Jim Furyk knew that 2016 would be a crucial year for his career. He also knew that injury could hijack his plans for a second year running.
In September 2015, Furyk pulled out of an event for the first time in two decades of performance at the very highest level of the game, bowing out of the BMW Championship due to a problem with his wrist.
Furyk complained of a “sharp pain” when hitting wedges or punch shots and was seen wearing athletic tape on his wrist before he was forced out of the competition. It was clear that dropping out of an event flew in the face of his competitive instincts.
His previous withdrawal from a PGA Tour event came in 1995, when he dropped out of the Western Open. The problem on that occasion? His wrist.
After winning his only major in 2003 at the US Open, he underwent surgery on his troublesome wrist in 2004 and that seemed to solve the problem at the time.
Going into 2016, having claimed one win, four runners-up finishes and 12 top-10s in the previous two years, Furyk needed a successful year to ensure his top 10 PGA Tour ranking wasn’t jeopardised. But it wasn’t long before problems struck again for Furyk and his troublesome wrist.
He faces an uncertain year ahead, missing only his second Masters since 1996, and heading to the Ryder Cup as one of Davis Love III’s named vice-captains” In the first week of January, as the PGA Tour got under way at Kapalua, Furyk had been hitting balls for a few days and noticed a little soreness in his wrist. He hadn’t played since bowing out of the BMW Championship and admitted he wasn’t 100 per cent but sounded determined to overcome the stiffness and bruising that had kept him out of the game.
A month later, having not made a single start on the PGA Tour this season, the 45-year-old withdrew from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and the latest suggestions are that he will miss three more months of golf – including the US Masters.
The news is a devastating blow to Furyk, who remains at the time of writing well priced at odds of 2/1 to have a top-five finish in a major this year at 32Red UK. His appearance at the 2016 US Masters would have been his 20th in the competition and his determination to bounce back from his injury lay-off might well have seen him compete for the title.
Furyk would have been doubly determined to be at his best at the Masters, having failed to make the cut at last year’s event, hitting rounds of 74 and 73 to fall short of the cut line for the first time since 2010 and only the second time in his career, despite having been priced at 33/1 to win the title at OddsShark.com.
Now, he faces an uncertain year ahead, missing only his second Masters since 1996, and heading to the Ryder Cup as one of Davis Love III’s named vice-captains but without knowing whether he will be at the competition in a playing capacity.
The continual injury blight is a cruel fate for Furyk, whose performances on the PGA Tour were outstanding in 2015, and it seems incredibly unfair on the Pennsylvanian that he might not get the opportunity to build on the progress he made. It is also a major loss to the competition.
In the 19 events that he played in 2015, Furyk claimed a win at the RBC Heritage event at Hilton Head Island, as well as a third-place finish at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational. He also came fourth at the RBC Canadian Open, the Deutsche Bank Championship, and the World Golf Championships Cadillac Match Play.
He was 17th in accuracy off the tee on the Tour, and 14th in greens hit in regulation. The greens themselves proved to be his major weakness, and he was 115th in the Strokes Gained Putting list. But the world of golf knew that an in-form Furyk would have been well capable of saving one shot each round in 2016 to smash his 2015 record out of the water.
Furyk is a player who never shies away from the graft required to better himself year on year, and everyone involved in the sport will be hoping that an injury lay-off that has now lasted for four months will not leave him too far behind the rest of the pack in terms of practice to be competitive at some stage this season.
32Red makes Furyk 8/1 to win a major this year – let’s hope he can make those odds even more attractive by returning to action sooner rather than later.