Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Furyk flies into first

Birdies seven of first 10, has one-shot lead in final event

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ATLANTA -- Jim Furyk, the only American on the Ryder Cup team without a win this year, put himself in position Friday to join them.

Furyk made seven birdies through 10 holes at East Lake -- including seven 3s to start the round -- until he missed a few greens on the back nine that slowed his momentum. He wound up with a 6-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Justin Rose going into the weekend at the Tour Championship.

As for anyone questioning whether Furyk should have been a pick for the Ryder Cup?

He was more bothered by missing a 5-foot par putt on the 18th hole than what anyone thinks about his game or being in the Ryder Cup for the eighth straight time. With 16 wins, including a U.S. Open, and having qualified for every U.S. team since 1997, Furyk stopped believing he had to prove himself a long time ago.

"Look at the way I play golf -- the way I swing the golf club and grip the putter," he said. "Look at the way I go about my business. I don't hit the ball very far. I'm short. If I really cared what the critics thought the last 19 years, I really wouldn't be here. ... My teammates know that I'm going to give 110 per cent. They know I have a lot of heart. I have a lot of grit, and that's what I'm going to do.

"But I've never felt like I have to justify myself."

All he cares about is winning the Tour Championship, with an outside shot at the FedEx Cup title and its $10 million bonus. Furyk was at 7-under 133 on a course where he won just two years ago.

Rose, who shared the 18-hole lead with Tiger Woods, made four birdies on the back nine and holed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 68.

Woods went the other direction.

The lone bright spot was a bunker shot that was among the best he has ever hit. With a quarter of the ball below the surface of the sand from a fairway bunker on the third hole, he caught a 9-iron so perfectly that it came out low and ran across the green to 6 feet for birdie.

The rest of the day was forgettable -- a muffed pitch from a bad lie on No. 8 that led to double bogey, and a series of bad swings that put him in bad positions on the back nine and led to four bogeys. He had to scramble for par on the 18th for a 73, his worst score at East Lake in 14 years, dating to a 76 in the second round in 1998.

"I didn't play very good today. Didn't hit it very good, and definitely didn't putt well," Woods said. "So it was a struggle all day."

Woods was six shots behind.

Bo Van Pelt made three bogeys on the last four holes and still had a 68 that put him two shots behind at 135, along with Masters champion Bubba Watson (66). Dustin Johnson, who had to summon his college teammate from Coastal Carolina to caddie for him when his regular had back problems, had a 67 and was another shot back, along with Georgia Tech alum Matt Kuchar (69).

The caddie was Cameron Hooper, perhaps the only caddie to ever wear topsiders and no socks. He wasn't expecting to do anything but watch. Johnson played with Garcia, who uses a CBS Sports spotter for his caddie.

Rory McIlroy, who is leading the FedEx Cup, had a 68 and was only four shots behind. He still has the best shot at the $10 million bonus, though he remains far more interested in winning his third straight tournament, and fourth in his last five starts. McIlroy was fortunate not to tumble down the leaderboard, but he scrambled for par on three of five holes at the start of his round, and made up plenty of ground with a 40-foot eagle putt on the 15th.

"I just have to try to think of my standing in this golf tournament, not really think about anything else," he said.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2012 C6

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