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Furyk's form slipped in Augusta

Friday, April 01, 2011

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It's not often that Jim Furyk strays from his game plan.

Jim Furyk tees off during The Tour Championship in Atlanta. Furyk would go on to win the tournament at -8 under par, defeating Luke Donald by one stroke. (Corey Perrine/Staff)

It happened in the 2010 Masters Tournament, which was one of the few disappointing weeks that year for Furyk, who won three times, took home the FedEx Cup and was named PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Furyk let his swing get away from him at Augusta National Golf Club last year. He opened with 8-over-par 80 -- his high round by two shots in 14 Masters appearances.

A second-round 76 saw him miss the cut by nine shots. A year earlier, he had tied for 10th in the Masters after opening with 66.

"I got behind the 8-ball early last year and started pushing the envelope," Furyk said. "I wasn't striking the ball that well at Augusta, but there are years that course can be a little taxing on a short hitter, and I probably tried to do too much. I got out of my game plan and got out of my strengths."

Furyk said he believes three things are required to succeed at Augusta National.

"It's a golf course where you always want to hit the ball high and hard and spin it," he said.

Furyk (Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

Furyk said he "didn't stay with my swing" at the 2010 Masters. "I made a mistake and let it get too long, and then I got very inconsistent.

"I was trying to help the ball up in the air," he said. "Instead of making a good, solid, compact swing, which is when I hit it my highest and hardest and spin the ball the most, I let it get away."

Three weeks before the Masters, Furyk had won in Palm Harbor, Fla., for his 14th tour victory but only his first since the 2007 Canadian Open, a stretch of 58 tournaments without a win.

After his problems at Augusta last year, Furyk hunkered down with his father, Mike, the only golf teacher he's ever had, to get ready for the Verizon Heritage in Hilton Head Island, S.C., the week after the Masters.

While birdies and eagles were flying in the third round of the Masters and Phil Mickelson was winning his third green jacket the next day, Furyk and his father were working on his swing.

"That weekend I had some good practice sessions with my dad and felt real good going to Hilton Head and went to a place I really like a lot and suits my game," Furyk said.

The result was scores of 67-68-67-69 and a victory over Brian Davis on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.

"I never really doubted my ability or talent," Furyk said. "I didn't feel like I had to justify my ranking or my ability because I don't really worry about that. As long as I get up on the first tee on Sunday and the guy I'm playing with knows that he's going to have a tough day because he's playing with me, I'm happy. That makes sense, whether I win golf tournaments or not.

"When I get to the first tee and guys aren't worried about playing me anymore, then it's time to retire."

More than five months after winning at Hilton Head Island, Furyk won the Tour Championship, which earned him the FedEx Cup and the $10 million prize. He won despite being disqualified from the first of the four playoff events because he missed his pro-am starting time at The Barclays after oversleeping.

At age 40, Furyk rates 2010 as his best season, even above 2003, when he won the U.S. Open, and 2006, when he won twice and was ranked No. 2 in the world.

"I had a good year last year," Furyk said. "Obviously, I improved and got better. It was a good year timing-wise. I closed out a lot of events when I had the opportunity. I didn't really have more opportunities; I just handled those times better."

Reach David Westin at (706) 823-3224 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.

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