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Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Journeymen shine as Tiger toils
By Tom Fordyce

Is the best golfer in the world in crisis?

Tiger Woods grimaces
Woods finished in joint 20th

Poor old Jim Furyk. He waits 11 years after turning professional to win his first Major, and the first thing anyone talks about is the form of Tiger Woods.

For the first time in four years, the world number one is not the current champion of any of the four Majors.

Since completing the 'Tiger Slam' in 2001 - all four Majors consecutively, but spread over two years - he has won just two of the nine Majors on offer.

No disgrace in that, you might say. Almost any golfer in the world would settle for that record.

True, but Woods is not almost any golfer. He is a sporting phenomenon, a man who has proved over his short career that ordinary comparisons do not work with him.

He also freely admits that he is motivated almost solely by winning Majors, and that he plans his year around them.

So when he claims that he cannot be in a slump because he has won three of the seven tournaments he has entered this year, you have to treat his comments with a sizeable dose of scepticism.

Tiger's game, by his standards, is in trouble. And the source of his problems is what was once his greatest weapon - his driving.

Woods, for whom entire courses have been redesigned to handle the length of his drives, was half the force he once was on the tee at Olympia Fields.

On the sort of course he once ripped up with ferocious power and accuracy, he hit just 34 of a possible 54 fairways.

FURYK FACTFILE
Jim Furyk kisses the US Open trophy
1970 Born 12 May, West Chester, Pennsylvania
1992 Turns professional
1995 First PGA win comes at Las Vegas Invitational
1997 Sets tour record for most earnings in a year without a win
1999 Wins Las Vegas Invitational for third time, makes second Ryder Cup appearance
2002 Earns more than $2m for second straight year, plays in third Ryder Cup
2003 Ten top-10 finishes on tour before winning US Open

It's not a new problem; it's been the same story ever since his knee operation last December. He's also having trouble reaching greens in regulation, hitting just 68% at the weekend.

Then there's the curious case of Tiger's third-round wobble.

On Saturday he hit a five-over-par 75, which left him 11 shots off the lead. At last year's Open at Muirfield it was his third-round 81 that did for his challenge again.

Last month at the Memorial, a 76 in the - guess what - third round scuppered him again.

It's all a huge contrast to Furyk, the polar opposite of Woods in every way.

Where Woods' swing is a thing of grace and wonder, Furyk's is an ugly, bumpy ride that has the purists blanching over their breakfasts.

Where Woods is - in golfing terms at least - a byword for excitement, a tour de force who blazed into the game in a storm of success, Furyk has plodded along for the last decade, unrecognisable to the majority of sports fans across the world.

His US Open win, put alongside that of Mike Weir at the Masters and Rich Beem at the US PGA, makes the last 12 months something of a triumph for the faceless journeymen of the tour.

If it wasn't for Ernie Els pipping Thomas Levet in a play-off at the Open, all four Majors would be held by men who you previously would struggle to name in a golfing identity parade.

Is this outsiders' success a good thing for the game? Well, none of them could ever take the game to new audiences and new corners of the globe, as Tiger has.

Then again, when Tiger was racking up the Majors in relentless fashion, critics bemoaned the lack of real competition for him and said golf was in danger of turning into a boring and predictable one-man show.

Tiger will be back. But whether he ever has it all his own way to the same extent again is far less certain.





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