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Furyk Takes Over Lead in Tour Championship


Thanks to a red-hot 6-under 29 on the front nine at East Lake Golf Club, Jim Furyk assumed the 36-hole lead in the Tour Championship. The $8 million season-ending event on the PGA Tour started Thursday in Atlanta.

The 42-year-old Pennsylvanian was downright torrid on the outward half Friday, firing six birdies that included seven straight "3s" on his scorecard; those included pars on the par-3 second and sixth holes. That run of 3s broke the all-time record of six in the Tour Championship. Furyk capped his opening nine with a birdie on the par-5 ninth.

He cooled down on the back, carding three birdies and a like number of bogeys for an even-par 35, but Furyk still posted his lowest-ever score in 54 career starts in the Tour Championship and his lowest at East Lake.

"To be able to write three on your card nine times in the first 11 holes was a lot of fun," he said. "I struggled to kind of keep that momentum going the last six holes, but I feel like I played a real solid round of golf." (See Furyk's full post-round interview below.)

After starting with a 69, Furyk stands at 7-under 133, one stroke clear of first-round co-leader Justin Rose, who's posted rounds of 66 and 68. Sharing third at 135 are Bubba Watson, who shot Friday's second-lowest round, a 66, and Bo Van Pelt (68). Dustin Johnson (67) and Matt Kuchar (69) are next at 136.

Rose admitted he struggled at times in the second round. "It wasn't pretty golf by any means," said the Englishman, who had five birdies and three bogeys. "It was the kind of day that I hit a lot of decent tee shots. I felt like I'm hitting the driver quite long right now, so I'm obviously swinging at it pretty well, but just missing the fairway by one or two yards. I'm not worried about that.

"I've been hitting the ball really, really well all year. I'm sure I'll click into a nice rhythm on the weekend and be back to normal hitting on the fairways."

Van Pelt echoed the thoughts of the others in the elite 30-player field about how tough East Lake is playing this week. "Any time you can shoot under par on this golf course, it's a good score," noted the 37-year-old native of Indiana.

"The biggest thing I was upset with, I had, I think, three of my four bogeys or four of my five bogeys were unforced where you don't want to let them slip away like that. That was the only disappointing part. I felt like my ball-striking improved a little bit from yesterday. That was the thing."

Count the long-hitting Watson among that group as well. "This golf course and me don't see eye to eye. I've never played good here," said the 2012 Masters champion. "My best finish here was 22nd, 23rd maybe. Stringing two under-par rounds together is pretty good. Looking forward to the weekend. Maybe last year when I shot 66 one round last year, so I learned a little bit. But it's still a tough golf course for me just because of the grass and the way I swing at the ball, I catch a lot of flyers."

Sharing seventh at 137 are Rory McIlroy (68), Robert Garrigus (69) and Zach Johnson (69). Carl Pettersson (67) and Brandt Snedeker (70) sit in 10th at 138, and another stroke back are Webb Simpson (68), Rickie Fowler (68), Ryan Moore (70) and 18-hole co-leader Tiger Woods (73).

McIlroy, the No. 1-ranked player in the world and first in the FedEx Cup points' standings before Atlanta, admitted Friday afternoon that he's got one eye on where he stands as the tournament progresses, but won't be using that information unless it's necessary in the final round. The player who ends up with the most points Sunday evening will be the Cup winner and receive a $10 million bonus.

"I think first and foremost, I just have to try to think of my standing in this golf tournament, not really think about anything else," he told reporters. "If it comes down to it on Sunday where I need to really know what I have to do for the last few holes, then of course if I have a decision to make between protecting my lead in the FedEx Cup or trying to win the golf tournament, I think I know what I'm going to choose.

"But we just have to play until we reach that point, and at the minute, I'm just concentrating on trying to play as well as I can."

Woods had a tough day following his opening 66. After carding a bogey on the par-4 first hole, he birdied the third and seventh but doubled the par-4 eighth before a birdie on the ninth to give him an erratic but even-par 35. On the back side he had four bogeys against a sole birdie for a 38.

The difference in the two days was that Woods was less accurate off the tee than in the first round (71 percent the first day; 57 percent Friday) and he needed six more putts than the 26 he had on Thursday.

"I didn't play very good today," Woods said. "Didn't hit it very good, and definitely didn't putt well. So it was a struggle all day."

Yet Woods doesn't think he's out of it, especially with 36 holes to play. " I'm still right there," he told reporters. "This is a golf course that is playing tough. But some of the pins are pretty accessible. But you've got to get the ball on the fairway. This Bermuda rough is thin enough where every ball is sitting at the bottom. It just won't sit up. It's just really hard to judge how far it's going to be, and sometimes it doesn't even fly straight. It's imperative to get the ball on the fairway, and from there, can you attack."

Sharing 16th place at even-par 140 are Luke Donald (69), John Senden (68), Jason Dufner (70), Phil Mickelson (71), Steve Stricker (73) and Scott Piercy (73). Louis Oosthuizen (71), Hunter Mahan (73) and Adam Scott (73) are in 22nd at 141, while another shot back is Sergio Garcia, who also shot 73 Friday.

Rounding out the field in the no-cut tournament are Keegan Bradley (143 after a 73), John Huh (144 - 70), Lee Westwood (145 - 73), Ernie Els (147 - 75) and Nick Watney (149 - 74).

McIlroy and Woods came into the Tour Championship ranked first and second in points, while Watney after he won the Playoffs' opening event, The Barclays. Mickelson and Snedeker rounded out the top five.

For complete scoring, visit http://www.pgatour.com/r/leaderboard. For updated FedEx Cup standings and the points projections, see http://www.pgatour.com/r/stats/current/02394_projections-1.html.

After signing for his 64, Furyk met with reporters and discussed his fine day at East Lake. Here's what he had to tell them.

MODERATOR: Want to welcome our 2010 FedEx Cup champion. A good second round today. Obviously, highlighted by seven threes to start the round. Just talk about the hot start and the position that you're in through two rounds.

JIM FURYK: It was obviously a fun day. To be able to write three on your card nine times in the first 11 holes was a lot of fun. I struggled to kind of keep that momentum going the last six holes, but I feel like I played a real solid round of golf. What I was disappointed in yesterday and what I took away and what I went and practiced a little bit after the round was my driving. I just didn't hit enough fairways yesterday. I felt like my iron game was pretty sharp. But I was playing from the rough too much and scrambling a couple times too many.

So I wanted to get the ball in play. I did a good job of doing that today, and I set myself up a lot better for the iron shots, and my iron game was as good as it's been all year on the front nine. They said I averaged 12 feet from the hole for the entire front nine, and five of those birdies came from probably within six feet. So you've got to feel good about it. I was able to knock a 5 iron pretty close there on 10 and made birdie there. So 7 under for the first 10, and I think I played pretty well on the way in. I'm not upset about the way I hit it. I'm not upset about the way I did much. Missed a birdie putt at 12. Didn't hit a very good putt. Didn't get the ball up and down on 13, and it was a pretty routine up and down.

But played pretty solid the rest of the way. I'd be smiling just a touch more if I knocked in that four footer on the last hole for par. That always leaves you with a sour taste. But all in all, it's been about 30 minutes since I finished, and I'm in good spirits. I've got myself in good position for the weekend, and I'm a lot closer to the top of the leaderboard than I was starting Thursday.

Q. How long did it take you to cool down from that 64?

JIM FURYK: I was all right. I looked at my yardage book at the scoring table and pretty much got it out of the way. I've got to tape up my yardage book later though.

Q. You don't need to justify yourself or the whole Ryder Cup thing. But there were those who said maybe pick someone else. Give someone else a try. Do you feel that playing now into the Ryder Cup you want to show people, look, I can still play. I can still do this?

JIM FURYK: I was so hoping someone would ask me that.

Q. No, you weren't.

JIM FURYK: I kind of was. Really the opinions that matter to me are those of my captain and those of my teammates. And there were eight guys that had a voice in saying who they got to pick. I think they had a choice. There were four of us chosen. There were six, seven, eight really good choices. I'm humbled and honored that they chose - that those eight individuals and the assistants and Davis chose me. As far as having to prove myself I'm not exactly sure who all of those that you mentioned are because I really don't read much about golf. I've always felt that you're either going to say something really nice about me and I probably don't want to read that. Or they're going to say something bad about me and I definitely don't want to read about that. So I don't pay that much attention.

But look at the way I play golf. The way I swing the golf club and grip the putter. Look at the way I go about my business. I don't hit the ball very far. I'm short. If I really cared what the critics thought the last 19 years, I really wouldn't be here, if that makes sense. So as far as justifying myself, I'm going to play well. I'm going to play bad. Whatever it may be at the Ryder Cup, my teammates know that I'm going to give 110 percent. They know I have a lot of heart. I have a lot of grit, and that's what I'm going to do. But I've never felt like I have to justify myself. I've got 19 years behind me and a pretty good track record. Whether that's from a playing perspective or the time I give you all in the media room or the time interview wise, I feel like everybody by now should know where I stand.

Q. Congratulations on today's round. Do memories of two years come flooding back? What is it about this course that brings out the best in you and your game?

JIM FURYK: I like the golf course to start with. I've had some good memories here. I finished a shot back when Hal Sutton won. I was second place when Adam Scott won. Of course, I won here in 2010, so I've had some good events here. I'm comfortable on the golf course when I'm playing well. It suits my style. It's about getting the ball. I heard a comment from Rory yesterday saying that, you know, you've got to get the ball on the fairway. If you don't, life's tough. I felt like yesterday for how little I got the ball on the fairway, to get it around 1 under was pretty good. So today I was able to get the ball on the fairway and attack a little more, and it showed in my scores. I'm comfortable here. It suits my style of game. When I'm playing well, I have a very good opportunity here.

Q. It's pretty unusual for a champion of a tournament not to be back to defend its title. Do you really miss -

JIM FURYK: It's pretty common here, actually (laughing).

Q. Did that impact your mindset coming in this year?

JIM FURYK: No, I was very disappointed. I openly talked for about the first six months of this year, I openly answered questions about my year in 2011. I was really unhappy with it. After coming off my best year, I had a lot of sense of pride in 2010 about finishing out events. I had three good opportunities. I won all three of those events. The FedEx Cup, I was voted Player of the Year. I was really proud of the year. But as proud as I was in 2010, I was quite mad at myself in '11. Didn't matter what happened early in '12, as I started playing better and I was playing well early in 2012 - I mean, you're playing great now but, and we always went back to 2011. It sparked a fire. It made me work a lot harder.

It also made me address some issues. I wasn't putting very well, and I had to address that. I've really had a good, solid putting year, and I have a lot of confidence in my putting right now. I addressed my equipment, and changed a few things in my equipment to create more spin on the golf ball. A ball that spins more, a driver that spins more, I'm trying to hit more fairways and take advantage of my strengths. I addressed my fitness really hard as well. I've worked out harder and feel like at my age at 42 to keep up, to stay injury free, to play as many weeks as I'm trying to play I needed to address that as well.

Q. You're 7 under through 10, which meant if you birdied four of the last eight, you would have shot 59. Did you do the math? Were you thinking about 59? Run us through that?

JIM FURYK: No, I've been asked a few times about it already. I actually don't think I've ever played a round where I honestly gave 59 a shot. I think 10 under is probably my best on a par 72. If I ever get it to where I need to make two more birdies and I've got two, three, four holes left, I promise you 59 will be on my mind. But I think you've got to get later into the round than 10, if that makes sense. I was just having fun writing 3 on the card. I was marveling. I've never seen a card that pretty where just all those to 3s. It was nice. Nine of them through the first 11 holes.

Q. Out of all those threes, which was the best or the couple three best of the threes?

JIM FURYK: I think back to back, the shots at 4 and 5, 4 being a really tough pin on the back left and hit it in there, 4 or 5 feet. Then on 5, I got in between. I knew the hybrid was a little too much, but I had to really hit that 4 iron good. It was about 236, a little downhill, a little down breeze. But I ripped a 4 iron and chased it back there about six feet. So those back to back birdies were really nice. But I also had two kick ins on 7 and 9 where I hit it basically a foot on both holes. They were all good. The best three of the day, too, at number 10, 4, 5, and 10, probably. 10 is I think the toughest hole on the golf course, and I was able to hit a 5 iron in there 8 feet and make it for birdie.

Q. You mentioned you don't hit it that far, and there are actually a couple of guys up near the lead that don't and some others that do hit it far. What is it about the golf course that allows for that?

JIM FURYK: Well, it's more about putting the ball on the fairway. Very tight fairways, and once you're in the fairway, it's half the battle. But the greens are quite severe, and there are difficult pin placements where you have to keep the ball below the pin, and you can't always do that. So it's basically putting the ball on the fairway, crisp iron play. I grew up on greens that had a lot of slope to them, so hitting a 20 foot putt with a 5 foot break, I grew up with that. Laying the ball out there way to the right and feeding into the hole. So I feel like those things that are needed at this golf course are all pretty good strengths of mine when I'm playing well.

Q. There are four guys in the U.S. Ryder Cup team that have never played in it. Have any of them asked for any advice from you? Would you expect to give them any? Would you want to offer them up anything as to how to deal with it the first time?

JIM FURYK: Yeah, I think so. I've had a couple of guys come up and ask a few questions about it. Webb and - they played in Presidents Cup though, haven't they?

Q. Dufner hasn't.

JIM FURYK: Bubba played in a Ryder Cup.

Q. Dufner and Snedeker never played.

JIM FURYK: Webb and -

Q. Keegan hasn't played.

JIM FURYK: So three guys haven't played. Actually, I spoke to Webb, and he's got he's a U.S. Open winner and he's got some experience in the Presidents Cup. You know, I'm a little bit - I don't know if I'm an outspoken leader, but maybe more of a quiet leader and follow by example. But you have to be careful when you're offering up information. How well do you know the people? How friendly are you? Some of those guys might be better friends. Like Keegan and Phil play a ton of practice rounds together. I would expect Keegan to lean on Phil more than me. I might know Jason better. I might know one of the other guys a little bit better.

But when you're offering up information, you have to be careful. They're professionals. They're on that team because they've had a great year, and they go about preparing the way they normally do. I think it helps to have a good mix. It's good to have some veterans on the team, but to have some fresh faces and young talent is a spark of energy as well.

Q. Do you remember your first one?

JIM FURYK: Oh, yeah.

Q. Were you nervous?

JIM FURYK: Very, very nervous but excited. I remember playing my first match with Tom Lehman which was fun. For some reason, for about three years there we got paired together a lot. And Tom used to say every time we played together I shot 67 or better, which was close there for a while. I played a lot of good rounds with him. It was comforting to go out with someone that I knew his game pretty well and got along with him well.

We were playing Jesper Parnevik. And Jesper and Tom were quite a bit longer with me at that time. We got up on the first tee at Valderrama, and we were all playing 3 woods and I knocked it 20 yards past anyone in the group. I can just say I was a little jacked up. I was nervous, but extremely excited. It showed on that first tee shot because I think the other guys were looking and saying what was that? It probably went 35 yards farther than it should have.

Q. Are you more irritated by not winning, or encouraged by having chances?

JIM FURYK: Yes. That would be the best answer. I think that my personality is that I'm 75 percent mad, but I haven't closed the door, and I have to be reminded about whether it's my teacher or my caddie or my wife or whoever it may be that you're playing well, be patient, let it happen. I'm more the personality type that instead of the silver lining and the cloud, I'm definitely tougher on myself than anyone else.

Q. Is that a Pittsburgh thing?

JIM FURYK: It might be, actually. I came from a very hard working family and grandparents, and that was instilled in me early. I was always a kid that my dad needed to calm me down. He needed to kick me in the rear end to go practice. He needed to tell me to have fun a little bit more. Some of it was inherited watching my relatives, my grandparents, my dad and how hard they worked, and some of it is probably you're just born with it as well.

Q. We were talking to Bubba out there and he described you as a bit of a quarterback in terms of the Ryder Cup team. Do you feel that way? Do you feel like that's your role? What do you think about that?

JIM FURYK: That's interesting. But, yeah, he asked me how many Ryder Cups I had played on while we were on the course today, and I said eight. And I know to the young guys that seems interesting. I don't want to overplay it. My job is to go out there and play as well as I can and help my team in any way I can. I know first and foremost it's probably going to be with my clubs and playing well. Knocking some putts in and trying to win some matches. But I would like to be a calming influence and a guy that could help out.

I think I've always been good with tough pairings. I'm a guy that the captains can move around a little bit and I can fit into a lot of pairings. I can fit in with a lot of personalities. So I'm flattered by that, and, again, I think that's probably one of the reasons I was chosen, for more than just golf, but I don't want to overplay it as well. We've got a bunch of really good players. I'm not sure there's much direction I need to give on this team rather than cracking the whip and being the jockey and riding it out.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.