Jim Furyk likes 'playing offense' on Champions Tour, looks to add to $2.6M career haul at Warwick

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Many golfers with the resume of Jim Furyk — 17 PGA Tour wins, including a major — have a difficult time making the 50-and-older Champions Tour their predominant work, especially these days, when late-40-somethings and 50-somethings continue to get it done on the PGA Tour.

But Furyk has fully embraced the transition for one simple reason: It's fun. Tournaments are three rounds instead of four, so it's less taxing physically. Players get to use carts in the practice rounds and pro-ams. And players get to see some familiar faces, the guys they competed against years and even decades ago.

Then there's the golf itself.

Jim Furyk won the 2020 Ally Challenge.

"We're playing golf courses that are 7,000 yards," Furyk said with a smile. "I get to hit my wedge, 8 iron and 8 iron again. I missed those guys.

"(On the PGA Tour), me and 4 iron got pretty damn close. I hit it every damn hole.

"I'm playing offense a lot more on the Champions Tour."

Furyk, 51, returns to Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc later this month to defend his title at The Ally Challenge, which he won in his Champions Tour debut in 2020.

It was a fitting place to start the next chapter of his decorated golf career. He's now won a whopping $2,592,130.63 at Warwick Hills, where in 15 appearances on the PGA Tour, he won once, had eight top-10 finishes, and never missed the cut. In 63 rounds at Warwick Hills, he's been over par just once.

The 2020 win, in front of no fans (they're back this year), kick-started Furyk to the top of the Champions Tour talent pool. He's second on the money list, behind 2019 Ally Challenge winner Jerry Kelly, who has played 10 more Champions Tour events than Furyk this year. He's just ahead of the ageless Bernhard Langer, 63, who's played 11 more events than Furyk.

Furyk, in 17 Champions Tour events, has three wins and 10 top-10 showings. He won the U.S. Senior Open last month, for his first 50-and-older major.

He's pleased with the start, but he's not pondering doing what Langer continues to do when he's 63. Langer has won 41 times on the Champions Tour, second to Hale Irwin's 45. He won as recently as March 2020.

"It's not likely," Furyk said. "Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, their careers are very similar, the longevity. One, both guys were in extremely good physical shape. They kept themselves thin and fit, and were able to avoid a lot of injuries. Two, they're very hungry. They're very competitive people. That's kind of the key for everyone, still having that hunger and that drive.

"Some folks lose that later in their careers, for a number of different reasons.

"Bernhard is a machine. No one has a better work ethic.

"He sets the bar."

The fourth Ally Challenge, returning to the site of the PGA Tour's old Buick Open, is set for Aug. 27-29, with galleries returning, plus a Saturday celebrity scramble that will include golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino, plus Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo, among others.

Some early player commitments came in Thursday, including Furyk, Kelly and major champions Retief Goosen, Mark O'Meara and John Daly.

This is the fourth and final major pro-tour stop in Michigan in 2021, after the PGA Tour's swing through Detroit, and the LPGA Tour's stops in Grand Rapids and Midland.

Last year, Furyk held off Goosen and Brett Quigley by two shots, and will look to become the first player to repeat at Warwick Hills since Vijay Singh in 2004-05, after Furyk won in 2003. Singh is expected to play Warwick Hills again, too, another one of those Furyk rivals from yesteryear on the PGA Tour.

"Everyone talks about this idea where … you head inside, everybody has a beer, a glass of wine and kicks back and relaxes. That made me laugh," Furyk said. "After the first round on Friday (in 2020), I looked over and there were eight guys on the chipping green, the whole range was packed with people. … Yeah, right, everyone just has a glass of wine.

"Guys are very competitive. They're anxious to get out there. They realize it's a second lease on life.

"It's not gonna last forever, unless you're Bernhard."

Ally Challenge

► When: Aug. 27-29

► Where: Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club, Grand Blanc

► Purse: $2 million (winner: $300,000)

► 2020 winner: Jim Furyk

► Tickets: theallychallenge.com

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tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984