The Tim Clark story is a good one. Good player, past Players Champion, elbow injury and surgery threatens his career until one weekend in 2014 in the province of Quebec, he goes 64-65, 30 on his inward nine on the Sunday, with eight consecutive one-putts and wins the Royal Canadian Open by one stroke for his first PGA Tour win in four years. Nice tale, that.
Except, he's not the story.
The sad case of Jim Furyk is the story.
Never has a guy who is ranked fourth on the money list with a cool $4.1 million by July's end invoked so much sympathy. Furyk has made a lot of dough because he keeps playing deep into Sundays. But Furyk keeps playing deep into Sundays, and falling tragically short, time and time again.
He blew a three-shot lead on Sunday at the Canadian Open, and he blew it by stalling out with a string of pars en route to an ordinary 69 while Clark blew by him in the fast lane, briefly tooting his horn and thanking Furyk for letting him play through. This development is part of a pattern.
With Sunday's runner-up finish, Furyk now owns three on the season, having done so at Quail Hollow and at the Players Championship, too. In those cases, he put on furious Sunday charges and nearly forced playoffs out of the eventual winners, J.B. Holmes at Quail Hollow and Martin Kaymer at Sawgrass. At the time, I wrote that Furyk was having an impressive comeback season, showing his competitive drive to be alive and well, and having the kind of year Phil Mickelson, his fellow 44-year-old, would be jealous of.
And here he was again in Canada, rifling golf balls from fairway to green over and over, including a Friday 63. This time, there would be no Sunday charge. This time, he would protect a lead. Surely, with a three-stroke lead on Sunday morning, Furyk would close the door. He'd get the win on sheer tenacity, vintage Furyk-style, shout-out the Canadiens and their Stanley Cup aspirations to further ingratiate himself with the masses, and jet back to the States having proved that he is the ultimate grinder, winning despite all the previous near-misses.
Except, the 69, and Clark's 65, and here we are. And we're doubting Furyk's status as the ultimate grinder. Right now, sadly, he appears to be the ultimate guy who in his mid-40s appears to be watching the game's finest glories slip just out of his reach.
Now, instead of glorifying those heroic runs at Quail Hollow and Sawgrass, we're dusting off the statistic of the seven – seven! – 54-hole leads or co-leads since his last win in 2010 (the Tour Championship) that Furyk has failed to finish off.
The 2014 Canadian Open joins the 2013 BMW Championship (Sunday 71 for Furyk; won by Zach Johnson), the 2013 PGA Championship (Sunday 71 for Furyk; won by Jason Dufner), the 2012 Transitions Championship (Sunday 69 for Furyk; won by Luke Donald in a playoff), the 2012 U.S. Open (Sunday 74 for Furyk, won by Webb Simpson), the 2012 WGC Bridgestone (final round 69 for Furyk, won by Keegan Bradley), and the 2012 McGladrey Classic (final round 69 for Furyk, won by Tommy Gainey, who shot 60!) in the Hall of Near-Miss for Jim Furyk.
That doesn't even include his hard-to-describe bogey-bogey finish at the 2012 Ryder Cup, seeing a 1-up lead through 16 vanish vs. Sergio Garcia in a 1-down loss that was central to the U.S. collapse at Medinah. To think, Furyk could very well make this year's Ryder Cup team, too.
You'll note that other than the 2013 PGA, where his 71 was 1-over, and the 2012 U.S. Open, where his 74 was poor, he hasn't hugely stunk it up in these Sunday "failures." He just doesn't have the extra gear that his fellow world-class players have, and it must leave him wondering why he chose to ply his trade in a sport where, on any given Sunday, some golf pro is going to unleash the fury on a scorecard and leave everyone in the dust. Remember, you can't play defense in golf.
And there is the sports theory that to blow seven 54-hole leads or co-leads means you have to be pretty good. It means you have owned seven 54-hole leads or co-leads, which on the PGA Tour ain't chopped liver. Why is it, some sports opiners have asked, the player who misses the cut gets less scorn than the player who misses out on glory by one stroke?
It's an interesting question. But something about our nature as sports fans means the Buffalo Bills get head shakes for four Super Bowl losses and the Atlanta Braves get questioned for only one World Series title in 14 straight playoff appearances. We're a winners-only society. Tough deal. Jim Furyk winds up on the short end in the harsh court of public sports opinion.
SCORECARD OF THE WEEK
Holy Tiger Woods-at-Pebble-in-2000, Batman. Bernhard Langer just smoked every single one of the world's best players 50 years and older.
He won the major championship by 13 strokes. Thirteen! No senior major has ever been won by that much. Colin Montgomerie, at 5-under, was the only speck in Langer's rear-view mirror, and knowing Langer, he saw the speck on the rear-view mirror and calmly and stoically brushed it off his mirror.
Incredibly, his margin of victory beat the record by only one stroke, as Hale Irwin, back when he was obliterating senior fields, won the 1997 PGA Championship by a dozen strokes. Previously, the record was seven strokes. Knowing Irwin, he's hacked off that Langer beat his record. Knowing Langer, he is wholly unaffected by Irwin's theoretical rage. Langer doesn't do drama. He just golfs his ball.
Asked to explain his dominance, Langer said his driver was good and his long putting was excellent and that he didn't make too many mistakes.
A random check of players you thought might have won the Senior British Open: Fred Couples finished tie-13th … 22 shots back. Tom Watson finished tie-10th … 20 shots back. Miguel Angel Jimenez finished tie-8th … 19 shots back.
So what we have here, sports fans, is Martin Kaymer as U.S. Open champion, Bernhard Langer laughing at the field at the Senior British and, oh by the way, Germany as World Cup soccer champ, dusting host Brazil, 7-1, along the way. Hoist those 84-ounce beer steins at your nearest Fest. Tis the summer of Deutschland.
MULLIGAN OF THE WEEK
Furyk may rue any number of moments from Sunday, including his bogey on No. 4 and, of course, his missed 15-footer on the 72nd hole that would have forced a playoff.
But he had a dynamite chance on No. 14, a 7-footer for birdie to fight back against Clark's birdie barrage. His main man, Fluff Cowan, crouched behind the hole like a big-league catcher, giving Furyk extensive verbal input. Furyk did his lengthy study of the putt, as he always does, and seemed to be engaged with Fluff. Ian Baker-Finch praised the teamwork. Fluff popped out of his crouch and cleared the stage for Furyk.
Furyk made his run … and power-lipped the putt out. No birdie. No fight back vs. Clark. Clark would make birdie and tie up Furyk. The writing was on the Titleist.
So let's go back out to No. 14, remind Furyk that this is precisely the kind of moment that has eluded him in the last four years, maybe ask Fluff one more question about grain, break and read, and … give that man a mulligan!
BROADCAST MOMENT OF THE WEEK
"Suspenseful finish here at Royal Montreal." – Jim Nantz, CBS, as Clark and Furyk approached the 18th green.
Except, it wasn't.
Three hours earlier, Twitter, PGATour.com and others told us exactly who'd won. CBS was the victim of a weather-influenced early start time, and the Canadian Open finished well before its scheduled time. Clark's scurry past Furyk en route to victory was in the books before CBS' noon-to-3 Pacific time broadcast window had even reached the end of the first hour.
In the era of social media, CBS looked like your old neighbor who says to you, "I'm sorry I didn't receive your phone call. I don't own a mobile and my answering machine is on the fritz."
In times like this, CBS has to show some flexibility. Move some things around. Broadcast it live. Or, give The Golf Channel sole rights to broadcast the finish live. I know there are probably tons of corporate and advertising reasons why it had to be the way it was, but CBS showing us old news made it seem, well, old.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Fun stuff ahead, golf fans. We start August with the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational, where pretty much only the cool kids show up. Nobody's cooler than British Open champ Rory McIlroy right now, and this will be his first appearance, post-hangover, since earning the Claret Jug at Hoylake. Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson … you name him, he'll be there.
That includes the defending champ. Guy named Tiger Woods. That was last year, when he was PGA Tour Player of the Year. Won five times. Seems about two lifetimes ago.