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April 26, 2010
How Do You Cure a Masters Hangover? In Jim Furyk's Case By Winning the Heritage
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April 26, 2010

Hilton Head Games

How Do You Cure a Masters Hangover? In Jim Furyk's Case By Winning the Heritage

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MY SHOT Dan Jenkins: Semi-Gruff • P. G16 | DOTTIE PEPPER A Whan with a Plan • P. G16

One way or another, whether you played in it or only watched, you have to put Augusta in your rearview mirror and get on with your life. Seventy-two golfers played four rounds on Hilton Head Island last week, each man facing the same task: move on from the Masters. Easier said than done.

There were players who got in a car in the Augusta National parking lot, cruised down Magnolia Lane and made the 160-mile blue-highways drive to the South Carolina low country, watching for the speed traps in Fairfax and Allendale and other small South Carolina towns. They relived their three-putt greens and dealt with their Phil envy.

Others had alternate routes to the 1st tee at the Harbour Town Golf Links. Brian Davis, the runner-up to Jim Furyk at the Verizon Heritage, wasn't in the field at Augusta. He made the five-hour interstate drive from his home in Orlando. "No kids, so relaxing!" he said pleasantly. As he headed north on I-95 through Florida, his bicycle in the back of his Cadillac Esplanade, he thought of the Masters and how he'd like to get back. The transplanted Londoner knows how it works: To secure a tee time at the 2011 Masters, all he'd need to do was win the Verizon.

As it turned out, he lost to Furyk in a two-man, one-hole playoff. Still, in addition to $615,600, Davis won over more people than you could possibly count. The playoff was played on the signature par-4 18th hole, in the brackish air of low tide. He pulled his second shot, hole high but on the beach, a hazard under the rules of golf. On his backswing he ticked a wispy, dead, cruddy little stick—a loose impediment under the rules of golf. Davis immediately told the rules official on hand, Slugger White, what he thought had happened. They went to the videotape for confirmation, and Davis was assessed a two-shot penalty. The tournament, in essence, was over. Integrity lived on.

"How about a hand for Brian Davis?" Gentleman Jim asked of the crowd at his awards ceremony, the tartan winner's coat on his bony frame. Furyk had four solid rounds: 67, 68, 67 and 69 on the par-71 course that plays well under 7,000 yards. He has now won twice in 2010, the Tampa stop in March and Hilton Head last week. In between came Augusta and—this is hard to fathom, given his good play this year—a missed cut.

Furyk took his time getting to Hilton Head. On Masters Saturday he practiced on the sprawling new Augusta National range. On Sunday he drove to Myrtle Beach for a Monday event. Late on Masters Sunday, Furyk was in a Myrtle hotel room watching various friends—Phil, Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods—having so much torturous fun without him. He shook his head and closed his eyes when Mickelson decided to thread the needle on 13 (page G10). Jim, you may have noticed, is the more prudent type.

On Monday, in Myrtle Beach, Furyk played in the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am. (Now there's a title that says it all.) Furyk's celebrity partner was Darius Rucker, who founded the band and is its lead singer.

Ricky Barnes, fresh off his 10th-place finish at Augusta, was in the Hootie field, too. "Got up at 5:30 Monday morning in Augusta, drove the 3½ hours to Myrtle, played a six-hour round, then drove the 4½ hours to Hilton Head," an animated Barnes said. He raised his hands into a human question mark. "How'm I doing?" Answer: pretty darn well. At Harbour Town, Barnes tied for fifth. He figured out a way to get his good play from Augusta, Ga., to Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Mike (Fluff) Cowan, Furyk's caddie, did about the same thing as his boss and Barnes. He went from Augusta to Myrtle for the Hootie event—to play in it as a celebrity—and took his sweet time getting there. What would you expect from Fluff, a mad dash? Cowan's been playing road games for a long while now. He's made the Augusta to Hilton Head drive 30 or so times over the years, and he knows every route there is, and there are a bunch. Not a single speeding ticket. Nope. No heavy foot for Fluff, who won at Augusta with Woods in '97. As for his Hilton Head results, that had been a sad story. Note the tense. He had been 0 for 30 or so. On Sunday he won for the first time at a course much appreciated by loopers. (Short, flat, narrow and you don't have to wear heavyweight white caddie overalls.) In victory, Jim and Tabitha Furyk's pair of little munchkins gave Uncle Fluff warm hugs, and Furyk helped his man remove the 18th-hole flag from the flagstick, the winning caddie's traditional memento.

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