- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2007

There wasn’t any single moment Jim Furyk could point to that helped derail his chance at charging to victory at the AT&T National yesterday.

It was more like a half-dozen.

A missed 15-foot birdie try at No. 11. A shaky 7-footer at the next hole. A ball that lipped out at No. 13. A short birdie possibility gone awry at the 16th. A modest par attempt at the 17th that missed.

The one unifying theme: struggles with the putter.

“In order to win a golf tournament and keep yourself in there, you have to knock in some putts, especially when you’re eight feet and in, and I wasn’t able to do that on the back nine,” Furyk said.

Indeed, the world No. 3 sneaked up the leader board early in the round, only to fade back to 3 under and a tie for third with Stuart Appleby and Pat Perez, six shots behind winner K.J. Choi at Congressional Country Club.

It seemed for a time it might turn out quite differently.

The grinding Furyk, so at home on U.S. Open-style tracks like Old Blue, quickly started his surge. He drilled his approach shot at the first hole within 10 feet and converted the birdie. Later, he inched within two feet of the pin at No. 8 and moved to 4 under.

An extended rally appeared possible when he knocked in a 21-foot putt at No. 9 to pull within three shots of Choi and Steve Stricker, who shared the lead at 8 under at the time. But it didn’t last.

Furyk plodded along until missing the fairway at the 14th and settling for a bogey, as he did again at the 17th when his 4-foot par attempt zipped past the hole.

“I showed a lot of good signs out there, and if I knocked in a couple putts on the back nine and got some momentum going, I could have probably come close to scaring the leaders,” Furyk said. “But as it was, I didn’t. I got it to about three but couldn’t get the putts falling to get any closer.”

Instead, Furyk earned his seventh top-10 in 16 starts this season. The veteran got off to a strong start with three straight solid finishes on the West Coast, then struggled a bit when the tour moved east at the start of the spring.

That has turned around in the last six weeks, when he has tied for second at Colonial and the U.S. Open and added top-five results at Warwick Hills and Congressional.

“I felt like some of those weeks I played poorly I really wasn’t playing that bad,” Furyk said of his spring. “I was just struggling to get the ball in the hole and struggling to score. For whatever reason — lack of patience, a few weeks it was poor putting, [I] really just kept plugging along and tried to believe in myself.”

It showed dividends during an up-and-down week at Congressional. After sharing the first-round lead with Choi and three others, he ballooned to a 74 to fall out of contention.

Still, he rebounded with a 68-69 finish, one of only five players to record a pair of below-par rounds after the cut. It should also set him up well for the British Open later this month at Carnoustie, especially if he corrects his troubles with his putting before then.

“I played well this weekend,” Furyk said. “[Saturday], I got a lot out of my round to shoot 2 under. I didn’t really feel like played particularly great, but I put the ball in play and scored well. Today was a little bit the opposite. I really hit the ball well today and felt like I had an opportunity to shoot a low number and only got 1 under out of it.”

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