As Friday rolled into Saturday, and Saturday rolled into Sunday, and Sunday rolled into the back nine at the RBC Canadian Open, I thought about Jim Furyk breaking a four-year winless stretch, and how I was going to chronicle it. Silly me.
Furyk, one of the great players in the world for more than a decade and having another stellar year, sadly can't finish anymore. Against even Tim Clark.
The American is now 44 years old and amid his best season since 2010, when he won the season-ending Tour Championship, his last victory, and the FedEx Cup playoffs. Since then, he is 0-for-7 with 54-hole leads. He entered Sunday at Royal Montreal with a three-shot advantage, in a rather weak post-Open Championship field.
And Furyk, twice a champion of the Canadian Open, didn't play badly by any means on Sunday, with a 1-under 69. But alongside Clark in the final pairing, he watched the South African roar past him with five birdies on the back nine for a 5-under 65 to win by one, holing a testy six-footer for par on 18. Before that, Furyk had a 12-footer for birdie to force a playoff, but he didn't even get a sniff of the cup in missing left.
This was Furyk's third runner-up of 2014. He has seven top 10s and hasn't missed a cut in 15 starts. He's fifth in the FedEx Cup standings, and an even-better second in the U.S. Ryder Cup points race - a lock to make Tom Watson's team for the matches Gleneagles in Scotland. And Furyk just finished fourth at Royal Liverpool, so the courses in Britain aren't an issue. Pressure situations, it's apparent by now, are.
With all the talk about whether Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson should be captain's picks, Watson will have no choice with Furyk. He was 1-up on Sergio Garcia two years ago at Medinah, needing only one par on the last two holes for a critical half-point. Two bogeys. And that was months after gagging away the 2012 U.S. Open on the back nine on Sunday.
Where have you gone, Jose Valverde?
As for Clark, the victory exempts him into the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship the next two weeks. Hampered the past few years by elbow and neck woes, he won for only the second time on tour, following his 2010 Players Championship title. The 38-year-old previously had a runner-up finish this season, at the McGladrey Classic.
But he's also missed nine cuts in 21 tries. That doesn't like someone the once-great Jim Furyk should be losing to.
Hicks is almost 40 years old and this is only his third full season on Tour. His third-place finish this week was the best of his career, in 79 starts. Now 57th in the point standings, Hicks surely is ecstatic over his play, and so are you if he's on your team. He's made more than $1.2 million this season, and anyone who saw that coming … good eye!
Putnam played a full season on tour in 2007, couldn't stick, made it back in 2011, couldn't stick. Again with his card after winning the Web.com Tour money title and Player of the Year in 2013, Putnam will stick. It didn't look that way for a while, but with a career-best T4 on Sunday, Putnam has three top 25s in his past four starts. He's 81st in the point standings, and continued success could land him deep in the four-event playoffs.
DeLaet hasn't won his country's national title yet, but he has supplanted Mike Weir as Canada's top player (fun fact: Weir has never won the Canadian Open). DeLaet finished T7 this week, continuing a mostly successful season with his seventh top 10. "Mostly" because he's won $2.2 million and is 26th in the point standings, with a real shot at the Tour Championship. "Mostly" because he's missed the cut in the first three majors and The Players Championship. Ouch.
It's probably good that Els played this week, for multiple reasons. He finished T12 for his best stroke-play showing since November. It moved him to 105th in the point standings and - it's surprising to type this - now comfortably inside the top 125. But it was also important for him to overcome what happened in The Open Championship. He was noticeably upset after striking an elderly spectator with his very first tee ball, tripled the hole en route to a 79 and, a day later, a missed cut.
Watney climbed into the top 125 with only his third top 25 of the season, finishing T12 at Royal Montreal. Just last year, that would've seemed incomprehensible, what with the veteran reaching the Tour Championship. But Watney has been sliding for years, from first in the point standings in 2011, to 49th in 2012 and 63rd in 2013. Only a burst in the 2013 playoffs, culminating as runner-up in the BMW Championship, qualified him for the season-ending 30-man field. All that said, don't be surprised if he makes another late push.
Having just turned 43, Allenby is a long way from the Champions Tour. But he's fighting to keep playing on the PGA Tour. The Aussie used his one-time career earnings exemption (he was 23rd all-time entering this season) to keep playing. Now, he needs to finish in the top 125 or be relegated to past champions status. He's missed five of his past seven cuts, but has had decent showings in the other two, T26 at the Greenbriar and T20 in Montreal, leaving him 112th in the standings. He won't play in the WGC-Bridgestone or the PGA Championship, so it could be a nervous last few weeks for Allenby.
Rodgers, the nation's top amateur golfer out of Stanford, recently turned pro and has been getting into fields via sponsor's exemptions. He's made four of five cuts, but has not produced any big weeks. He cashed at T62 this week, plummeting 34 spots on Sunday. He might've been a recent pickup in your league by someone thinking he pulled a sly one (such as someone who might be me), but he has yet to make a dent. And Rodgers won't get many more starts before the playoffs.
Bo Van Pelt
Another rather sudden loss of game belongs to Van Pelt, who fell to 90th in the point standings last year and is outside the top 100 this year. He showed signs of a turnaround with a T7 two weeks ago at the John Deere followed by an opening 66 in Canada. But Van Pelt shot 75 on Friday, missing the cut and bringing his owners back to reality. He should qualify for the playoffs, but likely won't be around long.
This slide might be most perplexing of all. Having finished in the top 25 in the point standings for five years running, Mahan sits 72nd after a missed cut. He hasn't had many MCs - five in 19 starts - but they've all come in the last three months, during which time his game has fallen precipitously. Mahan does have four top 10s, but all early on. He has a chance to rack up significant points the next two weeks, but there is little sign for his owners that he will take advantage.
Completing our tour of players who are fading before our very eyes, Donald missed the cut at Royal Montreal, one of the shorter courses on the PGA Tour at 7,153 yards. He's getting bypassed by the longer hitters and longer courses, but this was a week that two of the shorter hitters, Clark and Furyk, finished 1-2. If Donald can't produce here, where can he? He's 62nd in the point standings.