Jim Furyk is back in Arizona and he immediately wanted there to be no confusion as to where his college allegiance lies.
“It’s always good to be back in Arizona,” he said on Wednesday at Phoenix Country Club. “I went kind of down the road. I went to college in Tucson at the University of Arizona.”
The former Wildcat is well aware that Arizona State sits just 10 miles to the east in Tempe. His alma mater is about a two-hour drive south.
“This is probably pretty much split Sun Devil and Wildcat country, although we’re much closer to ASU,” he said. “I know if there were fans, there’d be some good Wildcats here.”
There will be no fans indeed at this week’s PGA Tour Champions Charles Schwab Cup Championship, although about 350 tickets were distributed to club members and tournament sponsors.
Despite his deep ties to the state, Furyk said Tuesday was the first time he’s played the course. Considering his smooth transition from the PGA Tour to the PGA Tour Champions, he’s likely to be a quick study.
After turning 50 on May 12, Furyk won the first two senior circuit events he entered. He posted a tie for second last week and in five events he has four top-10s with his worst outing so far a tie for 13th.
Furyk’s bank account has swelled in 2020 as well. He’s earned a tidy $885,700 in those five Champions Tour events. A fifth-place finish or better this week will push him over the $1,000,000 mark in earnings. While nothing to sneeze at, Furyk pocketed just $224,450 in 13 events on the PGA Tour. That season ended for him in mid-August at the Wyndham Championship.
“Once the PGA Tour season was over for me at Wyndham, I kinda committed that thought: ‘You know, I’m going to go play the rest of that schedule on the Champions Tour, see what it looks like, see how I feel.’ I think pretty shortly after that, within a couple of weeks, this was pretty much my home,” Furyk said. “This is where I’m going in the future. I’ll still go out and play some events on the PGA Tour but this is going to be predominantly where I play most of my golf.”
His two Champions Tour wins came at Warwick Hills in Michigan and Pebble Beach, courses he says he is very familiar with. But now he’s getting to try out new places.
“I’m finally starting to feel more like that rookie,” he joked. “I have to punch into the GPS ‘Where am I going’, asking people ‘Where’s the locker room? Where’s the driving range?’ But I’ve enjoyed it. It’s good to see some old friends.”
The Champions courses are a bit more to his liking at this point in his career, too.
“I enjoy playing golf courses that are 7,000 yards long instead of 7,400 yards or 7,500 yards,” he said. “I went from being one of the five oldest guys and one of the ten shortest on the PGA Tour to one of the five youngest and in the top 20 percent in length, so it’s nice to be young and long. I haven’t been able to say that in so long.”
Furyk is part of a bigger wave of PGA Tour stars heading to the Champions Tour, many of whom fans know by name.
“This tour had a great group of guys already there, but you start adding in the last year Retief, Ernie, Phil, Mike Weir, KJ Choi, Rich Beem. It seems like every month someone else is turning 50.”
Mickelson is not in the field in Phoenix. He’s chose the Vivint Houston Open as his final prep for next week’s Masters, a tournament that Furyk says he’s looking forward to watching.
“I’m not in so I won’t be there. I’ll watch from home like everyone else,” he said. “I’m really curious to see what it looks like. It’s Augusta, so it’s going to beautiful, it’ll be in great shape. Is it going to play firm and fast, like we all wanna see Augusta, or is it going to be a little slower, a little longer, maybe even favor the bomber. Augusta always favors the bomber but maybe it’ll favor the bomber a little more this year.”