THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Jim Furyk dressed in red and played the part Sunday, holing a clutch par putt and hitting his best shot of the day on the final hole to win the Chevron World Challenge for his first victory in more than two years.
He said the choice of colour was a coincidence, not a statement.
Even so, it was a fitting conclusion to a week dominated by talk of Tiger Woods.
Woods, the tournament host, wasn’t around to present the trophy to one of his favourite players on the PGA Tour. He withdrew because of unspecified injuries from his Nov. 27 car accident, yet Woods remained part of every conversation because of worldwide publicity over allegations of extramarital affairs.
Woods posted a statement on his website as the final round was under way to thank his sponsors, staff and volunteers. “And I am sincerely sorry I was unable to fulfil my duties as host and player in this important event,” he said.
Mike Weir of Bright’s Grove, Ont., fired a 72 to settle for a tie in 14th.
It was an important event to Furyk and the runner-up, Graeme McDowell, in different ways. Furyk, who closed with a 5-under 67, last won a tournament recognized by the world ranking at the 2007 Canadian Open. He didn’t imagine the drought would end at Sherwood, not after taking a six-week break after the Presidents Cup.
The way he played the final two holes made it clear Furyk has not forgotten how to close.
With a one-shot lead and in a horrible spot in the bunker well below the 17th green, Furyk played it safe to 35 feet beyond the hole and was hopeful of lagging a tricky putt to three feet to make no worse than bogey.
Instead, he watched it break sharply to the right over the final few feet and drop into the cup for an unlikely par.
“It was a deep sigh of relief that the ball went in,” Furyk said. “I knew at that point it was still my tournament to win, and I played very aggressively down the stretch.”
He followed that with a 9-iron from 146 yards that landed near the hole and spun back to five feet. Before he could putt, Furyk saw on the leaderboard that Lee Westwood had birdied the 17th and was tied for the lead. He calmly rapped in the birdie putt.
Westwood, who recently won the European tour money title for the second time this decade, had a chance to force a playoff until he failed to hole his chip from just off the green. Then, he missed the short par putt for a 70 that left him in a tie for third with Padraig Harrington, who twice chipped in for eagle on his way to a 70.
McDowell, the replacement for Woods at this tournament, had to hole out from 18th fairway to tie Furyk, and his shot looked as though it had a chance until it spun by the hole. The birdie gave him second place alone.
That was enough to move him to No. 38 in the world, making him a lock for the Masters next year. The top 50 at the end of the year earn invitations to Augusta National, and McDowell had decided not to chase ranking points at the end of the year.
Then came a phone call about Woods withdrawing, and everything changed quickly.
“Timing is everything,” McDowell said. “To get the call-up was good, although I wish it had been different circumstances. Sometimes this game gives you something back when you least expect it.”
Furyk anticipated getting questions about Woods during the week, although with his 70-71 start that left him in the middle of the pack, no one sought him out. Holding the trophy of a large tiger pawing the globe, he didn’t have much to say about a week of shocking publicity.
He said he sent Woods a text message when he heard of the accident, didn’t hear back and has given Woods his space. Furyk said he wouldn’t be surprised if Woods sent him a text for winning his tournament, “and then I would reply and wish him the best.”
“Tough times,” Furyk said. “So they need the support of their friends right now, and I know that people are thinking about them.”
Furyk took the lead with a birdie on the 10th and never trailed again, although the tournament was in doubt until the end with so many birdies and eagles available at Sherwood.
Harrington and Stricker each had two eagles in their round, Paul Casey had a tournament-best 64 in completing his first 72-hole event since the British Open, and Camilo Villegas made an albatross on the par-5 13th by holing a 3-wood from 262 yards.
Furyk, who finished at 13-under 275, earned US$1.35 million in his last event until the Northern Trust Open at Riviera in February.
“It’s bothered me,” Furyk said of his victory drought. “I’d be lying if I said otherwise. That’s your goal every year to go out and win, and I haven’t been able to do it. Hopefully, this will be a stepping stone.”