LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Jim Furyk was 10 shots worse and right where he wanted to be Saturday in the BMW Championship.
One day after Furyk had a 12-under 59 to become the sixth player in PGA Tour history to shoot golf’s magic number, he did enough right on the back nine at Conway Farms for a 69 and a one-shot lead over Steve Stricker.
Furyk wasn’t expecting another low round — no one ever shot better than 68 on the PGA Tour following a 59. And while the three-putt bogey on his last hole was a setback, it didn’t keep him from the only place he wanted to be.
“The goal was to go out and shoot a good number today, get myself in position to win this golf tournament,” Furyk said. “It could have been better out there. … Obviously, I dropped that shot at 18, which I’m disappointed. It was probably one of the easier holes of the day. But I’ve got myself in good position, so rather than harp on the last hole, I’d probably tend to want to think about tomorrow and what I have to do to try to win a golf tournament.”
It doesn’t figure to be easy.
For starters, Furyk has failed to convert at least a share of the 54-hole lead into a victory in his last four attempts, two of them at major championships. And there were plenty of stars lined up behind, including Tiger Woods.
Stricker holed out from the 15th fairway for eagle on his way to a 64, putting him in the final group as he tries to win for the first time this year. Brandt Snedeker salvaged a sloppy day with a birdie on his last hole for a 71 and was two shots behind. Zach Johnson had a 69 and was another shot back.
Woods was still fuming after being handed a two-shot penalty Friday when his ball appeared to shift as he was removing a twig near it before a shot from the woods. But he ran off six birdies in seven holes in the middle of his round to get within two shots. His momentum was slowed when he missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-5 14th hole, and then pulled his 3-wood into the water on the 15th and did well to make bogey. He had a 66.
“I had a nice little run to at least get myself in there where I have a chance tomorrow,” Woods said.
Furyk was at 13-under 200.
He cleared one mental battle by trying to put that 59 behind him and return his focus to the tournament. Now comes another mental battle that figures to be even tougher. Furyk has gone three years since he last won a tournament, and it hasn’t been from a lack of opportunity.
A playoff loss in Tampa Bay last year. The tee shot he hooked on the 16th hole at Olympic Club that ended his shot at the U.S. Open. A double bogey on the 18th hole at Firestone that cost him a wire-to-wire win. A share of the lead with Davis Love III at Sea Island last fall.
Just last month, he had a one-shot lead going into the final round of the PGA Championship and was outplayed by Jason Dufner.
“It’s been three years. No one has to remind me of the Tour Championship in ‘10, and as I’ve had some of the close calls last year, I definitely put some more pressure on myself,” he said. “That will be part of the mental game and the mental aspect of it tomorrow, to go out there and stay in the moment and just play golf and not really worry about it. I’ll play my best if I’m focused on the task at hand, not on the results.”
There were low scores available Saturday, as Matt Kuchar showed with a 61 that he finished before the leaders even arrived at the course. And there was plenty of excitement. Hunter Mahan had a hole-in-one on the 17th to win a BMW i3 electric car. There were some bizarre moments, too, such as when Justin Rose was penalized by taking a practice swing behind his ball, only for a divot to hit the golf ball and move it.
There also was a fan in the bleachers behind the 18th who was betting on players and being vocal about it, leading to an exchange with Johnson and Watney.
Sergio Garcia played with Woods and didn’t endure very much at all. It was their first time playing together since Garcia and Woods had a verbal spat at The Players Championship, which ended badly when Garcia jokingly said he would have Woods over for dinner during the U.S. Open and serve him fried chicken.
In the suburbs north of Chicago, there was hardly any heckling beyond what is heard at a normal golf tournament in America.
Furyk didn’t make his first birdie until the seventh hole, but he made two more to get back into a rhythm and build a cushion.
Why couldn’t he produce another low round?
“I think there’s probably a mental battle to it,” he said. “But you’re not going to have many days like I played yesterday.”
Of the five previous 59s on the PGA Tour, only two failed to win the tournament — Chip Beck in the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational and Paul Goydos at the 2010 John Deere Classic. Beck had his 13-under 59 in the third round of a 90-hole tournament and tied for third. Goydos had his 12-under 59 in the opening round and was runner-up.
Al Geiberger shot 13-under 59 in the second round of the 1977 Memphis Classic and went on to win. David Duval (13-under 59 at the 1999 Bob Hope Classic) and Stuart Appleby (11-under 59 at the 2010 Greenbrier Classic) shot their rounds on Sunday to win.