BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) — Teeing it up in one U.S. Open is challenging. Competing in two Opens on consecutive weeks is twice as troublesome.
Jim Furyk will complete the daunting USGA double this week. The 2003 U.S. Open winner will follow an abbreviated appearance at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, with defense of his title at the 42nd U.S. Senior Open at Saucon Valley Country Club’s Old Course.
The 52-year-old Furyk missed the cut by a stroke at last week’s national championship with rounds of 74 and 71. It was his first trip back to the site of the dramatic 1999 Ryder Cup, where he was part of the American team that rallied on the final day for a one-point victory over Europe.
Furyk has given plenty of thought to playing back-to-back Opens.
“I’ve been a little worried just about energy and making sure I didn’t wear myself out this week,” he said. “The U.S. Open kind of takes a lot out of you both mentally and physically because it is so demanding.
“But that being said, the conditions last week … that’s all really good preparation coming into this week. This one’s not going to sneak up on me, put it that way.”
Furyk returns to his native Pennsylvania as one of eight winners of both the U.S. and Senior Opens. He counts himself lucky to be mentioned among some of golf’s greatest champions, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin, Billy Casper and Orville Moody.
“It’s special,” Furyk said. “I won one major in my career, so winning at Olympia Fields is kind of the crowning moment of my career personally. And then to come out here on the Champions Tour and win my first Senior Open and be able to add that to the record books, that is a lot of fun, special and meant a lot to me.”
Furyk had the chance to share the emotional experience of winning the ’03 Open with his dad and coach, Mike, on Father’s Day. Last year at Omaha Country Club, he struggled early in the final round with a bogey and double bogey on the second and third holes, losing most of his four-stroke lead. That time, Furyk got to experience another special father-son dynamic with his son, Tanner.
“A funny moment, I saw my son … after I made the double at three, and he looked extremely nervous,” Furyk said. “I mean he looked like he wanted to throw up. And that kind of made me laugh. … He looked exactly how I felt. It just kind of lightened me up.”
Furyk steadied his game — and calmed his son’s distress — and went on to finish at 7 under, three strokes ahead of two-time U.S. Open champ Retief Goosen and ’03 Masters winner Mike Weir.
Saucon Valley will present a typical Open test, with a premium on accuracy off the tee to avoid the deep, gnarly rough and set up manageable approaches to its speedy, sloping greens.
Founded in 1920 by local businessmen, most from Bethlehem Steel, Saucon Valley is hosting its eighth USGA championship and is the first to present three Senior Opens. Larry Laoretti (1992) and Irwin (2000) are the previous winners.
Furyk, raised in nearby Lancaster County, got his first look at Saucon Valley last month and was impressed with the the Herbert Strong design that’ll play 300 yards longer than the 2000 event, at just over 7,000 yards and a par 71. He believes the layout’s greatest defense is its greens, especially with a few lengthy par-4 holes that will require long irons into smaller putting surfaces.
“The difficulty is really on the greens; the greens have some teeth,” the 17-time PGA Tour and two-time PGA Tour Champions winner said.
Two-time U.S. Open champ Ernie Els agreed that putting will likely be the difference this week.
“Putting is going to be a factor,” said Els, who won the Open in 1994 adn 1997. “It’s always been a factor for me. In a U.S. Open, you’ve got to get those putts in the hole, especially the cleanup putts. It’s tough to get putts within four or five feet here because of the slope, so the hole-out putts you’ve got to be good at.
“That comes down to also ball striking. … When you get it out of play you’re going to be struggling to get the ball where it needs to be, and that’s where putting becomes a factor again.”
The 156-golfer field includes plenty of marquee names, like U.S. Open winners Goosen, Lee Janzen and Michael Campbell. Previous Senior Open champs competing include Bernhard Langer (2010), Colin Montgomerie (2014), Steve Stricker (2019) and David Toms (2018).
Others teeing it up in the 90th USGA championship to be held in Pennsylvania are PGA Tour Champions stalwarts Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jerry Kelly, along with over-50 set rookie David Duval and New Zealand’s Steven Alker, the winner of last month’s Senior PGA Championship.
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