A troublesome day of ‘climbing uphill,” for Jim Furyk on the US Senior Open | Professional Golf

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BETHLEHEM — Jim Furyk stuffed his approach shot to within five feet of the hole on the par-4 16th as the shadows lengthened over Saucon Valley Country Club on Friday.

The putt was a jittery, straight downhill, breaking maybe 15 inches right to left.

Furyk shoved it into the side door and dealt it a small leg kick.

“I persuaded it,” he said.

He’s been studying leaderboards and thought he needed them to get through the 36-hole cut after Friday’s second round of the US Senior Open. He literally needed it after missing an 18-inch par putt on the 18th.

“I lost focus,” he said. “I kind of let my hair down.”

Please no stupid jokes. Furyk probably wouldn’t have been in the mood.

The birdie on the 16th was his only one that day. If Furyk stays alive in his defense of the US Senior Open title he won in Nebraska a year ago, it has at least kept him breathing.

Furyk shot 75 to go with a straight par 71 first round. He’s in 45th place with five overs and actually made the cut on the number.

“A lot of things went wrong, to be honest,” Furyk said. “Climbing uphill all day.”

The first lap on Thursday was a smack through the rain. There were only 11 underperformers, almost all of which came in the afternoon when the weather softened a bit. Furyk played early.

The conditions were not an issue on Friday. Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, a winner of two British Opens and PGA in his pre-senior career, flew to the top of the standings on Friday with an unblemished 65, playing Saucon Valley’s first nine, his second nine, in four-under 32s.

Harrington leads perennial Steve Stricker (68-68-137) by one shot into Saturday’s third round. The hunt group includes some household names (Rocco Mediate, Jay Haas) but also a liberal spread of names like Rob Labritz, Steven Alkers and Doug Barron.

Furyk bogeyed the second hole and then vaulted the third, a very short (385 yards) but also devilish par 4.

“I hit the rightmost five off the tee, hung up, then hit a fat wedge and putted three,” he said. “A sort of error comedy.”

The rest of the day was better, but without any flash.

Furyk did not take part in any tournament in 2022. It seems that the leak in his game is mostly about the driver, at least for now. That’s a leak that will sink any player on US Open-style courses and course builds.

Furyk was 149th in the field in the driving distance through two laps and 108th in the fairways.

On the other hand, he was one under par in the two rounds on the par threes and his best moments on Friday were probably crisp irons on nine and eleven, two very serious threes.

However, the putts barely slid past. The birdie on the 15th, he said, was the longest he made all day.

“A lot of trouble with the reads today,” he said. “It was a grind and a fight all day.”

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