Furyk ends Tiger's reign with dramatic charge at Memorial

Sunday, May 26th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) _ Jim Furyk was plodding along Sunday when he noticed the Memorial Tournament was up for grabs, a dozen players within two shots of the lead and three-time defending champion Tiger Woods long departed.

``I was caught off guard by that,'' Furyk said.

Then, he delivered a few surprises of his own.

With a 30-foot birdie chip at No. 12 and a bunker shot that rattled the pin and dropped for eagle on No. 15, Furyk seized control with a back-nine charge that carried him to a 7-under 65 and a two-stroke victory.

He proved a worthy successor to Woods' reign at Muirfield Village with a finish that even Woods could appreciate. Furyk's 65 was the lowest final-round score by a winner in the 27-year history of the Memorial.

``I don't know how he did it,'' said John Cook, who joined David Peoples as the runner-up in a tournament that figured to go down to the wire.

Furyk finished at 14-under 274, winning for the seventh time in his career. He earned $810,000.

Woods, trying to become the first player in 75 years to win the same tournament four straight years, closed with a ho-hum 66 and was gone by the time the fireworks began, proving that there is life on the PGA Tour without him.

Thousands of fans streamed across Muirfield, not sure where to go or whom to watch. Cheers came from all corners, the loudest belonging to Furyk at No. 15 with a bunker shot he was simply trying to get within 10 feet.

``You figured something substantial happened,'' Cook said. ``Then all of a sudden, you see guys are scrambling, putting Jim's name up on the board and putting a number up there, and it's at 14 (under). And we all kind of went, 'Wow! Where did that come from?'''

It came from a guy who is developing a reputation for sinking incredible bunker shots.

A year ago, Furyk holed one for par on the 18th hole at Firestone to extend his playoff against Woods in the NEC Invitational. Three years ago in the Ryder Cup, he holed another unlikely shot at Valderrama in beating Nick Faldo on the final day.

This is one he can really celebrate.

``At least this time, I won the tournament,'' Furyk said.

Cook had a 15-foot birdie putt that hung on the lip at No. 18, and it might prove costly. By finishing in second place alone, it likely would have been enough for him to earn an exemption to the U.S. Open with a spot in the top 50 in the world ranking.

Now, Cook will have to wait until the ranking is published Monday to see whether he gets a free pass to Bethpage, or whether he will have to play a 36-hole qualifier.

David Duval, one of seven players who had at least a share of the lead at one point, went through a rally-killing stretch of three holes, but still closed with a 66 and tied for fourth, his first top-10 finish of the year.

Furyk gave the Memorial its first champion other than Woods since 1998.

Woods never had a chance to win his fourth straight, starting the final round 12 shot back. He tied for 22nd, eight strokes behind. Still, it was the 60th consecutive stroke-play event on the PGA Tour in which Woods has finished in the top 30, dating to a tie for 56th in the 1999 Bay Hill Invitational.

``All I needed was to get a couple of putts to go in, and I wasn't able to do that all week until today,'' Woods said.

At least Woods met one challenge Sunday.

Jack Nicklaus needled him on the putting green Sunday morning, wondering whether the No. 1 player in the world could beat a 62-year-old man.

Nicklaus, playing in the group behind Woods, had three double bogeys in a round of 79, although his 295 was still two strokes better than Sergio Garcia.

``I just didn't have any zip,'' the tournament host said.

Neither did the final group.

Bob Tway, the 54-hole leader by one stroke, bogeyed the first two holes and never recovered. He birdied the last hole for a 73. Stewart Cink also dropped two shots early and was never a factor, also shooting a 73.

Vijay Singh took control early with three birdies on his first five holes, but the real charge came from Duval, who joked earlier in the week that because Woods always wins the Memorial, he would gladly take second.

Duval hit a 3-wood to tap-in range for eagle on No. 5, and when his 20-foot birdie putt dropped in the center of the cup for birdie on No. 12, he was 7 under for his round and suddenly leading the tournament.

But a three-putt bogey, a poor tee shot with an iron and his failure to get up-and-down for birdie at the par-5 15th ended his chances.

He arrived in the CBS tower just in time to watch Furyk hole his bunker shot.

``You want me to leave?'' he asked with a smile.

Peoples, who hasn't won on tour in 10 years, tied for the lead with a birdie at No. 12, but gave back the stroke two holes later and couldn't make enough putts coming in.

Harrison Frazar recovered from his third-round 75 to take a share of the lead with birdies on four of the first five holes on the back. He had a chance to take the lead by himself at No. 15, but missed an 18-inch putt.

Furyk removed all doubt.

He saved himself early with two par saves, one after hitting a 4-wood into the water on the par-5 fifth hole. The turning point came on No. 12, when his downhill, break chip banged into the pin and dropped for birdie.

``Both those balls weren't exactly dying into the hole,'' Furyk said of the chip at No. 12 and the bunker shot on No. 15. ``They hit the pin pretty hard. But you need some breaks to win golf tournaments.''