AKRON, Ohio - PGA Tour veteran Jim Furyk knows better than most how cruel professional golf can be, and he was on the receiving end of a bitter reversal of fortune at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday.
Having led the elite World Golf Championships (WGC) event from the opening round at Firestone Country Club, Furyk stayed in control until the 72nd hole where he wound up with a double-bogey to lose the title by one shot.
While his playing partner Keegan Bradley savoured unexpected ecstasy after sinking a 15-foot par putt at the last to win the tournament, Furyk had to deal with the agony of a squandered chance at landing a 17th PGA Tour title.
"Right now I'm just a little bit in shock with the way I finished up," Furyk told reporters after his one-stroke lead coming down the par-four last had been wiped out with an ugly six, having missed a five-foot putt for bogey.
"I turned a five into a six and lost the golf tournament on the last hole. There's no way I should have made double bogey.
"I've lost some tournaments in some pretty poor fashions, but I don't think I've let one ever slip nearly as bad as this one. This was my worst effort to finish off an event."
Furyk, who had tumbled out of a tie for the lead with three holes to play at the U.S. Open in June, played good golf for virtually the entire final round on a Firestone layout softened by overnight and early morning rain.
He birdied the first three holes and initially resisted a stirring Bradley charge after the turn with rock-solid pars and an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-five 16th.
His final-hole nightmare began when his second shot ended up in the rough on the edge of a greenside bunker from where he had an awkward stance.
From there, he chunked his chip to just short of the fringe, then chipped from a poor lie to five feet short of the hole before missing a five-foot bogey putt to gift the title to Bradley.
"If I wanted one shot over, I guess it would be the third especially as I had the ball sitting high in the rough," 2003 U.S. Open champion Furyk said. "I got too steep. I got the ball real high in the face.
"That's why it came out kind of dead, didn't have any power to it, and I kind of dumped it short there. The third shot was the one that probably is the thorn in my side.
"I've known it's a cruel game for a long time. I go back to the U.S. Open and the chances I had there, coming in tied with three holes to play, and I played poorly the last three holes."
At Firestone, however, Furyk had been in complete control since firing a dazzling 63 in the opening round and his failure to finish the job was a bitter pill for him to swallow.
"I led the golf tournament the entire way and lost it on the very last hole," said the 42-year-old, who is renowned for his rock-steady play and unorthodox looping swing.
"To get that close and to know that I played more than good enough to win the golf tournament and not close the door is disappointing." (Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)