HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Jim Furyk says he’s done putting pressure on himself.
That’s good, because about two dozen players plan to give the sixth-ranked Furyk all he can handle in the final round of the Verizon Heritage.
Furyk shot a 4-under 67 on Saturday to reach 11 under, good for a one-stroke lead over Brian Davis (66) at Harbour Town Golf Links.
At other times in his career, Furyk might’ve obsessed about success and driven himself nuts if he didn’t follow a third-round lead with a victory.
Now, less than a month away from 40 – and with a victory earlier this season at the Transitions Championship that ended a nearly three-year drought – Furyk is content to focus on what’s good about his game instead of what’s not.
“I felt like I had to be perfect and I had to hit every shot just right. I put undue pressure on myself,” Furyk said. “And I’m finding myself now going out there and enjoying that back nine, getting in the heat of battle.”
That was apparent Saturday when Furyk shook off a slow start while chasers who started the round behind him moved past.
Nick O’Hern, who teed off five hours ahead of the final group, gave an early indication of Saturday’s free-for-all with a 64 that put him atop the leaderboard before 36-hole leaders Furyk, Charles Howell III and Greg Owen were done with lunch.
“By the time I teed off I was in about fourth place, then I played a couple of holes and I was already dropping,” Furyk said.
At 2:45 p.m., 10 players were tied for first, all on a course where Brian Gay set tournament records in 2009 with a 10-shot victory and 20-under score.
When Baird asked where the leaders were and was told he was on top, he quipped, “Yeah, me and eight other guys.”
Almost, Briny, almost.
Two strokes behind Furyk were two-time Verizon champ Boo Weekley (68), Stephen Ames (65), Briny Baird (66), Ricky Barnes (66), Luke Donald (67), Woody Austin (67) and Heath Slocum (67).
Right behind them at Harbour Golf Links was a group that included Camilo Villegas (67) and 2006 winner Aaron Baddeley.
In all, 23 players were within five strokes.
“Tomorrow, it’s go out and shoot as low as you can and not take your foot off the gas pedal,” said Davis, who’s never finished higher than second on the PGA Tour.
Slocum, a hunting and fishing buddy of Boo Weekley, looked as if he would finish the day in front as he came to Harbour Town’s 18th hole. But he sent his approach shot into a steep-faced bunker behind the green and could not get out on his first try.
He settled for a double-bogey 6 – his second straight at the hole bordering Calibogue Sound – and a prime chase spot on Sunday.
“I’m due for a birdie tomorrow,” Slocum said of the finishing hole.
Furyk appeared as if he didn’t have the stuff to keep up with just one birdie on the front side where players traditionally make runs. He picked up the pace on the back nine, chipping in for birdie from about 40 feet away on the 11th and making a 25-foot birdie putt two holes later.
“I got off to a slow start with my ball striking today,” Furyk said. “Really made some good up and downs, kept myself in the game. Then probably down the stretch, it’s probably the best I’ve hit it all week.”
Furyk could’ve used that game last week, where he missed the cut at the Masters for just the second time in 14 appearances. He made sure to get a bit of work in on the Augusta National range that’s paying off at Harbour Town.
Davis hadn’t shot a round lower than 70 since February. Here, the Englishman posted his third straight score in the 60s to stay in the mix.
“It’s just a different feel this week, so bunched and it’s going to give guys probably three or four shots back tomorrow a great chance,” he said.
Furyk’s got that mindset as well. After a two seconds and a fourth here since 2005, he’d like to come out on top. If he doesn’t, though, he’ll let it go, like he did after missing the Masters cut last week.
“I enjoy the opportunity,” says Furyk, “and looking at the glass as half full rather than half empty like I used to.”
DIVOTS: Five-time Verizon Heritage winner Davis Love III posted a hole-in-one on the par-3 fourth hole. It was Love’s first ace in 90 rounds since first coming here in 1986. … George McNeill had an eagle-2 on the ninth hole. … Blake Adams’ roller coaster at Verizon continued. He followed an opening 77 with a 63 on Friday, the low round of the tournament. Adams was back over par Saturday with a 72. … Amateur Byeong-Hun An, who was just a shot off the lead Friday, could not keep things going in the third round with a 1-over 72 that left him nine strokes behind.