Defending more than title

Jim Furyk is all smiles as he holds the Champions trophy after the final round of the Canadian Open...

Jim Furyk is all smiles as he holds the Champions trophy after the final round of the Canadian Open on Sunday. (Sun Media/Dave Abel)

KEN FIDLIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

Nobody can know what the future holds but if, five years from now, our national golf championship has found its way back into a position of financial and competitive stability, history may identify Jim Furyk as the man who saved the Canadian Open.

Furyk would scoff at such a notion, but from the moment he raised his hands in triumph at Hamilton Golf and Country Club last September until he duplicated the feat yesterday at Angus Glen North, he has been a model of class, of professionalism and of hope for the future.

AMBASSADOR

Oh, Furyk has been well-paid. In a span of 10 months, the third-ranked player in the world has mined $1.8 million US from our modest little golf tournament but, in return, he has lent some desperately needed and priceless credibility to our national Open, making friends for himself and the tournament in the process.

More than that, he has recognized a champion's ambassadorial responsibility to do whatever is needed to support the Royal Canadian Golf Association and its efforts to maintain the vitality of the event in an era of great uncertainty.

From purely a golf standpoint, it would have been easy and, more to the point, strategically prudent, for Furyk to take this week off.

He was aware, even before his win in Hamilton, how demanding the PGA Tour schedule was going to be over the nine weeks starting with last week's British Open. Most prominent players took this week off to gather themselves for the American Express World Golf Championship, followed by the PGA Championship, followed two weeks later by the start of the four-week FedEx Cup playoffs leading to the season-ending Tour Championship.

But the thought never crossed Furyk's mind. At a time when it looked as if this 2007 tournament was going to be a glorified Nationwide event, he happily put his good name on the Canadian Open marquee after the final putt dropped last year and he did the same thing yesterday, telling the mob around the 18th green that he would see them all next July at Glen Abbey.

"I really feel like you should always come back and defend your championship," Furyk said. "I had a lot of people thanking me for coming back this week and I appreciate it, but I feel like it's thanking me just for doing something that I should do."

In general, it's considered bad form not to defend a title, but not all golf tournament winners have such integrity. And very few deliver the kind of commitment Furyk did this week, joining a brainstorming session with other players and corporate sponsors all concerned with the tournament's future.

He left here yesterday emotionally and spiritually invested in the future of the event.

"In some ways, yes," Furyk said. "I think a lot of it was playing with Garry West (RCGA president), Jim Kinnear (Pengrowth CEO) and Jim Balsillie on Wednesday (in the pro-am).

IMPORTANT, SPECIAL

"Meeting these people and playing a round of golf with them and hearing their sincerity, you get that personal vibe. Getting to talk to the people directly related to it, you realize how important it is to them.

"I met them and thought a lot of them and so that makes it special. You just have that special involvement."

Furyk won the golf tournament yesterday in the first four holes. He called it a "dream start" and that's putting it mildly. He went birdie, par, birdie, then jarred his tee shot at the 209-yard par-three fourth to grab the tournament by the throat before overnight leader Vijay Singh knew what had hit him. From that point on, it was catch-me-if-you-can. Nobody could.

When the other contenders crept up on him, Furyk started the back nine with another birdie-birdie-birdie charge that gave him the margin he eventually would need. His only misstep, a three-putt bogey at 18, almost came back to haunt him, but Singh had no 72nd-hole magic left in him.

And as Furyk embraced the trophy, so did the gallery embrace their two-time champion.

"In places where I have won in the past, I have felt a good connection with the fans," said Furyk. "That happened to me in South Africa. A lot of Americans don't go and play the Nedbank and I feel like I'm adopted over there for that event.

"I had that feeling this week with the Canadian fans."


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