Furyk shoots 65, swings into lead 'Funny' stroke no joke in Pebble Beach event


PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- You've seen the commercial. As Johnny Miller makes like John Madden with a telestrator, a golf conglomerate pitches its clubs and pokes fun at Jim Furyk's unorthodox swing.

Isn't Furyk offended?

"Look, I did the commercial with them," Furyk said. "Calloway approached me tenderly. They were afraid I'd be opposed, but I've always viewed my swing as being very much a part of me. I've gotten a lot of air time out of it."

Furyk is going to get a lot more this weekend if he continues his hot hand in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Furyk shot a 7-under-par 65 at Poppy Hills yesterday to take a one-stroke advantage atop a rather unglamorous leader board at the biggest gathering of celebrities this side of the Academy Awards.

Furyk is 12-under and heading the charge at the tournament scoring record of 17-under established by Peter Jacobsen two years ago.

He's one stroke ahead of David Frost, who jump-started his season with a 63 that was one stroke off the course record at Pebble Beach. Paul Stankowski, the other pro in Furyk's group, had his second straight 67 to get to 10-under, a figure that also includes Mark O'Meara (67), the tournament's only four-time winner.

The Tiger Woods watch wasn't pretty, as the 21-year-old sensation needed a birdie on the final hole to shoot an even-par 72 at Poppy Hills, the wettest but supposedly tamest of the three courses used. He's at 2-under, and if there had been the standard 36-hole cut, Woods would have needed that birdie just to keep playing.

Woods and amateur partner Kevin Costner get to play at least one more round, and the record gallery will trail them at Pebble Beach today.

Fellow phenom Phil Mickelson was atop the leader board until he hooked his drive into a tree and out of bounds on No. 14 at Pebble Beach. He ended the hole with a three-putt and a triple bogey that blew a solid round up to a 71, which left him in the group at 6-under, six strokes back.

So much for classic swings. Furyk's is something that wouldn't warrant a second look on a municipal course, but it's as distinctive as any on the PGA Tour. There's a loop at the top of the backswing, then he comes under the ball. It looks like a mess, but it works.

"I describe my swing as an athletic move," Furyk said. "I don't try to swing that way, it's just natural. My swing looks very complicated, but in reality it's very simple. There are prettier swings that are a lot more complex.

"People feel I'm going to be sore when they bring it up. They worry that they've struck a nerve. Fans come up to me and say, 'Don't worry about what they say about your swing.' I don't. On the tour, we all dress alike, we all swing alike. I didn't set out to swing funny, but it's been a plus."

Furyk was born in West Chester, Pa., makes his home in Florida and played collegiately at Arizona. His father is the only swing coach he has had, and they had some sessions together after the Phoenix Open last week.

Frost was the most inept player in that tournament, posting the worst two-round score, but yesterday he was just one stroke off the course record at Pebble Beach, Tom Kite's 62 in 1983. Then and now, winter rules were in effect.

"It couldn't have happened at a better place," said Frost, who had nine birdies and no bogeys. "It helps to put the ball in your hands, especially in the rough. It [winter rules] helped me on at least two shots. Listen, we get enough bad breaks in golf. It's time we got a good one."

Frost spent the last two months of 1996 in his native South Africa, lounging on the beach and tending his 80-acre vineyard. Coming to your liquor store: Frost Merlot. He hasn't won on the tour since 1994, but hopes that some hassles over equipment contracts are behind him.

A cold front and showers were supposed to move down from Northern California overnight. Scores could go up, the already marathon rounds could lengthen, and patience will be even more of a virtue than usual.

"If you don't have much patience out there, you're going to be in serious trouble," said O'Meara, who won here in 1985, '89, '90 and '92. "I feel pretty comfortable. My past experiences have helped me. If you are going to pick a place to have success, this is it."

Pub Date: 2/01/97

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