Furyk shoots course-best score Friday at THE PLAYERS

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Sometime on Sunday afternoon, between hosting a baby shower for military moms-to-be and a charity concert, Jim Furyk received pleasantly surprising, yet unfamiliar news: He had qualified for THE PLAYERS, but as one of the last in the field.

Five days later on Friday, the 48-year-old, longtime Ponte Vedra resident is tied for third at 9-under par.

“I’ll be honest, when I went to the Honda (Classic), I didn’t realize I had an opportunity to play my way into this field, so (I) was kind of planning my schedule with this as an off week,” Furyk said. “And until I finished Honda and I finished ninth there and moved up the FedEx list, I honestly didn’t know that I had that opportunity. A couple players told me there in the locker room that I may get in the field, and I was excited, did my homework and realized that there was a good chance.”

According to the PGA TOUR, as a result of his play at the Honda, Furyk was one of the last six PGA TOUR members from the 2018-2019 FedExCup Points List to get in to complete the tournament’s field of 144 players. He prepared last week like he was in the tournament, and has been able to take advantage of the opportunity so far.

After shooting a 1-under 71 on a blustery Thursday afternoon, Furyk played in calmer conditions on Friday morning, shooting a course-best 8-under 64. Starting the day tied at 53rd, Furyk strung together eight birdies and 10 pars to take the lead by the end of the round.

“I thought yesterday played really tough, and then we get out there this morning, a little more moisture on the golf course, not as much wind, greens are a little more receptive and we could attack the golf course a little bit,” Furyk said. “I really look at that last two hours of yesterday as the key to the 36 holes because I really ground it out and gave myself an opportunity to go out there in a good frame of mind today.”

His 8-under 64 on Friday is his lowest score in 80 rounds at THE PLAYERS, a tournament and golf course he has struggled at historically, but one he feels he’s becoming more comfortable with over time.

Making him even more comfortable this week, he said, is the fact that he is playing in his backyard. Not to mention, several friends and family members are in town after attending his foundation’s annual Furyk & Friends concert and golf tournament benefitting local charities.

The concert, featuring country music stars Jordan Davis, Lee Brice and others, took place at THE PLAYERS Welcome Experience on Sunday. The evening included a charity shootout at the 17th hole, with participants including Kevin Kisner, who is tied at seventh at 8-under, and Russell Knox, who is at 6-under. The golf tournament, attended by celebrities including Lynn Swann, Merril Hoge and Johnny Damon, among others, took place on Monday across the street at Sawgrass Country Club. Earlier in the day on Sunday, he and his wife, Tabitha, also hosted a baby shower for about 40 military moms-to-be at THE PLAYERS called Operation Shower.

“Certainly it is a great experience to be able to have had our event here and to have so much community to come out and support us and what we were trying to do, as far as giving back to the community,” said Tabitha Furyk, co-founder of the Jim & Tabitha Furyk Foundation. “To have Jim continue to play well after that is incredible.”

And Furyk is feeling well, too, for the first time in a while, noting that he hasn’t had a healthy season since 2015. Add in the time commitment of his Ryder Cup captaincy in 2018, and the result was less focus on his game. What the Ryder Cup did provide, however, was motivation to reenergize and return to form, which he believes has been the outcome.

“Three or four years removed from really playing my best golf, and I kind of wanted to see what I was capable of, if that makes sense,” said Furyk, who tees off Saturday at 2:30 p.m. “So I’m still in that frame of mind, and it’s been nice to put up a good tournament in the fall at Mayakoba and then came out with a 14th at Pebble, ninth place down at Honda. So I have a lot of confidence in my game right now but also still have — I've got to put myself under the gun and in the heat and get myself in contention and see how things hold up and learn from that, just like a young player again, putting myself in those situations, because I haven't been there in a while.”

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