CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jim Furyk has gone from struggling with his game to struggling with his health.
Furyk hasn’t cracked the top 20 since he was appointed Ryder Cup captain, and at No. 156 in the FedEx Cup, he’s in danger of missing the playoffs and finishing out of the top 125 for the first time in his career.
He revealed Wednesday that he has soreness in the muscles around his shoulder.
“I really haven’t said much about it and kept quiet, but the more I keep playing, the more I’m struggling,” Furyk said. “And actually, I’ve been in a little bit of pain here the last two to three weeks.”
Furyk was not eligible for the British Open — the first time since 1995 he didn’t qualify for a major — and tied for 35th in an opposite-field event in Alabama. The next week, he finished next-to-last among those who made the cut at the Canadian Open.
He had a cortisone shot last week to get ready for his 23rd consecutive PGA Championship.
“In a perfect world, I would probably this week and next, do the best I can, and then probably head home and figure out exactly what’s wrong,” he said.
The hope would be to take a few months off and let it heal naturally. Furyk said tests revealed an irregularity in the shoulder, but nothing was torn. The tests didn’t suggest anything was serious, except that he’s been in a lot of pain.
“This sport is difficult enough to play when you’re healthy,” he said. “And it’s hard to play with the best players in the world when you’re not 100 percent. My goal, really, after these two weeks is to get back to 100 percent and to get my health, work hard in the offseason and come out raring to go when I get a chance.”
Perhaps the most elite group in golf is the career Grand Slam, achieved only by Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Jordan Spieth has a chance to join them this week by winning the PGA Championship.
That also would allow him to join a larger, but no less elite, group of major champions.
Spieth two years ago became the 19th player to win at least two majors in the same season. All but four of those players — Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington and Woods — are in the Hall of Fame.
The list shrinks for those who have had multiple seasons of two majors.
Nicklaus had five seasons when he won two majors. Woods had four such seasons (including 2000, when he won three majors). Hogan did it three times. The only other players with more than one season of multiple majors were Tom Watson (1977, 1982), Arnold Palmer (1960, 1962), Gene Sarazen (1922, 1932) and Bobby Jones (1926, 1930).
Spieth said it doesn’t matter to him if he becomes the youngest to complete the career Grand Slam because he will have other chances at the PGA Championship. But he’ll likely have fewer opportunities to get multiple-major seasons.
Hitting for power
U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka always envisioned himself as a baseball player. There was just one problem.
“Believe it or not, I wasn’t a power hitter,” Koepka said. “I couldn’t hit a home run to save my life and I was a sucker for a curveball.”
That is hard to believe considering Koepka ranks No. 6 in driving distance on the PGA Tour.
He switched over to golf before he even got to high school in south Florida, not wanting to risk injury. But he still can’t live without it.
“I’ll sit at home and watch it all day,” he said. “I’ll watch all nine innings and people are just, ‘Really?’ I had to pick one and I felt like I had a better chance at golf. I wish I could have played baseball, but I probably wouldn’t have made it very far — maybe to the minors, but that would have been a stretch.”
His favorite team is the Houston Astros, mainly because he is friends with the owner, Jim Crane. His favorite player is Bryce Harper.
“I think he’s a cool player,” Koepka said. “He hits for power.”
Out of sight
Defending champions at the PGA host a dinner and provide a gift for all the past champions.
Jimmy Walker introduced the past champions into his world of astrophotography. He gave them telescopes that can be linked to their phones to capture images of space.
“I’ve never used one, so I’m looking forward to setting it up,” Jason Day said. “We’re going to be able to take photos of space. I’m actually intrigued by it. You’re actually able to set your iPhone up to it and take photos of space, which is fantastic.
“Probably beats my little Yeti cooler that I gave last year.”
The final three holes at Quail Hollow are known as the “Green Mile,” which is only a slight exaggeration. The par-4 16th, par-3 17th and par-4 18th holes are a combined 1,223 yards in length — more than two-thirds of a mile.
It’s arguably the most daunting finishing stretch of the year, and the most likely way to make up ground is to not lose strokes.
“I think last year was definitely easier to cope with,” defending champion Jimmy Walker said of Baltusrol and its back-to-back par 5s at the end.
Sergio Garcia was asked if he saw any similarities between the Green Mile and the closing stretch at TPC Sawgrass, which can produce some big numbers with so much water but also allows for birdies and eagles. He used to a few numbers from his practice rounds at Quail Hollow to explain the difference.
“I mean 16, today, being wet and a little bit into the wind: driver, 4-iron,” he said. “Next hole: 5-iron, par 3. Then the last hole: driver, 5-iron.”
He compared that with the par-5 16th at Sawgrass, which is reachable in two; the island-green 17th, which is a sand wedge; and the 18th, where players could hit pitching wedge in for the second shot if they are aggressive off the tee.
Three times in the last four years, a player has won the British Open to get within one leg of the career Grand Slam — Phil Mickelson lacks the U.S. Open, Rory McIlroy needs the Masters and Jordan Spieth is missing the PGA Championship.
There could be more “slam” candidates after this week. A victory in the PGA Championship would give Zach Johnson (Masters, British Open) and Ernie Els (U.S. Open, British Open) the third leg.