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Jim Furyk completes an impressive double at the US Senior Open

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) — Teeing off at a US Open is a challenge. Competing at two Opens in consecutive weeks is twice as problematic.

Jim Furyk will complete the USGA’s landslide double this week. The 2003 US Open winner will follow a brief appearance at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts with his title defense at the 42nd US Senior Open on the Old Course at Saucon Valley Country Club.

Furyk, 52, missed the cut by a knock at last week’s national championship rounds of 74 and 71. It was his first trip back to the site of the dramatic 1999 Ryder Cup, where he was part of the American team. they met on the final day for a one point victory over Europe.

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Furyk has put a lot of thought into playing back-to-back Opens.

“I’ve been a little worried about energy and making sure I don’t burn out this week,” he said. “The US Open demands a lot from you both mentally and physically because it is very demanding.

“But with that said, last week’s conditions… that’s very good preparation for this week. This one is not going to sneak up on me, so to speak.

Furyk returns to his native Pennsylvania as one of eight winners of the US and Senior Opens. He considers himself lucky to be mentioned among some of golf’s greatest champions, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin, Billy Casper and Orville Moody.

“It’s special,” Furyk said. “I won a major in my career, so to win at Olympia Fields is like the highlight of my career personally. And then to come here on the Champions Tour and win my first Senior Open and to be able to add that to the record books, that’s really fun, special and it meant a lot to me.”

Furyk had the opportunity to share the emotional experience of winning the 2003 Open with his father and trainer, Mike, on Father’s Day. Last year at Omaha Country Club, he struggled early in the final round with a bogey and a double bogey on the second and third holes, losing most of his four-shot lead. That time, Furyk experienced another special father-son dynamic with his son, Tanner.

“Funny moment, I saw my son … after doing the double at three, and he looked extremely nervous,” Furyk said. “I mean it looked like he wanted to throw up. And that made me laugh. …he looked exactly like he felt to me. He just lightened me up.”

Furyk steadied his game, and soothed his son’s angst, finishing at 7-under, three shots ahead of two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen and 2003 Masters winner Mike Weir.

Saucon Valley will feature a typical open test, with a premium on accuracy off the tee to avoid rough deep and twisty approaches and establish manageable approaches to its fast, sloping greens.

Founded in 1920 by local businessmen, most from Bethlehem Steel, Saucon Valley is hosting its eighth USGA championship and is the first to host three Senior Opens. Larry Laoretti (1992) and Irwin (2000) are the previous winners.

Furyk, raised in nearby Lancaster County, first saw Saucon Valley last month and was impressed with Herbert Strong’s design that will play 300 more yards than the 2000 event, with just over 7,000 yards and a par 71. He believes the design’s biggest defense is its greens, especially with some long par-4 holes that will require long irons on smaller putting surfaces.

“The difficulty is really on the greens; the greens have some teeth,” said the 17-time PGA Tour winner and two-time PGA Tour Champions winner.

Two-time US Open champion Ernie Els agreed that the putt will likely make the difference this week.

“Putting is going to be a factor,” said Els, who won the Open in 1994 and 1997. “It’s always been a factor for me. In a US Open, you have to get those putts in the hole, especially the cleanup putts. It’s hard to putt inside four or five feet here because of the slope, so you have to be good at hole putts.

“That also comes down to hitting the ball. … When you knock it out, you’re going to be struggling to get the ball to where it needs to be, and that’s where the putt becomes a factor again.”

The field of 156 golfers includes many notable names, such as US Open Goosen winners Lee Janzen and Michael Campbell. Previous Senior Open champions who have competed include Bernhard Langer (2010), Colin Montgomerie (2014), Steve Stricker (2019) and David Toms (2018).

Others participating in the 90th USGA Championship to be held in Pennsylvania include stalwart PGA Tour champions Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Jerry Kelly, along with 50+ rookie David Duval and New Zealander Steven Alker, the winner of last month’s PGA Senior Championship.

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