OMAHA — On the third hole of the final round of the U.S. Senior Open on Sunday, tournament leader Jim Furyk needed two shots to get out of the sand, something weekend players can appreciate but rarely happens to the professionals.
Furyk took a five on that par-3 hole, and his four-shot lead tightened up quickly with a long way to go.
Was it game on, with several players within striking distance? Only briefly, as Furyk kept hitting steady shots and sinking putts the rest of the way to win the tournament by three shots at Omaha Country Club.
Furyk’s winning score was 273, including a 1-over-par 71 on Sunday.
The 2003 U.S. Open champion now adds the U.S. Open for senior golf, becoming the eighth player to win both the U.S. and U.S. Senior Opens on a list that includes Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Furyk earned $720,000 for the win.
This was the first time the 51-year-old Furyk has played in the event. The son of a club professional from Pennsylvania, Furyk has 17 careers wins on the PGA Tour and three on the Champions Tour.
After a bogey on his second hole, and the double on his third, Furyk made three birdies over the rest of his round and just one more bogey. After the early trouble he still had a three-shot lead to start the back nine.
For Furyk it was a very satisfying win.
“I worked really hard on my game this year,” Furyk said. “I still feel like I've got some stuff I need to work on, but to see, I guess, the fruits of that labor is very satisfying — to come out in a big tournament, major championship on a Champions Tour and a great field and then on a very difficult golf course.”
After safely reaching the edge of the 18th green with his second shot, Furyk could enjoy the walk up the big hill to the green with his caddy, Mike “Fluff” Cowan, the well-known former caddie for Tiger Woods.
“Every other time (I’ve won) it's always been a tight battle, and 18 has been super nerve-racking,” Furyk said. “So it's nice to take that walk. (Cowan) has been on the bag now for over 22 years, so it's great to share it with him and great to have him be a part of it. And you got to think, I mean, the guy's 73. Walking these hills, he's a beast.”
Just moments after the round ended Cowan signed autographs for fans for a few minutes.
Furyk's wife and two children were at the course Sunday and followed their dad during the round.
Mike Weir and Retief Goosen tied for second at 276. Bernhard Langer, of course, had another top-10 finish in a senior career with tons of them, with the 63-year-old finishing six shots behind Furyk in fifth place.
Memories of Omaha
Many of the players in the field this week will remember Omaha for the hilly course that catches first timers by surprise and the storm that took down several of the large trees on the course prior to Saturday’s round.
“Yeah, I mean like I say, it's a tough walk,” Goosen said. “We're lucky it was a little cooler this weekend. But you know, it's a U.S. Open course setup. The rough's four, five, six inches deep, and I've had plenty of that this week. And the greens are tricky. Today the pins were as tough as they can be, I think, and the scores showed it.”
Fred Couples, the 1992 Masters champion and former world No. 1, finished seventh. Canadian Stephen Ames, whose caddie is Troy Martin from Omaha, played in the final group but dropped to eighth place after shooting 75 on Sunday.
Four-time major champion Ernie Els tied for 17th. Colin Montgomerie was 34th, and Rocco Mediate 52nd.
* The winning score of 7-under wasn’t as good as the 2013 U.S. Senior Open on the same course when champion Kenny Perry was 13-under. Since then about 175 yards have been added to the length of the course with the construction of five new tee boxes.
* The tournament purse was $4 million, up from $2.6 million when the tourney was in Omaha in 2013. Pros that missed the cut still earned $4,000.
* The U.S. Senior Open sites have been announced for the next four years, beginning with Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 2022.