Jim Furyk will play his first competitive round in eight months Thursday when he tees off at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club.
Furyk hasn’t played a PGA Tour event since last September when he pulled out of the BMW Championship with a wrist injury. He underwent surgery Feb. 1 and spent much of the winter and early spring attending his children’s games and practices in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Furyk didn’t start hitting his driver until two weeks ago. But surely the noted grinder and one of the tour’s best short-game players used his downtime to hone his chipping and putting, right?
“No,” Furyk deadpanned Wednesday after playing in the pro-am. “I kept a club in my hand and I chipped and putted when I had the chance. But to sit there and grind over 4-footers when I know I’m not going to play another golf tournament for eight weeks is pretty damn hard to be honest with you.”
Furyk will get that chance Thursday at a tournament he won in 2006 on a course he knows and likes. He expects to be a little rusty after the longest layoff of his career, but says he’s excited to be back.
“I felt like it was time to come out, test it out here on tour, and really the only way to get to the next step is to play in tour conditions,” Furyk said. “It won’t be firm and fast, but this golf course is going to be a lot longer than what I’ve been playing.”
Furyk, who turns 46 next week, has never been one of the tour’s long hitters. But he’s racked up $65 million in career earnings – only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh have made more – on the strength of his short game and a dogged practice approach.
“He’s a grinder. He definitely gets the most out of his game,” said Rickie Fowler, the 2012 Wells Fargo champion. “He may not be long by any means, but he’s going to fairway-and-green you to death and he’s going to get the ball up and down and he’s going to find a way to shoot the lowest score possible.
“I think that’s always been a strong part of who he is as a golfer, probably one of the best wedge and short-iron players that’s been in the game,” Fowler added. “Like I said, he’s a grinder. He finds a way to get it done.”
Furyk was ranked seventh in the world and No. 9 in the FedEx Cup standings last fall, with seven top-10 finishes. But he withdrew from the Chicago tournament during the FedEx playoffs in mid-September and took a few months off, hoping the rest would allow his left wrist to heal.
So he opted for surgery on the same wrist he had repaired in 2004, and settled in at his kids’ sporting events.
“We miss that a lot being out here on the road,” he said. “So I kind of really cherished the time at home and enjoyed it more than they probably know.”
Furyk gradually returned to the range, but says he’s still limited in how much he can practice. This week figures to be a learning experience for the 2003 U.S. Open champion.
“I’ve been hitting 7-, 8-irons into every hole or less, so scoring’s been a little easier. This one will stress me out a little bit from a length perspective,” Furyk said. “Greens are quick, so I’ll learn more this week about my game than I really did the last few weeks practicing at home, just putting it under the gun and stress in tour conditions.”
Furyk plans to play seven of the next nine weeks, including the U.S Open at Oakmont (Pa.) in June. He’s an assistant captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, so he’ll be at Hazeltine in Minnesota this fall one way or another.
But after playing in nine previous Ryder Cups, Furyk would like to make it an even 10.
“You can’t play forever,” he said. “So I really do hope that I’ve got at least another one in me.”