The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A dip in excitement on fairways

Olympia Fields: Jim Furyk has to be admired for his gritty three-shot victory at Olympia Fields Country Club on Sunday, but the 103rd US Open will not be remembered as a vintage championship.

Holder Tiger Woods was never a factor over the weekend, his title hopes all but disappearing with a third-round 75, and big names like Vijai Singh and Nick Price surprisingly dropped out of contention on the last day.

American Furyk, who began the final round with a three-shot cushion, was never threatened as the par-70 North Course at last began to bite back in sun-baked conditions.

Nineteen players had been under par after the third day, but only four stayed there as the parkland layout firmed up and the heavily-contoured greens became lightning quick.

The 33-year-old Furyk, one of the straightest hitters in the game despite his unconventional, loopy swing, was ice-cool as he went about his business, finding most of the fairways and making putts when they were most needed.

He did not appear to be distracted by a topless woman’s incursion onto the 11th green and, despite bogeying the last two holes, closed with a two-over-par 72 to tie the tournament record score of 272.

His playing partner Stephen Leaney of Australia offered a spirited challenge, but a five-shot deficit with just nine holes remaining proved too huge a task.

Furyk maintained his composure and his swing, and clinched his first major title with comfort.

“The guy is, day-out and day-in, always pretty consistent and you know he’s going to hit every fairway and every green when he’s playing well,” said Woods, who finished with a closing 72 two hours before Furyk three-putted the last for victory.

That consistency has always been the recipe for success at the US Open but it is hardly the recipe for exciting golf and nail-biting drama.

Worse still, a final-day leaderboard dominated by Furyk and the little-known Leaney, with US Masters champion Mike Weir and Kenny Perry tying for third a further four strokes back, is not the stuff of legend.

The 103rd US Open needed at least two of Woods, twice champion Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson or even talented Spaniard Sergio Garcia to be in the mix coming down the stretch to make it a vintage spectacle.

But Woods went 75-72 over the weekend, Els failed to spark despite tying for fifth, Mickelson hit just 20 fairways during the week and Garcia faded into a share of 35th after a promising first-round 69.

The strongest memories will be of Tom Watson’s magical five-under-par 65, the standing ovation he and his dying caddie Bruce Edwards received while playing the last on Sunday and Singh's scintillating 63 on day two.

Eight-time major champion Watson rolled back the years in the opening round, charging to the top of the leaderboard.

“Who would have thought, who would have expected that I would have shot a round like that,” said the 53-year-old.

“The magic was still there with the putter. It was a very special day.”

That 65 was extra special because he could share it with his long-time caddie Edwards, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) last year, a fatal neuromuscular disease.

The pair was given a standing ovation by the crowds packed around the 18th green on Sunday as Watson closed with a 72 to finish four over par for the tournament.

“It’s been heart-warming,” said Watson. We’ll be back next year at Shinnecock (Hills for the 2004 US Open).”

Twice major winner Singh cashed in on the benign conditions of Friday, becoming the fourth player in US Open history to card a 63 and tying Furyk for the second-round lead at a tournament record seven-under 133.

He ignored the barracking of a spectator on 14 and reeled off five birdies in six holes on the back nine, before missed birdie opportunities from around 12 feet on both 16 and 17 cost him the chance of shooting the first 62 at a major championship.

Despite the limited drama, however, Furyk will always regard the 103rd US Open as the most memorable tournament of his life.

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