With the BMW Championship up for grabs on a fall-like Monday afternoon in Chica- goland, the plot hinged not on a historic score or histrionic rules infraction but a
golfer working hard and working well. That’s what Zach
Johnson, 37, has done over a successful career, and that’s
what he did at Conway Farms GC, shooting a six-under 65
to overtake a fading Jim Furyk, whose finish was as flat as
his second-round 59 had been fantastic.
Perhaps the Vikings-colored sweater Furyk wore in Bears
territory after heavy rain pushed the third FedEx Cup Playoffs event to an extra day was bad karma. Maybe it is simply
the burden, at age 43, of having now failed to win for the sixth
straight time since early 2012 when holding at least a share
of the 54-hole lead. Tampa and San Francisco and Akron and
St. Simons Island and Rochester, meet Lake Forest, Ill.
“I definitely put some more pressure on myself, and that’ll
be part of the mental game and mental aspect of it tomorrow,” Furyk said of his recent failures Saturday evening
when he led fellow fortysomething Steve Stricker by one
stroke. Tiger Woods was lurking too, four behind after receiving a ballyhooed penalty about the same time Furyk was
signing for his 59.
But Johnson was also well positioned through 54 holes,
trailing by three, having first seen the Tom Fazio-designed
course 16 years ago competing at the NCAA Championship
for Drake. It was too much for him then (he had a first-round
81) but not Monday when he closed with a back-nine 33 to
finish at 16-under 268, two strokes ahead of Nick Watney and
three better than the 54-hole leader to claim his 10th career
PGA Tour win.
Furyk led by two after birdieing the 10th hole, but bogeys
on Nos. 11, 13 and 16 did serious damage to his attempt to win
for the first time since the 2010 Tour Championship. Johnson
did the rest, seizing an opportunity with birdies on the 12th,
16th and 17th holes—none more pivotal than rolling in a
19-footer from off the green at No. 16 to take the lead.
“I didn’t knock in enough putts,” said Furyk. “I hit some
good ones that didn’t go in and a couple of bad ones. I don’t
know if I used them all up on Friday or not, but Strick and I
had a hard time getting it going on the greens today.”
Furyk needed only 23 putts to shoot his 59, the sixth on the
PGA Tour and first since Stuart Appleby did it at the 2010
Greenbrier Classic. The round was a true gem, a 12-under score
on an afternoon when the wind blew 10 to 15 miles per hour with
occasional stronger gusts. No one else shot lower than 65, there
were only 16 rounds in the 60s and the field average was 71.1.
Furyk hit every fairway and missed only one green.
“On 18 I saw a [scoreboard indicating] that he needed a
birdie on the last hole to shoot 59, and I thought, ‘What the
heck, are you serious?’ ” said Brandt Snedeker. “There’s no
way. I don’t think anybody out here saw that score coming.”
Caddie Mike (Fluff) Cowan got interested when Furyk
birdied his 13th hole to go 11 under. A bogey at the next hole
could have been a costly blemish, but Furyk rebounded
with a birdie on No. 7. At the ninth, one of his many stellar
approaches—he averaged 16 feet from the hole—left him just
three feet, three inches from a piece of history.
History Embraced: After a three-foot birdie putt on Conway Farms’
ninth hole secured the PGA Tour’s
sixth 59, Furyk and Cowan hug
following the remarkable round.