Jim Furyk finished strong in the opening round of the Pure Insurance Championship on Friday, birdieing three of his last four holes for an 8-under 64. For now, he holds a one-shot lead on Cameron Beckman, Ernie Els and Stephen Leaney, who are all T-2.
At 50 years old, Furyk is playing in just his second PGA Tour Champions event. The West Chester, Pennsylvania, native emerged victorious at the Ally Challenge on Aug. 2, becoming the first man in over five years to win his Champions Tour debut. Phil Mickelson followed soon after by copying the feat.
“Yeah, obviously real happy,” Furyk said about his opening-round effort at Pebble Beach, a course he has played more than 20 events at. “I got off to a good start on the back nine and kind of got things moving with some shots close to the pin. It’s just good to get off to a fast start.”
Furyk stumbled in the early going with a three-putt bogey at the third hole, but recovered with a birdie at No. 4 (one of nine he made on the day). He would end up needing every single one to stay clear of the hard-charging trio behind him.
Minnesota’s Beckman stayed bogey-free and carded seven birdies for an opening-round 65, as did Australia’s Leaney. Els, the South African, had just two birdies in the front nine but put himself in the conversation with a hole-in-one at No. 12.
“Yeah, it was a strange day,” remarked Leaney. “When I finished, I actually thought I’d shot 66. I had to look at the scorecard five times to convince myself that I actually shot 7 under, so it was a bit of a weird day. I didn’t drive it particularly well, but I missed it in spots that you need to miss it on and I birdied the holes I felt like I had to.”
Added Els: “Normally, you make a hole-in-one every three years. I’ve made one every two, three weeks, so it’s ridiculous. I should go to the casino because maybe there’s a bit of luck involved, I’m not sure.”
Champions Tour fans will be in for plenty of great second-round action. Dicky Pride and Doug Barron finished just two shots back of Furyk on Friday and look to join the trio of Beckman, Els and Leaney in the hunt. Defending champ Kirk Triplett wasn’t so lucky, as he finds himself T-64 after shooting 3-over in the first round.
Furyk’s career includes 17 PGA Tour victories, including a U.S. Open title in 2003. But, a victory this weekend would make him the third golfer in history to win his first two PGA Tour Champions events. Arnold Palmer did it first in 1980, followed by Bruce Fleisher in 1999.
“It will be good to get out there with some softer greens in the morning and hopefully some good weather,” Furyk said before the second round. “Really thankful to get off to a good start, but still have a great golf course in front of me and two more days, so I just want to keep trying to do the same thing and keep making some birdies.”
Furyk will tee off at 11:16 a.m. ET on Saturday alongside Billy Andrade, last year’s runner-up at the Pure Insurance Championship. Andrade managed a first-round 3-under and currently sits T-14. Golf Channel’s coverage will run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET.