Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
AKRON, Ohio Jim Furyk walked off the 18th green to the same roars and cheers he heard all weekend trudging up and down Firestone Country Club. Only this time, they weren't for him.
His swift, stunning and saddening double-bogey collapse on the final hole left him staggering off the course as the gallery roared for Keegan Bradley's astonishing Bridgestone Invitational victory Sunday.
Furyk shook Bradley's hand and quickly fled the course that loved and honored him for 71 holes, only to betray him 22 feet from the final pin. Once he was past the grandstands and away from any cameras, he took off his hat, shook his head in disbelief, then shook it again. When he saw his wife, Tabitha, standing under a tree near the 10th tee box, he exhaled deeply and his shoulders sagged. She smiled, hugged her weary husband and whispered in his ear.
His 8-year-old son, Tanner, wiped the tears off his reddened cheeks. Daddy was crushed. So was Tanner.
He kissed Caleigh, his 10-year-old daughter, on the forehead. He kissed his wife again and walked into the trailer to sign the scorecard, forever sealing another disastrous ending to what could've should've been a magical weekend at Firestone.
"I've lost some tournaments in some pretty poor fashions," Furyk said. "But I don't think I've let one ever slip nearly as bad as this one."
Bradley erased a 6-stroke deficit over the final 13 holes to complete the biggest comeback in Bridgestone history and win for the third time in just his second year on tour. He is already one of just 10 players to win both a major and a World Golf Championship event, and he'll enter next week's PGA Championship as the defending champ on an incredible high. It's his first victory this season after plenty of weeks in contention.
"I felt like I should have won a couple times early on, and I felt like I gave away a couple tournaments," Bradley said. "It was starting to bother me because I was having some really poor Sundays."
On this Sunday, Bradley was fantastic when he needed to be.
His best-case scenario entering 18 was likely a playoff, but only if he could squeeze a seventh birdie out of the day and hope for a par from Furyk. Instead, Furyk fell apart after a brilliant week that included just five bogeys and no double bogeys.
His tee shot on 18 was fine, but Furyk's approach was long and right, hitting 7-iron into the wind. In the rough between the grandstands and a greenside bunker, 22 feet from the hole, Furyk's chip barely cleared the trap and couldn't escape the rough. Of all the shots he regrets on 18, that was the one he wanted back the most.
"It was just a really bad shot," Furyk said. "If I hit it solid . . . it rolls down right where Keegan's ball is and we're in a putting contest. If I make, I win. If I miss, the worst I'm going to do is tie."
Bradley had his own problems on 18, but he sank a huge 11-foot putt for par. Furyk's second chip rolled to 5 feet from the pin, leaving him with the short bogey putt to force the playoff.
He built a wide lead this week and led wire-to-wire in large part because of terrific putting. But the one putt he needed to fall the most, he pushed.
Within moments of striking the ball, the typically stoic Furyk dropped his putter and put his hands on his knees in disbelief as the ball trickled to the right and 4 feet past the hole.
Furyk quickly picked up his putter and practiced his stroke again, but it was too late. The tournament was lost.
"I was trying to hit it on the firm side, but I pushed it really bad, so I never gave it a chance," Furyk said of the putt. "It was a very quick stroke. If I had to do it all over again, I'd probably try to hit a putt like I do every other time and just kind of die it in the hole. It was a really terrible putt."
This was hardly Furyk's first crushing defeat. He lost here to Tiger Woods in 2001 in a seven-hole playoff and three times this year has led or tied for the lead entering the final round. He has lost every tournament.
He led late this year at the U.S. Open but made bogeys on two of his final three holes to finish tied for fourth.
The poor chip and bad putt Sunday cost Furyk $735,000. Instead of leaving Akron with the $1.4 million winner's purse, he took $665,000 for tying Steve Stricker for second.
"I've known it's a cruel game for a long time," Furyk said. "I led the golf tournament the entire way and lost it on the very last hole. To get that close and to know that I played more than good enough to win the golf tournament and not close the door is disappointing."
Cedar Rapids native Zach Johnson shot a final round 74 and finished 3-over-par for the tournament. Johnson made just one birdie on Sunday - he made five bogeys - and finished tied for 40th place.