Jim Furyk takes Ally Challenge, 17 years after winning Buick Open
Jim Furyk said all week this felt like the first day of school.
Well, already, he's at the head of the class.
Furyk shot a second consecutive bogey free round to finish 14 under, winning the Champions Tour's third annual Ally Challenge at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club. After turning 50 on May 12, this was Furyk's first start on the 50-and-older tour, becoming the first player to win in his Champions Tour debut since Miguel Angel Jiménez in 2014, and 19th overall.
"I settled in today, to be honest with you. I probably felt better today than I did any day of the week," Furyk said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself early and Friday I was kind of a wreck on the golf course and was able to kind of chip and putt and scrap my way around for a 68. It was an ugly, ugly 68. So that's the one round that kind of saved my week and I think gave me the opportunity to get in position to win.
"So just excited to be able to come out here, first week and play so well and get a win."
Furyk shot a final-round 68 to hold off Brett Quigley and a fellow former U.S. Open champion in Retief Goosen by two shots — 17 years after Furyk won at Warwick Hills for one of his 17 PGA Tour victories.
With the sun setting behind the par-4 18th green, Furyk hit his approach to 8 feet. Walking up the fairway, he finally saw how close it was and let out a fist pump at the close of a tense, back-and-forth Sunday battle with Quigley. He tapped in for par to kick off the celebration, earning a nice ovation from volunteers and tournament officials waiting behind the 18th.
This is the first significant victory for Furyk in five years, since he won the RBC Heritage in 2015, though he remains plenty competitive on the PGA Tour, as the 92nd-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking.
This week also proved a heck of a warmup for his next tournament, this week's PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Because of COVID-19, this is the season's first major.
Also because of COVID-19, this was the first Champions Tour tournament since March, and it couldn't have come at a better spot for Furyk, who with Sunday's $300,000 first-place check now has won a record $2,592,130.63 just playing Warwick Hills. In 15 appearances at the PGA Tour's old Buick Open, he had eight top 10s and a win, never missed the cut, and in 63 career rounds on the track, he's been over par just once.
"So I had a lot to draw upon and a lot of good shots that I've hit around this golf course," Furyk said. "It's just a place that makes me feel really comfortable."
Furyk took the lead Sunday with a 14-footer for birdie at the par-4 15th, after Quigley had just tied him with a stiff wedge shot on the previous hole, the short par-4 14th. But they were tied again walking off the par-4 16th green, where Furyk's 12-footer just burned the left edge and missed, while Quigley's 8-footer for birdie just caught the right edge and went in.
But Furyk had the lead again on the next green, the par-3 17th, where he made par, and Quigley, who hit his tee shot to the fringe, missed a 4-footer for par.
That was the third of four bogeys for Quigley on the final nine holes. His previous bogey had been the first hole Friday. The only golfer spotted wearing a face covering this week — he pulled it down to hit his shots, then put it up the rest of the time — he settled for a 1-under 71.
"I just got a little sloppy as I was going along and unfortunately didn't do it when I had a chance," said Quigley, who was seeking his second Champions Tour victory of the season.
"But yeah, I mean, it happens. And, unfortunately, it will probably happen again in my lifetime.
"And you just go on."
Goosen opened with eagle at the par-5 first hole, and got it to 7 under on the day with a 20-footer for birdie at the par-3 17th to briefly tie for the lead, before making bogey at the par-4 18th to fall out of the mix.
Goosen (66) and Quigley were a shot better than Chris DiMarco (65), who had the round of the day to vault up the leaderboard, Wes Short Jr. (69) and Rod Pampling (68). DiMarco holed out for eagle-2 at the par-4 14th, highlighting a back-nine 31.
He was the clubhouse leader, though knew his chances were slim given the birdie-fest that is Warwick. Still, he said he'd wait a couple holes before having his first beer of the week.
"We joined Cherry Hills (in Denver) about a year ago, and I probably played 55, 60 rounds of golf there in the last 75 days. So it's a championship course. It reminds me a lot of this golf course. Same type of grass, the rough is the same, greens are pretty much the same," DiMarco said. "And then they have a par 3 there that I have just been wearing it out, anywhere from 60 yards to 100 yards, and I have been playing it as much as I can. And my wedge game this week was spot on.
"Very pleased with the restart of the year."
At 10 under were Champions Tour legend and two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer (69), former British Open champion Tom Lehman (68) and defending champion Jerry Kelly (69).
Carlos Franco and Tommy Armour III, who began the day near the top of the leaderboard, struggled Sunday, with Franco limping to a 1-over 73 despite holing from the greenside bunker for an eagle-3 on the first — he went 4 over from holes 7-9, and Armour, 60 and looking for his first Champions Tour win in his 215th start, shooting a 3-over 75.
Sunday's final round was delayed three hours because of pouring rain that hit the Flint area in the morning, costing fans — who weren't allowed on the grounds this week — a chance to watch the finish live on television, with two PGA Tour events and an LPGA Tour tournament also going on.
"I guess the one thing I did miss all week was the fans," Furyk said. "I remember this place would — it's a tight, small piece of property and they would pack a lot of fans in here from the Flint, Grand Blanc area.
"Miss the rowdiness at 17, but we'll see it in the future and I'm anxious to be back and see that first-hand."
This was the third and final pro-tour stop in Michigan this year, with the PGA Tour's Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club and the Symetra Tour's Firekeepers Casino Hotel Championship in Battle Creek earlier this month. COVID-19 canceled two LPGA Tour stops, in suburban Grand Rapids and Midland, the Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor, and the U.S. Senior Open in Grosse Pointe Farms.