won the hole with a par to square the match.
At the par four, 18th, Furyk drove into a fairway bunker, and his approach rolled off the green. From 45 feet, he putted within a few feet and missed his par try. Garcia made par to seal a one up victory and give Europe a 13-12 lead, setting the stage for Martin Kaymer’s Cup-clinching victory against Steve Stricker.