SONY OPEN GOLF
Jim Furyk, who owns a home off the 18th fairway of the Plantation Course on Maui, missed the Mercedes Championships for the first time last year.
Good as new
Jim Furyk is shooting for the pin after an injury- plagued 2004 season
PLEASE don't ask Jim Furyk about his wrist. What was once broken is now fixed. Better than before. No cause for concern. Appreciate your interest.
Of course, the first question asked last week to Furyk as he prepares for 2006 was about the injury from 2004 that resulted in surgery after only eight tournaments and left him winless from the 2003 Buick Open until the Cialis Western Open in Chicago last July.
It was nearly a two-year drought that left one of the world's most consistent golfers wondering if he had kissed his last trophy good-bye.
"Well, more than anything, and I said it when I won, I didn't have to answer questions about how my health was anymore," Furyk said as he prepares for this week's Sony Open in Hawaii.
"I honestly have not gotten one question from the media since I won in Chicago about how my wrist was, is my game the same, are you the same player. I kind of said I was looking forward to winning a golf tournament to quit hearing the question maybe more than I was to actually winning the event.
"It was nice. But for a while there, I had some close calls. I kept hearing, 'You haven't gotten over the hump, you haven't won, you haven't done this, haven't done that. You're playing well, but how is your health?' It was a little bit of a relief. I definitely had the tape-recorder going, giving the same answer out a lot."
At 35, Furyk would like nothing better than to get stuck on the question of how he regained his winning form. Prior to the surgery in 2004, Furyk had nine victories on tour, including the U.S. Open in 2003, the Mercedes Championships in 2001 and the United Airlines Hawaiian Open in 1996.
He tried to heal his wrist with rest for a while in 2004, but eventually learned surgery was the only option. Now, he can concentrate on winning again. Furyk came close last week, placing third behind winner Stuart Appleby and runner-up Vijay Singh, and is a perfect choice to tame the winds at Waialae this week.
During the offseason, he chipped in from 15 feet at the second playoff hole to win the Sun City Challenge in South Africa. He beat out Darren Clarke, Retief Goosen and Adam Scott for the win in December, prompting someone to ask him whether he had enough of a break before the start of 2006.
"Probably not," Furyk said. "Usually, I get a couple of three-week gaps in there before the season starts. I'm going to take some time off after Sony, then return for AT&T. I'll be charged up and ready to go by then."
After his injury-plagued season in 2004, Furyk didn't qualify for the winners-only Mercedes in 2005 for the first time since it moved to Maui in 1999. Having a home off the 18th fairway, Furyk was here last year for the event, but only as a TV commentator. It was hard, but that difficult stretch is behind him.
"You know, it's part of it," Furyk said. "I made my peace with 2004 when the year ended. I only had half a year, so I spent the first part of that half just trying to get comfortable and feel good about my game. I actually played better than I expected.
"Once I got that under my belt, I only had six weeks left, so I started pressing, I started trying too hard. I wanted things to happen, instead of letting them happen. I played poorly because of it. I realized I wasn't going to be here for the Mercedes because I had really approached it poorly at the end of the year. It ended. I was actually happy to see it end."
Things are certainly better for this Sony Open than last year's. Still bothered by health issues, he wound up tied for 33rd. That's a number he expects to improve upon in the coming days.
"I think every year I've learned something," Furyk said. "You go through peaks and valleys with your game; where you have a lot of confidence, not so much confidence. In 2005, I won one tournament, had a lot of close calls (four seconds), finished high on the money list (fourth with $4.26 million), but that year wasn't as good as 2003 when I won twice and won a major championship.
"That was probably the best year of my career. I think there's always things you can learn and improve on, whether it's something about your swing, whether it's something about your game, mentally, preparation. Those are the little things I'm talking about. I'm always striving to find ways to improve."
Waialae Country Club
7,060 yards, Par 70
Established in the late 1920s, the Waialae Country Club sits between the majestic Koolau mountain range on the north and blue Pacific Ocean on the south and serves as a verdant playing field for its members and for the world's greatest professional golfers once a year.
On land acquired from the Isenberg family, the Waialae Golf Course was designed by San Francisco architect Seth Raynor and opened for play in 1927. It was first groomed as an amenity for the guests of Waikiki's Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
The 40-year-old Isenberg home became the first clubhouse for the golf course. Competitive tournament play began immediately also when the first Hawaiian Open was held there in 1928.
Waialae, over seven decades has hosted major golfing events and since 1965 has been the prime and only venue for the annual official Hawaiian PGA Tour tournament.
The Waialae Golf Course, more than 7,000 yards long displayed a new look in 1999 as PGA Tour-designated enhancements were put in place for the PGA Tour official event, the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Mamao Distant Par 4, 488 yards
This hole was originally designed in 1927 by Seth Raynor with the famous Road hole of St. Andrews, Scotland, in mind. A new forward tee has been built on the left so that this former par-5 hole will play as sort of a par-4 1/2. Depending on the wind the second shot to a very shallow green that is guarded in front by a huge, deep bunker can be played with anything from a 3-wood to a 9-iron.
'Alae, Mud Hen Par 3, 189 yards
The signature hole bears the name of the Sony Open fire-bird of Hawaiian lore. It is a very difficult par-3 requiring a long or middle iron. Recently, the green was restored to the original Seth Raynor design, a classic Redan-style green with a large bunker on the left and a series of four deep, hidden bunkers guarding the right.
Lalau, Go Astray Par 4, 459 yards
A prevailing left-to-right wind blows straight toward the out-of-bounds fence on the right. A well-placed drive between a new fairway bunker on the left and trees on the right will leave the golfer a short iron shot to a green protected on both sides by bunkers.
Kilou Loa, A Long Hook Par 5, 551 yards
The tournament can be won on this hole as Isao Aoki proved in 1983 when he holed his approach shot from 128 yards away for an eagle. A huge bunker is situated at the turn on this easily-reachable dog-leg left par-5 and makes the drive off the tee as important as any. Driving the ball into the rough or the bunker makes it harder to get an eagle but a birdie is not out of the question.
Source: Waialae Country Club
Ones to Watch
Won the Mercedes Championships for the third straight year when he beat Vijay Singh in a playoff at Kapalua last week.
Has nine victories on the PGA Tour, including three last year.
Pocketed a career-best $2,830,046 last year; is the oldest winner of the PLAYERS Championship at 48.
Captured his first major championship in 2003 when he won the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields near Chicago.
Won the Sony Open in 2001 after missing the cut in his debut at Waialae a year earlier.
Has three victories on the PGA Tour, including the 2004 PLAYERS Championship, and five wins playing internationally.