ATLANTA Jim Furyk hoped the question was coming and, when it did, he was glad.
A few minutes removed from putting the finishing touches on a second-round 64 that gave him a one-stroke lead over Justin Rose midway through the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club, the 42-year old was asked if he felt he needed to justify being one of the four players captain Davis Love III chose to fill out his U.S. Ryder Cup team next week in Chicago.
Love’s choices of Steve Stricker, Brandt Snedeker and Dustin Johnson were easy. Picking Furyk over Hunter Mahan, Nick Watney and Bo Van Pelt wasn’t as obvious. He didn’t play well in 2011 and kicked away chances to win the U.S. Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with calamitous final-round mistakes this year.
There were suggestions the spot should go to someone new rather than Furyk, who has an 8-15-4 record in seven previous Ryder Cup appearances. He heard it and did his best to ignore it.
“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 it 110 percent," Furyk said.
“They know I have a lot of heart. I have a lot of grit and that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve never felt like I have to justify myself. I’ve got 19 years behind me and a pretty good track record.”
Though he lacks Tiger Woods’ spectacular style and Rory McIlroy’s youthful brilliance, Furyk is a classic grinder whose game is built on consistency and tenacity. He’s meticulous in his preparation and his pre-shot routine on the greens stops and starts like a car that won’t crank. It’s not necessarily stylish but it’s made him one of the most consistently productive players over the last two decades.
In Friday’s warm early fall sunshine, Furyk had an extraordinary start, making seven consecutive threes to start his round. Walking off the seventh green, Furyk was 5-under par for the day and had catapulted over first-round co-leaders Tiger Woods (who fell back with a 73) and Rose.
Furyk made the turn in 6-under par 29 and a pair of threes to start the back side gave him nine treys in 11 holes. From there, Furyk made just one more three and dropped a shot to par, leaving him at 7-under par 133 through two rounds.
Despite his start, Furyk said he didn’t think seriously about shooting 59.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played a round where I honestly gave 59 a shot,” he said. “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 your round than (No.) 10. I was just having fun writing three on the card. I was marveling. I’ve never seen a card that pretty with all those threes.”
After watching Furyk shoot 64, his best round at a course where he won the FedEx Cup two years ago, playing partner Bubba Watson was asked about Furyk’s selection to the Ryder Cup team.
“He’s a steady player so he can make some birdies when he needs to,” Watson said. “He’s always a great player.
“There are always going to be some people that are off the team. There are always going to be people that get on the team and media attention around all of that. Whoever made the team was going to be good for us…Was that PC enough?”
Though two rounds remain, Furyk was projected into second place in the race for the $10-million FedEx Cup prize, which Rory McIlroy still leads. Woods, who had four bogeys and a double bogey over his last 11 holes, is third in the points projections after two days.