Jim Furyk wasn’t happy to hear about the changes made to the Conway Farms course in preparation for this week’s BMW Championship.
“Bummer,’’ he said. “Now I’ve got to learn it all over again.’’
Well, hardly. Tuesday is practice day for the 70 players who will begin the 72-hole competition at the Lake Forest layout on Thursday. They’ll find the changes to the course from 2013 relatively minor and — even without practice — it’s safe to say Furyk knows the course. Two years ago he covered it in 59 strokes in that first BMW Championship played there.
Furyk didn’t win the tournament – he finished third, three strokes behind champion Zach Johnson – but his hot second round made him the sixth player to break 60 in a PGA Tour event, joining Al Geiberger, Chip Beck, David Duval, Paul Goydos and Stuart Appleby.
“It was a pretty incredible feeling,’’ said Furyk, looking ahead to the third tournament of the four-event FedEx Cup Playoffs. “I got off to a great start, held it together in the middle after three-putting No. 5 and then had the mental hurdle of making birdies on two of the last four. My attitude and thinking process throughout that day was as good as it’s ever been.’’
Luke Donald, the former world No. 1 and a Conway Farms member, remains dazzled by what Furyk did. Donald’s best round on his home course is 61.
“It’s the type of course you can see that number if you’re really on,’’ Donald said. “But Jim did it on a cold, windy day when the next best score was 65. That round was special.’’
“I remember with a couple holes left thinking `How many times in your life will you get a chance to do something like this. Enjoy it, but don’t let it slip by.’’’
He didn’t, but there is a touch of mystery still connected to that epic day. Furyk posed for photographers with a ball emblazoned with the numbers “59.’’
Now he’ll admit that that wasn’t the ball he used to shoot the low score. A PGA Tour media official took a ball from Furyk’s bag and wrote the “59’’ on it. The ball that Furyk used is in his workshop at home but not on display.
“We don’t display stuff,’’ he said. “I might have the glove I used. I do have a stack of flags that I sign for charities.’’
The lack of interest in memorabilia isn’t limited to the record round, either. Witness what happened to the reward for his victory in the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields – the lone win in a major for the 45-year tour veteran.
“We don’t have a trophy room,’’ said Furyk. “The U.S. Open trophy sat in the kitchen for maybe six months. Everyone who came by had a drink out of it.’’
The 12-under-par round hasn’t been challenged by PGA Tour players since the 2013 BMW Championship. Last year’s tournament was played at Cherry Hills, in Denver, with Billy Horschel winning the title.
Furyk enters this BMW Championship in ninth place on the playoff standings. He won the $10 million bonus as FedEx Cup champion in 2010 and is in good position to crack the top 30 who qualify for next week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta. That’s where this year’s bonus will be awarded.
Going into the BMW, though, Furyk trails Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson, Charley Hoffman, Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson.
Gates opened at Conway Farms on Monday with the main attraction being a new event, the Evans Scholars Cup. It involved teams from Chicago area clubs. Donald, who didn’t qualify for the tournament, hosted a fundraiser for the First Tee of Greater Chicago in the evening.
In addition to the practice rounds Tuesday’s schedule includes the CDW Celebrity Skills Challenge at nearby Halas Hall. Golfers Camilo Villegas and Gary Woodland will join Bears’ players in the Fold of Honor benefit event.