Belfast Telegraph

Jim Furyk finds form at right time to mount title bid

By Steve Simpson

Jim Furyk feels like his game is finally coming together again.

Despite a bogey at his final hole, Furyk seized the lead at Oak Hill's PGA Championship with a five-under 65 in the opening round.

"You're usually disappointed to end the day with a bogey," the 43-year-old American said. "But a 65 at the PGA, that's not so bad."

Furyk, the 2003 US Open champion, hasn't won since the Tour Championship three years ago, though he's had plenty of solid efforts.

But he fell into a bit of a slump this summer, missing the cut at both the US Open and the Open Championship, struggling with his driver and the putter.

"I did not feel confident with my putter and that was putting a lot of pressure on the rest of my game," Furyk said.

He showed signs of turning things around in the last two weeks, finishing ninth at the Canadian Open and the Bridgestone.

"I'm feeling very comfortable with what I'm doing with the driver," Furyk said. "And this was one of my best rounds, if not the best putting round, I've had this year."

None of his putts was better than the one at 16. Then, at the 18th, he knocked a four-iron within a foot of the cup for a tap-in par. When Furyk wasn't making birdies, he was saving par with a bunch of testy little putts on Oak Hill's postage stamp greens.

Only at the ninth did Furyk's score finally go up. He drove it in the right rough and had to chip out, ruining his shot at a bogey-free round.

Playing not far from home, Canadian journeyman David Hearn was one stroke back after starting with a 66.

Hearn opened and closed his round with bogeys. In between, he ripped off six birdies under skies that turned mostly sunny.

"I played some really solid golf," said Hearn, who grew up five blocks from ice hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky's house in Brantford, Ontario – about 140 miles west of this venerable course just outside Rochester.

The 34-year-old Hearn has never won on the PGA Tour but he came close just before the Open Championship, losing to Jordan Spieth in a play-off at the John Deere Classic.

"That was a great experience for me," Hearn said. "I'm proud of the way I played. It just didn't go my way at the finish."

After failing to get up and down at the first hole, Hearn rolled in a short birdie putt at the second.

Three more birdies in the 15-foot range really got him rolling before an errant drive at the 18th left him with another bogey and a bit of a sour feeling on the way to sign his scorecard. But he quickly shook it off.

"It feels good to be in contention," Hearn said.

"I've been playing some really good golf the last few weeks."

* IRELAND were celebrating after clinching the Boys Home International title for the coveted R&A Trophy for the first time since 2010 after a gripping final day of competition at Forest Pines in North Lincolnshire.

After a tie with Scotland and a shock win over defending champions England, Ireland knew that they had to defeat Wales and then hope that the other result would favour them.

Ireland beat the Welsh 9.5 to 5.5 and England defeated Scotland, meaning the title went to the Irish.

Meanwhile, Dermot McElroy and Brian Casey both remain in the hunt for medals at the European Amateur Championships at El Prat in Barcelona, the Irish duo tied 11th, seven shots behind leader Ashley Chesters.

Ballymena star McElroy produced some solid golf, firing home birdies at the fourth and last to card a two-under-par 70, while Casey shot a 73.

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