Furyk Should Make ‘Extreme Gargling’ A Competitive Sport

By: Jay Flemma

They teased him in the locker room, but phlegmatic Jim Furyk, out of commission at Westchester from a gargling injury (GARGLING INJURY!) had the last laugh.

After “throwing my head back awkwardly,” and wrenching his back and neck badly last week, Furyk is right in the thick of the hunt at the U.S. Open with just a few doses of Aleve.

With only “Reese’s” and “Exelon” gracing his full frontal button shirt, there might have to be one more product placement if he wins.

Furyk has the game and mindset to reprise his 2003 victory at Olympia Fields. Even though the two courses are light-years apart in difficulty, the straight and steady grinder Furyk could be more like Hale Irwin than he admits.

“I only got an opportunity to play with Hale a couple times,” Furyk said on Friday. “I have a lot of admiration and respect for his game. If I win a couple more, then I’ll start to compare myself to him. It may be a stout comparison at the moment,” he added humbly, his eyes conveying, “Boy, that’d be nice.”

Furyk’s consistent game almost broke the aggregate scoring record at the mild 2003 setup at Olympia Fields. Winged Foot, perhaps the hardest Open venue of all, is at the other end of the spectrum. But with the course requiring accuracy off the tee and safe negotiation of its severe greens, Furyk may make it all the way to the winner’s circle.

“I think both courses, the way they are setup, suited my game as not being a power hitter,” he said. “Although the course is long on the card, power isn’t even one of the top two or three important things. It’s about getting the ball in play in the right spots and thinking your way around the course.”

Furyk’s game is so solid, even with a swing that one writer called, “an octopus falling out of a tree,” and another dubbed, “a man fighting a snake in a phone booth,” no one has ever hinted that he had to win a second major to “validate” his victory at Olympia Fields.

He has 11 Tour victories since 1995. He won the Wachovia Championship a few weeks ago with a 12-under score of 276.

Furyk’s freak injury will make him a hero to all sufferers of back pain and strange injuries. He explains his thusly: “After brushing my teeth, I was taking some Aleve. I was hunched over with bad posture and threw my head back and pinched something in my neck and upper back. It took three to five days and some more Aleve. It’s ironic.”

Furyk’s trademark quirky swing, blue-collar lunch-pail work ethic, friendliness and deep knowledge and respect for the game make him a fan favorite. A Furyk-Mickelson battle or playoff would be an epic ending to a U.S. Open played on a course that is often the sight of historic battles. “Winged Foot has got a lot of tradition,” Furyk observed fondly.

With his grace and gentlemanliness, it’s a sure bet that many more people than just New York Yankee manager Joe Torre (a huge Furyk fan) will be supporting him.

Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://jayflemma.blogspot.com, Jay Flemma’s comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America’s great public golf courses (and whether they’re worth the money), Jay has played over 220 nationally ranked public golf courses in 37 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf – or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.