How shooting a low score can take a lot of weight off the shoulders
‘Fluff’ Cowen may be feeling the affects of a lifetime of looping but he’s not ready to quit just yet
Jim Furyk celebrates with his caddie Mike “Fluff” Cowan after putting on the ninth green to shoot a 59 during the second round of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Illinois. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
I was walking around the unknown venue of Conway Farms golf club in northern Chicago last week trying to get my bearings on arrival from Dublin. It was unseasonably hot, about 33 degrees, and I had a wilting feeling that a combination of heat on top of a long trip will give you.
To make my reconnaissance around the third of the Fed-ex cup play-off venues a little more challenging there was a Monday pro-am with four amateurs. The ones I happened upon looked like they were wilting too. When I got to the fifth fairway there was a bird in the middle of the fairway just sitting there motionless. It didn’t look at all animated and given the quality of players on the course was probably in the safest place, the middle of the fairway.
One of the kindly amateurs went to try to revive the ailing bird with a few splashes of water, which cascaded off the bird without even a flinch. He picked it up and placed it in the shade to pass away peacefully. I marched on, avoided the rest of the errant field and continued my preparation for the BMW Championship.
The next day I was passing by the exit to the locker room and I was taken aback by the slumped and dejected figure of one of my colleagues, ‘Fluff’ Cowan, Jim Furyk’s faithful bagman of 14 years. He was slouched in a seat with his head down and his eyes closed and his inanimate demeanour reminded me of the ailing bird I had seen the previous day. The heat had intensified that day but apparently that was not the problem with ‘Fluff’.
Like us all who hump a bag around the world for a living, we become overburdened by the excessive weight of the golf bag from time to time. The bags are outrageously heavy due to the standard weight of an empty bag and then of course with all the accoutrements that are stuffed into it for play, they don’t end up any lighter.
‘Fluff’ was suffering from an intense pain down the right side of his arm. It is one of the professions where there is no option to pull a sick day, you tend to muddle through sickness or an injury somehow on tour. In his 65th year, what ‘Fluff’ needed was rest from bag-toting, but in the heat of the play-offs was not the time to take a break.
He ended up seeing a physio who heals the Chicago Bears football team and by the time he headed off in the first round he was feeling less pain but his man’s opening round did nothing to curb his malaise. He opened with a one over par round. By the time he got to his final hole on Friday he was being embraced by his boss Furyk who had just holed a six foot birdie putt for only the sixth 59 recorded on the PGA Tour.
Furyk and ‘Fluff’ have enjoyed a long and very successful partnership together, ever since ‘Fluff’ was released from his former employer Tiger Woods in 1999. They have won a US Open together in the same town we were in last week. They have won numerous tournaments and the Fed-ex cup a couple of years back.
But if you have a sore body when you are caddying for a living there is not much that is going to make you forget the pain. Furyk came up with the instant remedy for his caddies flagging condition giving him a much needed shot in the arm with a record equaling eleven under par round.
Players set goals, some of them realistic, many of them dreams but the scores that are produced on a regular basis on the US Tour are compiled by talented dreamers who don’t let reality get in the way too often. So when you are faced with the prospect of breaking 60, easier I admit on a par 71 course but nonetheless admirable under the windy conditions that the players endured last Friday in the Lake Forest region of Chicago, you need to keep believing. Given that Rory McIlroy brought in a score 18 shots worse in the same conditions should emphasise just how remarkable Furyk’s achievement was.
On hindsight you can only put it down to talent mixed with the intense competitive surroundings that can lead to dream-like scores. His 69, some 10 shots worse the following day, was no mean feat either. It seems to be very difficult for players to follow a really low round with a good one. Having received a text informing him that he would not be required for the Presidents Cup team after Boston a few weeks back, Furyk probably felt like he had something to prove. Well he certainly did that last Friday. He continued his form in the final two rounds and finished third. I am not saying that ‘Fluff’ is cured, but it is fascinating how much weight comes off the bag with a low score and a good tournament finish.
Much like golfers can extend their careers way beyond their natural cycle, the almost senior player Miguel Angel Jimenez lost in a play-off in Holland last week, ‘Fluff’ Cowen may be feeling the affects of a lifetime of looping but he’s not ready to hang up his old trainers and disappear into the shade just yet.