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Thursday, August 2, 2012
Updated: August 3, 8:21 PM ET
Furyk's Cup chances could use boost

By Bob Harig
ESPN.com

AKRON, Ohio -- The point was understood, and the passion with which he made it left no doubt that Jim Furyk is not ready to miss out on a Ryder Cup. It's just that, well, he was a tad off when answering the question.

"I know exactly where I stand,'' said Furyk, who leads the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational through two rounds and looks to improve his chances of making the U.S. Ryder Cup team. "I'm 14th in points.''

He's actually 15th, but he's nevertheless well outside the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot that will be decided at the conclusion of next week's PGA Championship.

And for Furyk, 42, that is a big deal. He has played on every U.S. Ryder Cup team, starting with the 1997 matches in Spain, and has never missed a Presidents Cup during that stretch, either.

Now he finds himself on the outside, needing a couple big weeks to make the team on his own. Even if he wins the Bridgestone, he will not earn enough points to move into the top eight.

"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't on my mind and it hadn't crossed my mind,'' said Furyk, whose rounds of 63 and 66 at Firestone Country Club give him a 2-shot advantage over Spain's Rafael Cabrera Bello through 36 holes. "I've played on the last seven teams. Eventually in my career I'm going to miss playing on those teams, and I'm hoping it's not this year.

"... I'm also wise enough to know that it's there in the back parts of my mind right now, and I know the only way to take care of business is to really focus on golf and the next shot and the next round and kind of forget about it and just try to play as well as I can and let those things work themselves out.''

First things first, Furyk would love to win this World Golf Championship event. The last of his 16 PGA Tour victories came at the 2010 Tour Championship, where he also clinched the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup and was that season's player of the year.

There have been bouts of inconsistency, some equipment issues and struggles, causing Furyk to drop in the world rankings, although he has risen back to 34th. He lost in a playoff at the Transitions Championship earlier this year and gained numerous Ryder Cup points with his T-4 finish at the U.S. Open.

But he has had four lackluster tournaments since -- including two missed cuts -- and finds himself having to scramble to make the team for the eighth straight time.

The top six in the Ryder Cup point standings are Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar and are all but assured of making the team. Phil Mickelson is seventh, followed by Hunter Mahan, who has won twice this year but has contended rarely since his victory at the Shell Houston Open the week prior to the Masters.

Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker and Dustin Johnson round out the top 12, with Steve Stricker 13th, Bo Van Pelt 14th and Furyk 15th.

The top eight automatically make the team, then captain Davis Love will make four at-large selections on Sept. 4 for the Sept. 28-30 matches at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago.

"You just have to try and not put any extra pressure on yourself,'' said Furyk, who has played on the last two U.S. Ryder Cup teams. "Play well, but sometimes it's a negative when you go in there telling yourself you have to play well because you need the points. That's a not a good situation. You just have to kind of do your own thing.''

Players earn one point for every $1,000 earned on the PGA Tour, with the points doubled at the major championships. With $1.4 million going to the winner this week, Furyk could get 1,400 points, which would not be enough to pass Mahan -- who will earn points this week at the no-cut Bridgestone.

But a victory would get him close, and it would put him in position to move into the top eight next week at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course, site of the PGA. Stricker, too, is in position to make a move as he is tied for eighth at the Bridgestone along with Bradley, while Dustin Johnson is tied for 12th.

Regardless of how it shakes out, Love will have a tough decision to make. But does he leave Furyk off the team if he is not among the top eight?

Jim Furyk
Jim Furyk owns a 2-shot lead at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after 36 holes, but there's much work left to do, both this weekend and to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

While Furyk is 8-15-4 in his seven Ryder Cup appearances, having played on just two winning teams, he also has played on seven Presidents Cup teams that have never lost. Last year in Australia, he led the Americans with a 5-0 record in a format that is similar to the Ryder Cup.

Stricker also appears a good bet because of a good partnership in the 2009 Presidents Cup and 2010 Ryder Cup with Woods. Both Furyk and Stricker have been good partners for Woods.

Fowler was a rookie on the 2010 team but didn't make the Presidents Cup squad last year. Bradley probably has to make the team on his own after not getting a pick for the Presidents Cup team a year ago. Snedeker is intriguing, even as a rookie, because he is an excellent putter, something that has long held the Americans back in the Ryder Cup.

Dustin Johnson is hard to ignore because of his skill and length but has not performed well in either the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.

"I love the opportunity to represent your country and to play in the Ryder Cup,'' Furyk said. "I've been able to do it seven times, and I [don't] know how many more times it'll be, but it's a wonderful experience and the camaraderie and the pressure that you get to play under. ... It's something that I strive to do every other year. I want to make it on that team.''

Furyk is doing a lot at Firestone to help his cause. He has made 12 birdies, an eagle and just three bogeys through two rounds. Only Cabrera Bello and Louis Oosthuizen are within 3 strokes of his lead.

But 36 holes remain and Furyk knows it is best not to be thinking too much about the Ryder Cup -- even though he is fully aware of what is at stake.

"I'm wise enough to know what my situation is, wise enough to know where I stand, but the only thing I can do to help it is to play well,'' he said. "So I'm focused on playing well and nothing else.''