Furyk's fast start gives him lead at Tour Championship
Jim Furyk, the only American on the Ryder Cup team without a win this year, put himself in position Friday to join them.
Furyk made seven birdies through 10 holes at East Lake in Atlanta — including seven 3s to start the round — until he missed a few greens on the back nine that slowed his momentum. He wound up with a 6-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Justin Rose going into the weekend at the Tour Championship.
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Anyone questioning whether Furyk should have been a pick for the Ryder Cup?
He was more bothered by missing a 5-foot par putt on the 18th hole than what anyone thinks about his game or being in the Ryder Cup for the eighth straight time. With 16 wins, including a U.S. Open, and having qualified for every U.S. team since 1997, Furyk stopped thinking he had to prove himself a long time ago.
"Look at the way I play golf — the way I swing the golf club and grip the putter," he said. "Look at the way I go about my business. I don't hit the ball very far. I'm short. If I really cared what the critics thought the last 19 years, I really wouldn't be here. ... My teammates know that I'm going to give 110 percent. They know I have a lot of heart. I have a lot of grit, and that's what I'm going to do.
"But I've never felt like I have to justify myself."
All he cares about is winning the Tour Championship, with an outside shot at the FedEx Cup title and its $10 million bonus. Furyk was at 7-under 133 on a course where he won just two years ago.
Rose, who shared the 18-hole lead with Tiger Woods, made four birdies on the back nine and holed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 68. Woods went the other direction. He had to scramble for par on the 18th for a 73, his worst score at East Lake in 14 years, dating to a 76 in the second round in 1998.
"I didn't play very good today. Didn't hit it very good, and definitely didn't putt well," Woods said. "So it was a struggle all day."
That left him six shots behind.
Rory McIlroy, who is leading the FedEx Cup, had a 68 and was only four shots behind. He still has the best shot at the $10 million bonus, though he remains far more interested in winning his third straight tournament, and fourth in his last five starts.
"I just have to try to think of my standing in this golf tournament, not really think about anything else," he said.
Furyk hasn't won since he turned his cap around in the rain, saved par from a bunker and won the Tour Championship in 2010, along with the FedEx Cup.
He lost in a four-man playoff at Innisbrook. He was tied for the lead at the U.S. Open with three holes to play — two of them par 5s — until he hooked his tee shot into the trees and made bogey on the 16th. And he led at Firestone from the opening round until chopping up the final hole for a double bogey to lose by one.
"I think that my personality is that I'm 75 percent mad that I haven't closed the door," he said. "I have to be reminded, whether it's my teacher or my caddie or my wife or whoever it may be, that 'You're playing well. Be patient. Let it happen.' Instead of the silver lining in the cloud, I'm definitely tougher on myself than anyone else."
■ Defending champion Lexi Thompson shot a 3-under 69 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead into weekend play in the Navistar LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala.
"I played pretty consistent today," the 17-year-old Thompson said. "I hit a few squirrely iron shots that I wasn't happy with, but overall I played consistent. My putting has gotten a lot better.
"It's all about confidence really and just getting up to it and saying to yourself, you're going to make the putt. That's all I'm doing really, just getting a line and commit to it."
Mindy Kim and Mi Jung Hur were a stroke back.
■ Kentucky's women's golf team shot an 11-over-par 299 on the first day of the Mason Rudolph Invitational in Franklin, Tenn. The Wildcats are in third place in the 15-team field behind Texas (+6) and Arizona (+10). Senior Ashleigh Albrecht led the way for Kentucky with an even-par 72. She's one shot off the lead.
Time Warner Cable adding NFL Network
Time Warner Cable agreed to carry NFL Network on Friday, the last major holdout in the channel's long-running push into more homes. NFL Network and the NFL RedZone channel will be available to customers of Time Warner, the primary cable television provider in Lexington, starting Sunday.
For Time Warner customers, NFL Network will be available on the digital basic and sports pass tiers, while RedZone will be available to sports pass customers.
■ Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte will sit out the Bears' game against the Rams on Sunday because of a sprained right ankle. Coach Lovie Smith said Friday that Forte "is making a lot of progress," but isn't ready to play. With Forte out, former Louisville star Michael Bush figures to be the primary ball carrier on Sunday.
"Michael's excited about playing, too," Smith said. "When you're the backup running back, you want to get reps, and I can't think of a running back that's ever had too many carries."
■ Steelers linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu will not play Sunday at Oakland. Harrison, who had surgery on his left knee Aug. 15, has not played yet this season. Polamalu missed last week's win over the Jets because of a calf injury.
■ Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon is likely to miss his second straight game with a sore right foot. He was limited in practice Friday and listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against the Bengals.
■ Former Kentucky fullback John Conner doesn't expect to play Sunday for the Jets. He's listed as doubtful with a knee injury. Officially, Conner is listed as doubtful. "It's a precautionary thing," Conner said. "I think they're going to keep me off this week so I'm not having a recurring thing every week where I'm having a setback. They'll let it heal as much as possible so I'll be ready next week."
Ex-U of L star Terrence Williams joins Pistons
Former University of Louisville standout Terrence Williams agreed to an NBA minimum, non-guaranteed contract with the Detroit Pistons. Williams will report Oct. 1 to Detroit's training camp.
He was drafted No. 11 overall in the 2009 NBA Draft by New Jersey, but hasn't played up to his potential. The 6-foot-6 Williams averaged 8.4 points in 78 games, including nine starts, as a rookie for the Nets. They traded him to Houston during his second season in the league after he repeatedly broke team rules and played just 11 games. He averaged 8.8 points in 18 games last season in Sacramento and 4.5 points over 12 games with Houston.
■ The star of the Long Island University Brooklyn basketball team and three other players were suspended Friday after they were arrested on assault charges following a campus brawl. Julian Boyd, a forward named the Northeast Conference player of the year last year, Jamal Olasewere, Troy Joseph and C.J. Garner were arrested Thursday. The Blackbirds, who will play at Kentucky on Nov. 23, won the Northeast Conference regular-season and tournament titles the past two seasons.
The last word
Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith said he" lit into" Cam Newton about his actions on the sideline when the young quarterback was replaced late in the fourth quarter of Thursday night's 36-7 blowout loss to the New York Giants. Smith said he was upset when Newton sat sulking on the bench instead of getting up to watch backup Derek Anderson and trying to learn from his own mistakes:
"I don't want to be passive and not do it because if I don't do it, who will? ... I said, 'Get up and learn from this. I watched D.A. (Anderson) and Jimmy (Clausen) observe from the sidelines the last 20-something games and try to get mental reps. This is an opportunity for you to get some mental reps. Don't just sit on the bench and sulk. I know you feel bad, but that isn't going to help us.' "