Nick Price was in his final week at No. 1 in the world. Tiger Woods was making his U.S. Open debut as a 19-year-old amateur. It was 1995 at Shinnecock Hills, and it was the last time Jim Furyk was at home for the U.S. Open.
Furyk will be making his 24th consecutive appearance in the U.S. Open, a meaningful streak for the 49-year-old former champion.
“It’s our national championship,” Furyk said after he finished at the Memorial. “It’s the major I’ve played the best in, the major where I gave myself a number of chances to win.”
And it’s a major he had every reason to believe he would miss this year.
Coming off his two years as Ryder Cup captain, Furyk had fallen to No. 223 in the world after last year. It turned quickly — a tie for ninth in the Honda Classic that got him into The Players Championship, a runner-up finish at the TPC Sawgrass that got him into Match Play, victories over Jason Day and Phil Mickelson that allowed him to stay in the top 60 and earn a trip to Pebble Beach.
Furyk won at Olympia Fields in 2003 to earn a 10-year exemption. It was his staying power — even with his lack of today’s power off the tee — that has kept him eligible deep into his 40s. His runner-up finish at Oakmont in 2016 got him into the U.S. Open the following year, and the USGA gave him what figures to be a one-time exemption for last year.
Even without being exempt, Furyk isn’t done trying.
“To be honest, it’s nice not to go play 36,” he said of sectional qualifying. “I’m not sure I have the legs under me. I would have had to take something off.”
He doesn’t plan to stop trying even after this year, though at 49 and eligible for the PGA Tour Champions next May, Furyk said it might depend on the course. Pebble Beach is one of the shorter U.S. Open courses, though its 7,075 yards plays a little longer along the Pacific coast.
A big course might change his mind because “I don’t really have a chance.”
“I really like Winged Foot,” he said of the 2020 site. “Torrey Pines (2021) might be a tough one.”
For the first time in 17 years, players left the Memorial and won’t be returning to Ohio.
The reality began to set in that Firestone — part of the PGA Tour schedule since 1976, with one detour to Sahalee in 2002 — is now for the PGA Tour Champions. The World Golf Championship is moving to Memphis, Tennessee, a week after the British Open.
“I’m very much going to miss Firestone,” said Rory McIlroy, who won it in 2014. “It was one of my favorite events of the year. It’s a shame because I love going there. I love the golf course. I love the feel of it. Fans were great. The over-50 guys, they’ll enjoy themselves there the next few years and hopefully we get back at some stage.”
Adam Scott won the Bridgestone Invitational in 2011 and feels like he has been through this drill before. It reminded him of when title sponsorship changed at another World Golf Championship, and the tour leaving behind a long history at Doral for Mexico City.
“I think it’s going to be the same with Akron,” Scott said. “We’re going to miss it because it was such a great event, and it was one that you felt privileged to be in, and it was a hell of a golf course to try and beat any given week there.”
More was involved than a move from late July to early June in giving the RBC Canadian Open one of its best fields ever.
Dustin Johnson is an RBC ambassador and the defending champion. Brooks Koepka likes playing the week before a major. That gave the field the top two players in the world ranking. Rory McIlroy hasn’t fared well in the U.S. Open in recent years, so he decided to mix it up and play the week before.
And then Justin Thomas missed the cut at the Memorial.
Thomas, who had not played since the Masters while recovering from a bone bruise in his right wrist, entered the Canadian Open on Friday, giving the fourth-oldest championship in golf four of the top six in the world ranking.
“It obviously was a late add. It wasn’t exactly in the plans,” Thomas said Tuesday. “I definitely need to get more reps going into the Open. I was a little rusty last week from not playing for a while. But I’m excited to be here.”
Asked what he wanted out of the week, Thomas said, “Playing four days would be a good start.”
“The more time in competition, the quicker I’ll get out of the rust,” he said.
Martin Kaymer showed he was close enough to win at the Memorial, where he lost a two-shot lead on the final day. His last victory was in the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, and he sounds as though he will celebrate when he gets the next one.
That apparently wasn’t the case for his previous 15 victories worldwide, including two majors, The Players Championship and a World Golf Championship.
“I’m not the guy who celebrates a lot, which I think is a little bit of a mistake,” Kaymer said. “If you just move on and move on, you try to go from one tournament to another and you continue doing that, you need to pull yourself out, maybe celebrate, however the celebration looks like. It doesn’t need to be going to Vegas and get drunk, but you need to celebrate the win, the resolve, the effort. You need to give credit to yourself, and I never did.”
“So whenever the next win will come, I know what to do different.”
WIN AND NOT IN
Of the 35 players who have won PGA Tour events since the last U.S. Open, six players have not qualified for next week’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Unlike the Masters and PGA Championship, the U.S. Open does not exempt a player for a PGA Tour victory.
Then again, three of those winners won opposite-field events (Troy Merritt, Cameron Champ and Martin Trainer). Four of them won against a strength of field that offered 42 points or fewer to the winner (Michael Kim, Kevin Tway, Adam Long and Corey Conners).
The other was Max Homa, who won the Wells Fargo Championship at No. 417 in the world.
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods complained about the speed of the poa greens at Pebble Beach at the last U.S. Open in 2010. This brought an incredulous response from Jack Nicklaus who said, “I won under those conditions.” That was in 1972, when Nicklaus shot 74 in the final round and won by three shots. … The leading three players from the top 10 at the Canadian Open not already exempt for the British Open will earn spots at Royal Portrush. … Maria Fassi of Mexico made her pro debut by tying for 12th in the U.S. Women’s Open and earning $103,065. … GolfTV and Golf Digest will unveil “My Game: Tiger Woods,” a 12-episode series that launches in July with Woods sharing insight on how he approaches the game. … Jennifer Kupcho, the former NCAA champion and Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion, has signed an equipment deal with PING. Kupcho, who deferred her LPGA card until after college, made her professional debut last week in the U.S. Women’s Open.
STAT OF THE WEEK
For the fourth straight year, at least one major champion had never won previously on the LPGA Tour.
“He doesn’t come in from fishing for just anybody. So consider yourself really special.” — Barbara Nicklaus to Tiger Woods, explaining how Jack Nicklaus watched the final seven holes of his Masters victory.