In a second round when 18-hole co-leader Tiger Woods struggled all day and Rory McIlroy saved a so-so round with an eagle on the par-5 15th, Ryder Cup captain's pick Jim Furyk fired a 6-under 64 that bounced him to the head of the class in the Tour Championship.
The 2010 FedEx Cup winner, who entered the week after a missed cut at The Barclays, a T13 finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship, and a solo ninth at the BMW Championship, conceded he was playing with a whole lot less angst since receiving the invitation from Davis Love III to join his 2012 Ryder Cup squad.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t play freer at the BMW and here at the Tour Championship,” Furyk told Golf Channel about how learning his fate the day after the TPC Boston finale had positively affected his game.
“You know, the Barclays and Deutsche Bank [before Love announced his wild-card options] were tough on everyone,” said Furyk. “There’s probably eight really good picks vying for four spots. [Brandt Snedeker] and Dustin [Johnson] did the best to handle that pressure and [played] really well under the gun. [Steve Stricker] and I played solid and was thankful that I got the nod from the captain.”
Furyk, who said he cared not a whit what anyone but his teammates and captain had to say about his play, which this year included heart-breaking losses at the U.S. Open and Bridgestone Invitational, received a boost from one of those inside the Ryder Cup huddle.
“He’s basically two swings away from being probably in the top five in [Ryder Cup] points,” Woods said, referring to Furyk’s final-round collapses at The Olympic Club and Firestone.
“For him, being picked is not that controversial to us as players,” noted Woods, pointedly suggesting that the players paid no attention to those outside the locker room who criticized Love for naming Furyk to the unit. “He’s been one of the stalwarts of our teams since ’97.... Phil [Mickelson] and myself and Jim, we’ve been on every team together so ... he’s been so solid and rock steady.
“He’s a great team player and he’s playing well,” added Woods, who reminded listeners that Furyk went an undefeated 5-0 in last year’s Presidents Cup matches. “This is what he can do.”
While next week’s Ryder Cup was not far from the thoughts of many at East Lake, Woods contended he was not one of them -- especially when it came to rampant speculation that he and his young friend and rival, McIlroy, could end up facing each other in Sunday’s singles finals.
“That’s so far away from our minds right now,” Woods said. “We’re all trying to win this event. This is our Tour Championship, our season-ending event, and we’re trying to win it.”
Furyk, by the way, will head into the weekend at 7-under, one stroke better than Woods’ first-round co-leader, Justin Rose. Woods, at 1-under after faltering on Friday, shared 12th place and looked up at McIlroy, who finished the second round in a tie for seventh at 3-under.
Also in the mix was reigning Masters champ Bubba Watson, who climbed into a tie for third with Bo Van Pelt after posting a 66 on Friday.