Originally created 07/04/05

Furyk holds off Woods, gets victory

LEMONT, Ill. - No way Jim Furyk was letting go of this victory. Not this time. Not even to Tiger Woods.

After finishing second three times this year, including a devastating loss last weekend, Furyk answered Woods' charge with three straight birdies and hung on to win the Western Open on Sunday. It was his first victory since the 2003 Buick Open.

After tapping in for a birdie, Furyk took off his cap and shook hands with third round co-leader Ben Curtis. Furyk then turned and pumped his fists to the cheering crowd before sharing a long hug with caddie Fluff Cowan.

Furyk shot a 2-under 69, finishing the tournament at 14-under 270. Woods (66) was two strokes back at 272, though he did go over the $50 million mark for career earnings.

Curtis faltered in his attempt to win for the first time since the 2003 British Open, shooting a 3-over 74. But he was still third, only his second top-10 finish since Royal St. George's.

Though Furyk missed half of last season after wrist surgery, this was unusually long between victories. He'd won at least one tournament a year from 1997 to 2003, and won his first major championship at the 2003 U.S. Open at nearby Olympia Fields.

It wasn't as if Furyk didn't have his chances. He was runner-up three times, including that dismal finish last weekend. Furyk was three strokes ahead of Padraig Harrington at the Barclays Classic with five holes to go, but he made back-to-back bogeys on 16 and 17.

Harrington then holed a big-breaking 65-foot putt on 18 for an eagle and a one-stroke win.

"Jimmy's one of the toughest guys out there," Woods said. "Last week was an aberration."

And Furyk wasn't about to be in that position again this weekend.

He got off to a rough start with bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3, and quickly found himself four strokes behind Curtis. But Furyk got himself going with a 23-foot birdie putt on No. 4, and climbed back into a tie at 12 under with a birdie on the par-3 No. 6.

Just as Furyk was finding his groove, though, Woods was picking up steam.

Beginning the day five strokes behind Furyk and Curtis, he surged into the lead with birdie-birdie-eagle on Nos. 9-11. He hit huge drives on No. 9 and 10 - 305 and 354 yards, respectively - but his showing on the par-5 11th was his best of the day.

It didn't look like it at the start, when he pushed his tee shot off to the right. Woods knew it was trouble, muttering as soon as the ball left his club. But he got a lucky bounce. Two of them, actually.

The ball hit the cart path and bounced back toward the fairway. He was on the green with his second shot, even if it was 54 feet away from the cup. His putt rolled ever so slowly toward the cup and when it looked as if it might go in, Woods lifted his putter in the air and started backing away.

When the ball dropped, he threw both arms in the air, screamed and pumped his fist twice. He was grinning as he fished the ball out of the cup, and he and caddie Steve Williams exchanged a high-five. That put him at 13 under, and gave him a share of the lead with Furyk.

When his score was posted on the leaderboards, shouts could be heard all over the course.

But if that flustered Furyk, it didn't show. He made birdie putts of 15, 17 and 11 feet to get to 15 under, and had a chance for another on 13. But his putt curled around the cup and refused to drop.

No matter. This week, it was Woods' turn to falter. After a three-putt bogey on the par-4 13, he made another one familiar to weekend golfers all over. Trying to get his tee shot out of the trap with an awkward stance, Woods banged it off the lip and advanced it a few measly feet, leaving it in the sand.

He put his next shot two feet from the pin to save bogey, but his hopes of winning a fourth title this year were all but over.

Divots: Vijay Singh had another rough day, shooting 2-over 73 and finishing at 4-under 280.... Curtis' finish was his best since the British Open.


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