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New No. 2 Furyk headed in the right direction

There was a time earlier this year when it was easy to question Jim Furyk. He was the first to admit that his solid play was not resulting in victories.

There had been only six top-10 finishes since his last victory, in 2005, and a career that included just one major championship was falling short of greatness.

Then he got a playoff victory at the Wachovia Championship, and everything changed. It came after a disappointing loss at the Verizon Classic, where he finished second to Aaron Baddeley but should have won. And it propelled Furyk into a stunning summer of golf that would be much more the talk of the tour if not for a guy named Tiger Woods.

Furyk's victory Sunday at the Canadian Open was the 12th of his PGA Tour career and his second this year. Multiple victories are important simply because Furyk had achieved that feat just one other time in his career, when he won the U.S. Open and Buick Open in 2003.

Perhaps more important, however, is that the victory turns all those close calls into positives.

Furyk has 10 top-four finishes in 21 events this year. He is second to Woods on the money list. And in the game played by the mere mortals who hope to haul down Woods, that is impressive stuff.

"It's been a great year and I still have some events left, so hopefully I can keep riding the wave and finish it out well." Furyk said after his victory.

Furyk, who passed Phil Mickelson for second place behind Woods in the Official World Golf Ranking, moves on to the HSBC World Match Play Championship this week in England, where he is seeded third and will play Robert Karlsson on Thursday in the event, which requires 36-hole matches. From there, it is on to the Ryder Cup next week, where he is expected to partner with Woods several times.

"There's going to be a lot of pressure at the Ryder Cup, and any time you can put yourself in contention, get comfortable, do something well, I'll take that experience with me and it will help out at the Ryder Cup," Furyk said. "Hopefully, it will help a lot."

Even before his victory Sunday, Furyk was expected to be one of the forces on the U.S. team. Woods teamed with him well at last year's Presidents Cup, where the duo won three matches. It certainly can't hurt to have Woods and Furyk, Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, playing so well. It might even tempt captain Tom Lehman to split them up, at least once.

Furyk admits, however, that it is difficult not to think about what this year could have yielded.

He has been ever so close to a monster season. He missed a 5-foot par putt on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot that would have put him in a playoff with eventual U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy. He finished fourth at the British Open and third at the Bridgestone Invitational. Of course, Woods was the winner of those events.

"We talked about the last seven events, I've been in the top four six times, so I guess if my approach were better, I'd have more than one win in one of those," he said. "I think everyone goes through streaks and times where hopefully you get on a good run, you close out some tournaments, you get some wins, but it's a humbling game."

Furyk, 36, seems to have fought through it, however, not letting the disappointments get him down. He said he has "just found a way to get the ball in the hole and score and hang around." At the Canadian Open, Furyk opened the tournament with a 63, then fired a 65 Sunday when others could not make a charge.

"The best player won the tournament," said Bart Bryant, who finished second to Furyk. "There's not too many guys playing better than Jim Furyk right now. It doesn't surprise me at all that he shot 5 under on a tough day. ... You kind of knew if somebody was going to get to a 5- or 6-under round, Jim might be the guy. He's got a lot of confidence, a lot of momentum. I give him all the credit in the world."



Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com.