Thursday, September 20, 2012 Updated: September 21, 9:17 PM ET
Furyk makes his case at East Lake
By Bob Harig ESPN.com
ATLANTA -- Professional golfers have seen just about everything, good and bad. Through the numerous pro-am rounds played with amateurs, they get a glimpse of the ugly. And throughout tournament play, they witness some incredible golf.
But even Jim Furyk found himself in awe while looking at his scorecard Friday at East Lake Golf Club, a slew of 3s appearing as beautiful as a number can look.
"I was just having fun writing '3' on the card. I was marveling,'' Furyk said. "I've never seen a card that pretty, with all those 3s. It was nice.''
Critics thought Jim Furyk shouldn't be on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Since his selection, he finished ninth at the BMW Championship and leads by a shot halfway through the Tour Championship.
Furyk, 42, began his second round of the Tour Championship with seven consecutive 3s, had nine through 11 holes and 10 total. Despite bogeys at three of his last six holes, Furyk shot 6-under-par 64 to take the lead at the Tour Championship, where he won his last PGA Tour event two years ago.
"Watching that, you kind of forget about your round and what's going on,'' said Bubba Watson, who played alongside Furyk.
The 2010 FedEx Cup champion -- who would have an outside shot at that title and the $10 million bonus with a victory here -- shot 29 on the front nine. For a time, he flirted with golf's Holy Grail, a 59, before settling for the 6-under score that put him 1 stroke ahead of Justin Rose through 36 holes.
First-round co-leader Tiger Woods fell 6 strokes back and into a tie for 12th after a 73 that saw him make a double-bogey and five bogeys.
"I didn't play very good today,'' said Woods, who hit only 11 greens and needed 32 putts. "Didn't hit it very good and definitely didn't putt well. So it was a struggle all day.''
Not for Furyk, especially not starting out. Through seven holes, he had five birdies and both pars came on par-3s. He added a birdie at the ninth, a par-5, and another at the 10th before slowing down.
Still, it put him in position to get a victory that has proven to be elusive this year.
He lost in a playoff at the Transitions Championship, let the U.S. Open slip away when he was tied for the lead with three holes to play, then double-bogeyed the final hole at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational to lose by 1 stroke to Keegan Bradley.
Tour Championship Leaderboard
1. Furyk (-7)
2. Rose (-6)
T-3. Watson (-5)
T-3. Van Pelt (-5)
T-5. Johnson (-4)
T-5. Kuchar (-4)
• Complete scores
Those stumbles, along with an indifferent Ryder Cup record, had some questioning his pick as an at-large selection by captain Davis Love III. Furyk will play on his eighth Ryder Cup team next week at Medinah.
Furyk said he was glad the subject came up, even though he claims to not be aware of any negativity surrounding his pick.
"Look at the way I play golf,'' Furyk said. "The way I swing the golf club and grip the putter. Look at the way I go about my business. I don't hit the ball very far. I'm short. If I really cared what the critics thought the last 19 years, I really wouldn't be here.
"As far as justifying myself, I'm going to play well, I'm going to play bad. Whatever it may be at the Ryder Cup, my teammates know that I'm going to give 110 percent. They know I have a lot of heart. I have a lot of grit, and that's what I'm going to do. But I've never felt like I had to justify myself.''
Woods, for one, figures Furyk need offer no apologies.
"If you think about it, he's basically two swings away from probably being in the top five in points,'' Woods said of Furyk, who finished 11th in the final standings, with the top eight qualifying automatically. (If Furyk had won the U.S. Open and Bridgestone, he'd have led the U.S. points.)
"Him being picked is not controversial to us as players. To some it might be, who are outside of the team. Since '97, he's been on every team with Phil [Mickelson] and myself. He's been solid and so rock steady. He's a great team player and he's playing well.''
Watson, who will play in his second Ryder Cup, talked about it with Furyk during the round and was surprised to learn that Furyk is playing in it for the eighth time. He's also never missed a Presidents Cup during that period and went 5-0 for the Americans at Royal Melbourne last November.
"Obviously, his experience is pretty good,'' this year's Masters champion said. "He's a great player, and there are always going to be some people that are off the team. Whoever made the team was going to be good for us.
The Tour Championship
The Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta is the last of four FedEx Cup Playoff events. Each player in the 30-man field can win the $10 million bonus prize. ESPN.com Topics brings you full event coverage. Profile »
"He brings leadership, focus, drive, determination. Obviously, he's been around the block. He's won, he's lost, he's done it all. He's cried at a few. At Wales, he was picking up for Hunter [Mahan, who lost the final match]. So he brings leadership. That's the quarterback of the team.''
For now, Furyk is focused on getting his 17th PGA Tour victory. He's annoyed at himself for failing to follow up on his career year of 2010 and for failing to win earlier this year when chances presented themselves.
At the moment, a win would not get him the FedEx Cup -- Rory McIlroy, who is tied for seventh, would win the overall title if the leaderboard remained exactly as it is now -- but that's OK, too.
Winning the tournament would be plenty.
"I haven't closed the door [in tournaments this year] and I have to be reminded, whether it's my teacher or my caddie or my wife or whoever it may be, that you're playing well, be patient, let it happen,'' he said.
Perhaps it will this weekend at East Lake, where Love's pick of Furyk is looking pretty strong at the moment.