Furyk, Tiger awesome 1-3 punch

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

ANCASTER -- Tiger Woods' new best friend has no flash, no hype, no bombast. Only substance. Yes, Jim Furyk is the strong, silent type and a guy you can count on in a pinch.

In an era when every player who makes two birdies in a row is ordained as Tiger's next rival, only to prove himself all too mortal all too soon, Furyk has quietly, consistently forged one of the best records in golf.

Look at the world golf rankings and you may be surprised to find his name at No. 3 and wonder what happened to Vijay or Ernie or Retief. Well, golf happened to all of them.

But rather than stand in line to be Tiger's rival, Furyk has done the smart thing: If you can't beat him, join him.

Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup captains have been trying to find the right partner for Woods for 10 years and not one of them knew he was standing right in front of them all the while.

Last year at the Presidents Cup, a brainwave struck Jack Nicklaus after Tiger and Fred Couples had lost their opening foursomes match. For reasons unknown to Furyk, Nicklaus tapped him on the shoulder to step up and join Woods and for the rest of the weekend they were golf's version of Bogey and Bacall.

In a Friday fourball match, they wiped out Aussies Mark Hensby and Stuart Appleby, despite the fact Furyk was nursing a very sore rib injury. In the afternoon foursomes, Woods and Furyk halved with Vijay Singh and Appleby, then on Saturday the Americans beat that same pair.

This is significant because nobody has ever been able to hit the mark as Woods' partner. Despite his dominant position in his field, Woods' record in Ryder Cup play is a mediocre 7-11-2 overall and 5-10 in partnership play.

The chemistry between Woods and Furyk has not been lost on Tom Lehman, this year's Ryder Cup boss. You can expect to see them together for the maximum four-team matches in Ireland later this month.

"Even though we have different styles of games, our personalities are very similar in how we approach the game of golf and how we compete," Woods said at the PGA Championship last month.

"So, from that standpoint, it's kind of a no-brainer."

Lehman has acknowledged that perhaps Woods' past partners were somewhat intimidated by Woods, fearing that a loss would be blamed on them. Furyk is cut of different cloth.

"We obviously have different styles of game, in that he has a lot more power but we tend to think our way around the golf course similarly and we read putts very much alike and our attitudes are very much alike," Furyk said.

"How that pairing came to be, I'm not sure, but Jack put it together and we hit it off pretty well and he kept us together."

It probably shouldn't be a surprise that Furyk is a hot commodity going into a Ryder Cup. He has been on fire this year with one win, three seconds, three thirds and 10 top 10s in 20 starts. He has won nearly $5.2 million US, second only to Woods.

In his 13th year, Furyk -- born on May 12, 1970, the same day as Mike Weir -- now has 11 Tour wins and accumulated nearly $30 million in winnings.

"When I was playing Nike Tour in '93, I probably didn't envision myself being ranked third in the world and playing on five Ryder Cup teams," Furyk said, typically humble. "I was just trying to improve.

"But we're greedy by nature. We just want more, we want to get better."

Out of Woods' shadow this week at the Canadian Open, he's hoping to add to that total as one of the favourites to win at Hamilton Golf and Country Club.

And then, it's on to Ireland where the spotlight will be relentless. Just the right place for a guy with his feet planted firmly on the ground.


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