In a perfect, rational recovery period, Jim Furyk would take April off the table. Allow his surgically repaired left wrist to progress gradually and be ready for a proper return in May.
On the golf calendar, though, missing April is hardly perfect. Nor is it easy to be rational.
April is the Masters, after all, where Augusta National beckons with dogwoods and azaleas and the promise of a green jacket. Then comes the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, not only played on Furyk’s favorite golf course but where he’s reigning champion.
“I should be (out) all of April. That’s what I should be conceding,” Furyk admitted Monday, stopping by Harbour Town for the tournament’s media day. “But there’s this glimmer of 1 percent hanging out there.”
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Furyk has not struck a competitive shot since last September, when he withdrew six holes into the opening round of the BMW Championship. What originally was thought to be a bone bruise turned out to be a small growth that had started jabbing into cartilage.
The 45-year-old pro underwent surgery Feb. 1, with the recovery time projected to be three months. He still hasn’t gained full range of motion in the wrist and only Sunday began trying some simple bump-and-run wedges.
If the rehab schedule holds to plan, Furyk wouldn’t begin hitting anything close to a full shot for another four weeks. That would give him about 10 days to tee it up at Augusta National, or 17 to give Harbour Town a try.
“You start slow, kind of ramp up, gain some confidence every day,” said Furyk, who missed a chunk of the 2004 season after tearing ligaments in the same wrist. “Then you have to build up stamina. Can I do it through 50 or 60 range balls a day? Can I do it through 18 holes of golf? Then can I do that throughout a week?”
If the wrist isn’t ready, he would be the first RBC Heritage champion in the tournament’s 47-year history unable to defend his title the following spring.
“I’m kind of open-ended on my return,” Furyk said, acknowledging May is a more realistic target.
Furyk said he’s spent the down time catching up on projects at home, including being more involved in planning a fundraiser for his charitable foundation. The layoff didn’t really bother him until about 2 1/2 weeks ago, when he couldn’t make his annual trip to start his season at Pebble Beach.
Nor did TV pictures of sunshine and blue skies on the Monterey Peninsula help his mood.
“This was the year you wanted to be at Pebble Beach,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of 58 (degrees) and rainy out there. It’s been a while and I miss it.”
NeSmith declines exemption
Matt NeSmith, who had a sponsor exemption waiting as champion of the Players Amateur, informed officials last week that he’ll pass up the entry to remain with his South Carolina teammates for the Southeastern Conference tournament that week.
Though the Gamecocks are No. 28 in the current Golfweek college rankings, three of their SEC rivals are among the top five. Florida is third, followed by Auburn and Alabama.
“We think it’s a very noble decision by Matt,” tournament chief Steve Wilmot said.
NeSmith made up a five-shot deficit on the final day at Berkeley Hall, draining a birdie on the final hole to move past the faltering Chase Koepka.