Ageless Jim Furyk makes ace, grabs Sony Open in Hawaii lead

So what if Jim Furyk is 51.

So what if he won the Sony Open in Hawaii in 1996 and his most recent win on the PGA Tour came in 2015.

So what if he’s playing in next week’s Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, the 2022 kickoff for the PGA Tour Champions.

Count him out at this week’s Sony Open at your own peril.

The winner of 17 PGA Tour titles, among them the 2003 U.S. Open, shot an 8-under-par 62 Thursday to grab the early lead in the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. The second oldest player in the field (Jerry Kelly has him by four years) punctuated his round with an ace on the par-3 17th, which came after making three consecutive birdies.

“I’ve always loved being here,” said Furyk, who has three Champions victories, including the 2021 U.S. Senior Open. “I love Sony. It’s a place I had a lot of success. I think I lost in a playoff in ’97. Had a lot of top 10s here. Love the course.

“I’m not hitting the ball far enough to compete out here on a regular basis on a lot of the golf courses. But Waialae is a place I still feel I can get around and shoot under par pretty well and so it’s fun.”

It was Furyk’s 11th ace and he used a 6-iron.

“Caught it just a smidge high in the face,” he said. “And so I loved the line it was on but I wasn’t quite sure I caught enough of it to cover it. And carried on the green probably two or three yards and landed in a perfect spot and then released towards the pin. I guess that’s kind of the line I was looking. You never want to miss that green right. Want to make sure I hit it solid to cover.”

Furyk, the only player in PGA Tour history to shoot two sub-60 rounds and the only player to sign for a 58, shot his lowest total score since shooting 65 in the 2019 World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

He last won on the PGA Tour since in 2015 RBC Heritage.

After starting with a 3-putt from 85 feet, Furyk made 150 feet of putts, including birdie putts of 11, 16, 25, 31 and 33 feet, as well as two two-footers.

“Everything was kind of at the hole and on target,” he said.

Among the leaders of those who have finished their rounds were Kevin Chappell, Michael Thompson and Patton Kizzire at 63. Tyler Duncan, J.T. Poston and Ryan Palmer are at 64.

Chappell, who had been bothered by back ailments for years, had microdiscectomy and laminectomy surgery on his back in 2018. In his first start after the procedure, he shot a 59 in the 2019 Military Tribute at the Greenbrier. But he’s struggled since returning; he hasn’t had a top-10 finish in 31 starts since.

“I definitely had some lingering stuff going last year coming from my back, and kind of end of the year I decided, I wasn’t good physically, I wasn’t good mentally and I needed to take some time (off),” Chappell said. “The Tour has been phenomenal with that, supporting me. Really dove into the mental side and believe it or not, the better I got mentally, the better my back got.

“It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s been great. Every tee shot is still uncomfortable for me, but it’s such a wonderful place to be. I’ve been working my ass off, excuse my language. Like I said, I didn’t expect it, but I’m not surprised. I’ve been seeing some good stuff at home and really proud of the work I’ve done.”

Furyk said he played a practice round with Brent Grant, who was playing in the Korn Ferry Tour at the time, and Grant called him “sir.”

“Later on he asked me what I liked most about the Champions Tour, and I said, ‘No one calls me ‘sir,’” Furyk said. “He said his dad would be angry with him if he didn’t.”

Furyk knows his age will come up when he’s contending on the PGA Tour. So, naturally, he was asked about his good friend, Phil Mickelson, who at 50 became the oldest player to win a major in last year’s PGA Championship, and Bernhard Langer, who won a Champions Tour event last year at age 64.

“They are both pretty darned incredible,” Furyk said. “I’m not going to weigh which one’s better. I think what was incredible about Phil winning the PGA was that it was on that golf course. That is not a dinker’s golf course. That is a kind of bomb-it type golf course.

“I’ll joke; I’m tired of gushing about Bernhard. It’s amazing what he’s done at 64, to stay that competitive, that fit and to actually have the want and the will and the grind to be that competitive is absolutely amazing.”

The same could be said of Furyk.

“I’ve been practicing at home and hitting balls and working on my game and so some of the things I expected to be a little better maybe could have been better today, and then things, the decision-making, the scoring, the short game, all that was super today and the putting was amazing,” he said. “So you know, really, trying to get ready for this year and what do I look at this week? I want to be competitive. I want to compete and put myself in position in the hunt and also want to get a feel for where my game is.”

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