What You Can Learn from Furyk’s 59

The idea of shooting 59 is beyond the comprehension of most golfers. Surreal, even. So if you watched Jim Furyk notch that magic number during the second round of the 2013 BMW Championship, perhaps you found it hard to relate to his chase.

But every golfer has a “personal 59.” It could be 69, or 79. Maybe 85 or 95 seem unthinkable, yet somehow within your grasp. The point is, it’s all relative. Which means there are lessons to learn from Furyk’s historic round.

If you’ve advanced past the novice stage, you’ve probably had days where everything was clicking. Not only were you swinging well and holing putts, even Lady Luck seemed to be on your side. Before you knew it, your score was several shots better than your usual pace.

What happened when you realized how well you were scoring? Did you feel a rush of excitement and vow to make the most of the opportunity? Or did you become nervous and play cautiously, worried about “blowing it” down the stretch?

Ideally, the hot golfer doesn’t think about his score at all before tallying it up at the 19th hole. Unfortunately, few of us ever attain such blissful unconsciousness. Furyk certainly knew where he stood. (Of course, PGA Tour scoreboards are hard to avoid.) After firing an 8-under 28 on his opening nine holes – the back nine at par 71 Conway Farms GC – he said afterward, “it kind of dawned on me… that it only takes 4?under on the front, which doesn't seem too far out of reach to break the barrier of 60.”

In other words, he didn’t shrink from the moment. He embraced the possibilities. Yet he managed to stay focused on each shot as presented, not on what it meant to his score. “I wasn't going to count that I had to get to 12?under,” he said. “I was just going to go try to play the front nine and shoot as low as I could.”

When Furyk reached his final hole needing a birdie to attain the elusive figure, the gravity of the situation truly dawned on him. Once again, his approach was positive and assertive. “I said, ‘How many opportunities are you going to have in life to do this again?’” Furyk explained afterward. “Got to take advantage of it. Tried to knock it in there tight and make it as easy on yourself as you can.”

That’s exactly what he did, planting a wedge shot three feet from the hole and ramming home the putt.

You may never find yourself in Furyk’s shoes, but you’ll feel the same emotions that engulfed him the next time your “personal 59” is within reach. If you can adopt Furyk’s mindset, the magic number – or something very close – will be yours.

To sum it up, here are the key takeaways from Furyk’s finish; use them any time you’re on the verge of a special round:

  • Keep doing what you’re doing. Make sure your pre-shot routine and demeanor remain consistent, no matter how amped-up you are.
  • Don’t rush. Excitement and nerves cause us to speed up, so be aware of your pace and try to go a little more slowly than normal.
  • Don’t focus on your score, but on the shot at hand. Again, a steady pre-shot routine is your best friend in these situations. It will keep you grounded in the present.
  • If playing with your buddies, stay engaged in conversation and pay attention to their games. Furyk kept his mind off the moment by talking football with partner Gary Woodland.
  • Speaking of football, don’t go into “prevent” mode. Playing defensively leads to tentative swings and strokes, which almost never deliver the desired results.

Whether your “personal 59” is a 99 or an actual 59, you won’t get many chances to grab it. Think like Jim Furyk and seize the opportunity.