Third-round leader Furyk focused in Tour Championship as big jackpot looms

ATLANTA — Surprising as it seems for a 17-year PGA Tour veteran with a major championship and $46 million in the bank, Jim Furyk never has produced a season with as many as three tournament wins.

“It would be a good time to start,” Furyk suggested Saturday.

If it happens at the Tour Championship, there could be a big pot of money waiting at the end as well.

Furyk carries a one-stroke lead into the final round at East Lake Golf Club — with the scenarios also hedging in his favor for an improbable FedExCup crown and its $10 million bonus if he can finish it off.

First things first, though.

“The first part of the scenario is I have to win, and the rest of it I can’t control,” Furyk said after an even-par 70 nudged him ahead of Luke Donald and the fast-closing Retief Goosen. “I doubt there’s a scenario where I’m going to finish second or worse in the tournament and win the FedExCup, so that’s the only thing I can somewhat control.”

The Ponte Vedra Beach pro is correct on that point. Furyk came to East Lake 11th in the points standings, leaving him with no chance to take the season’s most lucrative prize without winning the tournament.

Only then would he have reason to check the results of points leader Matt Kuchar and four others.

Kuchar’s struggles this week — he finished Saturday tied for 23rd — have propped the door open for someone to win from well off the pace — be it Furyk, Donald (7th in points) or even Goosen (17th).

“A lot can happen,” Goosen said. “Nobody really knows who’s going to win it yet, and we’re going to have some different weather as well.”

With rain and possibly thunderstorms forecast to roll through the Atlanta area beginning overnight, Sunday’s tee times have been moved up to begin at 9 a.m. The final pairing of Furyk and Goosen will set out at 11:20 a.m.

“It’s going to be a tough day,” Furyk said, “so we’ll have to get ready for it.”

Saturday was deceptively tough for the leaders despite sunny skies, temperatures in the low 90s and only a gentle breeze if at all.

Furyk and Donald both played steady, unable to coax home birdie putts on East Lake’s firm greens. Geoff Ogilvy began bogey/double bogey to fall off the pace, and Paul Casey likewise couldn’t get any momentum going.

Donald took a stumble with a double bogey at the par-5 15th, giving up the lead to Furyk.

“It was frustrating to give away a couple there,” the English pro said.

Furyk said: “Luke played great. Every putt he hit looked like it was going to go in the hole — it was beautiful — and a lot of them didn’t. I don’t know how they found a way (to stay) out.”

There were birdies to be made. Nick Watney carded nine over his final 11 holes on the way to a 63, and Goosen had five in a 66 that moved him into the lead pack.

“If you drive it on the fairways, you’re going to have a lot of birdie chances,” said Goosen, who has nine top-10 finishes this year despite missing two months with a broken finger and broken toe in separate mishaps.

The Associated Press