Born May 12, 1970, in West Chester, PA; son of Michael and Linda Furyk; married Tabitha Skartved, 2000; children: Caleigh Lynn. Education: Graduated from University of Arizona, 1992.
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Professional golfer, 1992—. PGA Tour victories: Las Vegas Invitational, 1995, 1998, 1999; United Airlines Hawaiian Open, 1996; Doral–Ryder Open, 2000; Mercedes Championships, 2001; Memorial Tournament, 2002; U.S. Open Championship, 2003; Buick Open, 2003. Nationwide Tour victories: Nike Mississippi Gulf Coast Classic, 1993. International victories: Argentine Open, 1997.
Known for his idiosyncratic swing, golfer Jim Furyk turned professional in 1992. Over the years, he has become noted for his methodical approach to golf, which emphasizes straight driving and conservative shots. He worked his way up the ranks of golf quietly, but took the golf world by storm in 2003, when he beat the world's best golfers with ease at the U.S. Open and the Buick Open.
As a high school student, Furyk was a standout on the football, basketball, and baseball teams at Manheim Township High School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Although he was well regarded for his all–around talent in these sports, he secretly yearned to play golf, but felt embarrassed about his love for the game. On days when he had a golf match, he asked his mother to drive him to school early so he could hide his clubs in his locker before his friends arrived at school and saw him carrying them.
Furyk learned to play golf from his father, who encouraged him to stick with his quirky swing, which defied all conventional wisdom about body form in golf, but which worked for him. Furyk is also noted for his pre–swing ritual, which was described by Michael Silver in Sports Illustrated : "The 33–year–old grinder's grinder prepares for each herky–jerky swing like a geologist conducting a seismic survey." Before each swing, Furyk hitches up his pants with his right hand. Before every putt, Furyk reads the line, addresses the ball, steps away, and then repeats the routine. Furyk told Silver, "I got a lot of recognition early in my career because of my goofy swing, and it was a positive for me. I'm a guy who finds a comfort zone and sticks to his guns." Furyk's father added, "If you have a manufactured golf swing, I'm a firm believer that you won't hold up under pressure. If you've got a swing that's natural, whatever it looks like, you've got a chance." In addition to his father's emphasis on what came naturally, Furyk also inherited his focus on hard work and his perfectionism. In Golf World, John Hawkins commented on their relationship, "The two have formed an effective, low–key team since Furyk began winning on the PGA Tour, not so much in terms of mechanical alterations, but in strengthening the kid's two biggest assets: his head and heart." Furyk turned professional in 1992, and in 1993, won the Nike Mississippi Gulf Coast Classic. He followed this with a series of PGA victories: the Las Vegas Invitational in 1995, 1998, and 1999, the United Airlines Hawaiian Open in 1996, and the Doral–Ryder Open in 2000. In late 2000, Furyk was sidelined by a wrist injury, which happened while he was attending a Baltimore Ravens football game. Furyk was crossing the parking lot at the Ravens game when he saw some people playing catch. When a pass came toward him, he tried to catch it but slipped, falling on his left wrist and tearing the cartilage. As a result, he was knocked out of contention for the Tour Championship, the Sun City Million Dollar Challenge, and the World Match Play in Australia.
In that same year, Furyk married his long–time girlfriend, Tabitha Skartved, and the two began building a home in Maui, Hawaii, which Furyk told Sports Illustrated 's Alan Shipnuck was "my favorite spot in the entire world." By the end of 2000, Furyk healed from his injury and made a dramatic comeback at the Mercedes Championship in January of 2001. Although Furyk seemed destined to lose the championship as South African Rory Sabbatini took the lead, on the final day Sabbatini missed a three–footer on the 72nd hole. Furyk took the victory, and told Sports Illustrated 's Shipnuck, "There was one key: attitude. Whenever I started to get mad at myself, I would remember that my goal was to be able to complete all 72 holes [of the tournament]."
Furyk's wife, Tabitha, told Sports Illustrated 's Silver that Furyk often got ready for tournaments in a highly organized manner, but that "sometimes it gets away from him. Before we left home, he made a big point of having all of his pants for the [103rd U.S. Open in 2003] dry–cleaned and hanging them neatly in the closet. Then we got on the plane, and, of course, he realized he had forgotten to pack them." The two headed out to shop in Chicago three days before the Open, and despite the mix–up, Furyk performed, Silver noted, "almost flawlessly, dominating the planet's best golfers and winning his first major with an ease that suggested this won't be his last."
In 2002, Furyk won the Memorial Tournament and ended the year with nine Top Ten finishes. In August of 2003, Furyk had another decisive victory at the Buick Open, where he outplayed famed golfer Tiger Woods, remaining calm and collected throughout the tournament. Later, he told Sports Illustrated 's Shipnuck, "I wanted to go out and get a low number, and whether I'm playing with Tiger Woods or someone else, it doesn't make that much of a difference." The win put him second on the earnings list for 2003, just $400,000 behind Woods.
In an interview with Joan Alexander of ASAP Sports, Furyk said that after he won the U.S. Open, many people told him his life would undergo a drastic change. He admitted that he had gotten more demands on his time and energy, as well as more demands for autographs and more questions from the press: "For some reason, my opinion matters more now," he observed. He also noted, "It's a good problem to have and it goes with the territory. You realize that we all want to win major championships and win golf tournaments, and the more you do that, the more your time becomes in demand. That's part of it.… It's really not a bad problem to have."
Golf World, November 17, 2000, p. 36; January 19, 2001, p. 29; June 20, 2003, p. 22.
Sports Illustrated, January 22, 2001, p. 33; June 23, 2003, p. 34; August 11, 2003, p. G25.
"Jim Furyk: Ready to finish the year strong," ASAP Sports, http://www/golfserv.com/gdc/news/article.asp?id=16126 (December 1, 2003).
— Kelly Winters