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Furyk Steals The Show at Doral

March 6, 2000

MIAMI (AP) _ Tiger Woods can raise the level of play even when he’s not playing.

Just ask Jim Furyk, who drew inspiration from Woods for a stunning comeback to win the Doral-Ryder Open on Sunday.

Furyk had every reason to lose hope when Franklin Langham chipped in for birdie to take a 6-shot lead with only seven holes to play on the tame Blue Monster.

Langham, going after his first victory in his 101st PGA Tour event, had not come close to a bogey all day. Furyk couldn’t get an important putt to fall.

But Furyk had been in his position before, even if he wasn’t the main character.

Only a month ago, he was paired with Woods in the final round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Where Woods was seven behind with seven holes to play, Furyk was even further back.

``If you had told me Tiger was going to win that event, I would have laughed at you,″ Furyk said.

Instead, he watched Woods make eagle from the 15th fairway and birdie two out of the final three holes, grabbing a 2-stroke victory with a little help from fast-fading Matt Gogel.

On Sunday, it was Furyk’s turn.

With five birdies on his last seven holes, Furyk closed with a 7-under 65 for a 2-stroke victory over Langham in the Doral-Ryder Open. His 265 tied the tournament record set in 1993 by Greg Norman.

``I told myself that he won that event because he really believed he could,″ Furyk said. ``If I didn’t believe I could win, then it definitely wouldn’t have happened. Maybe I learned something from that.″

It wasn’t as exciting, but Furyk was no less efficient.

The collapse by Langham wasn’t as shocking _ he had a back-nine 38, to Gogel’s 40 _ but it was no less sad.

``My time will come,″ Langham said, his eyes glassed over after making three bogeys and no birdies on the final seven holes. ``If you don’t have a tough chin, you won’t be out here for long.″

Nick Price made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a 67 that left him alone in third at 270, one stroke ahead of David Duval (66) and Shigeki Maruyama (69), who secured his position in the top 50 and an invitation to the Masters.

Furyk earned $540,000 for his fifth career victory. Langham came away with a harsh dose of reality. Only a day earlier, he sounded like a tour veteran when he said, ``Sometimes, winning just happens to you.″

This time, it didn’t.

With birdies on his first three holes, Langham doubled his 3-stroke lead and sent his personal gallery _ a couple of guys in red shirts that said, ``Lang’s Gang″ _ into a frenzy.

When he birdied the par-5 eighth hole to rebuild his lead to six strokes, he was at 23-under and was threatening to shatter Norman’s 72-hole record at Doral.

Instead, he resembled another Norman _ the one who squandered a 6-stroke lead at Augusta National in the 1996 Masters.

His shots weren’t that far off the mark, but they were errant enough to put him on the defensive. Langham missed a par putt on No. 13 after hitting into the bunker, and missed another one from 5 feet that caught the right side of the lip on No. 14.

Jean Van de Velde, he wasn’t.

``I didn’t do anything crazy or dumb,″ Langham said. ``I just had a couple of errant shots.″

And one bad break.

His drive on the 17th, after his 6-shot lead had dwindled to one, ran through the fairway just enough to catch a bad lie in the rough. Having to shape the ball around the tree _ no problem, since his natural trajectory is right to left _ the ball instead stayed on a straight line and caromed past the bunkers into the gallery.

``All of a sudden, I have a 20-foot putt with a chance to take the lead,″ Furyk said.

He had made a 12-footer on No. 12, a 20-footer on the 13th and then hit a 6-iron on the 175-yard 15th hole for 2 feet. Like those, this putt found the center of the cup.

Langham’s last chance for a playoff ended when his 10-foot birdie putt ran past the hole, and he had to make a 3-footer for par. Furyk finished off his fifth career victory with a 5-foot birdie putt.

``I gave him a little bit of light,″ Langham said. ``He took advantage.″

It was a shocking turnaround, just like when Woods roared from behind to overtake a fast-fading Gogel at Pebble Beach.

When Langham chipped in for birdie on the 11th, his lead was back to six strokes for the third time in the final round.

``At that point, it was tough to think things were going to turn your way,″ Furyk said. ``I just kept plugging away.″

Before long there was shade of Pebble Beach, and Furyk turned into a Tiger.

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