Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Furyk looks so bad while looking good

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. - It is the ultimate golf swing. It has been videotaped for mass distribution. Books and magazines have wiped out forests for all the paper that has been used to describe it and analyze it.

Part Hogan, part Snead, part Bobby Jones. Sweet and smooth, but with drive and power like no one before, not even Nicklaus.

We are speaking of Tiger Woods, of course.

The perfect swing collided with a U.S. Open course that hasn't exactly distinguished itself, a course that has surrendered so many birdies and eagles that the scoreboard appears to be dripping blood, and Tiger is so far out of the lead that his mail is being forwarded to different zip code.

Par is usually a good score in an Open. Maybe Tiger didn't get the message that it wouldn't cut much mustard in this one.

He shot 75 yesterday, his worst Open round as a professional, battling the rough and bunkers from start to finish and never striking a putt that didn't curve left or right away from its intended target. He looked befuddled, exasperated and a whole bunch of other big words. Amazingly, when he leaves Olympia Fields later today, it will mark the first time since 1999 that he has not been the reigning champion in at least one of golf's four majors.

But the swing looks good.

Then there's Jim Furyk, who is clear of the field by three shots heading into today's final round of the 103rd National Open.

The first time David Feherty, the television analyst, saw Furyk's swing, he said it looked like a man using a golf club to kill a rattlesnake in a phone booth.

Pretty funny.

The results, though, have been pretty serious.

Furyk, who is No. 10 in the world rankings, owns seven PGA Tour titles and has compiled more than $16 million in earnings since 1994. He hasn't won yet this year, but you might say he has been knocking on the door with 10 top-10 finishes in 14 starts.

He does it with a swing right out of a Tuesday-evening beer league down at your local nine-hole muni. It is to golf swings what Edith Bunker was to music.

Somehow, though, between the unsightly hitch at the top of the swing and the point of impact, Furyk gets the club on a straight line and the clubhead squared to the ball.

The swing is not a thing of beauty. The results are. In his words, ``It doesn't matter how it looks. The ball doesn't lie.''

Now, with a 54-hole Open scoring record under his belt, he is positioned to capture his first major championship today.

He'll have few better chances. Unlike your normal Open courses - they usually come in three sizes: large, extra large and Bethpage - Olympia Fields is of modest proportions favoring a player of modest length who can shape shots and putt the lights out.

``It's very straightforward,'' Furyk said. ``There's one hidden tee shot at No. 12. Other than that the golf course just sits in front of you.''

American golf's ultimate prize is sitting there too, right in front of Jim Furyk. It's his for the taking. A relative unknown with a gorgeous golf swing, Australia's Stephen Leaney, is three shots behind. Nick Price and Vijay Singh are five back.

``I'm excited,'' Furyk said. ``I've never had a three-shot lead [after 54 holes] in any tournament that I can remember.''

His swing has changed some through the years.

``Let's not go overboard,'' he said, chuckling. ``We're not straight back and straight through yet. My swing was very unconventional and it's still unconventional.

``When I was a kid my swing was naturally outside and I just naturally rerouted the club. I was fortunate that my dad, who was my teacher, realized I wasn't very mechanical and just let me play on feel. If I had taken my swing and made it look like the textbook-perfect swing when I was a kid, I may not be sitting here today. I may not have turned out to be a good player.''

Or poised to become the U.S. Open champion.

``I'm still young, still early in my career, so not having won a major hasn't weighed on me,'' the 33-year-old Furyk said. ``And, to be honest, if 10 years from now it still hasn't happened, I'll accept it. But winning a major is the ultimate goal. It is what I've worked hard for. It's how we're judged.''

Not by the swing.

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