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Golf: Winning ugly; 'OCTOPUS' FURYK BAFFLES GOLF'S STYLE GURUS.

Byline: Tony STENSON

JIM FURYK showed you don't have to possess a swing like Tiger Woods to become a champion.

And as the 33-year-old from Florida celebrated his first Major golf title yesterday - the US Open - he joined an elite group of athletes who have ruled their sport, but not by the coaching manual.

Furyk's swing is rare, and more likely to be seen by kids playing Twister or found in logging camps.

CBS golf analyst David Feherty once described him as "a man trying to kill a snake in a phone box" and on another occasion likened it to "an octopus falling out of a tree".

Furyk, who won by three strokes from Australian Stephen Leaney and equalled the record low for the Championship on 272, has always stuck by his unconventional swing, even when his coach told him it was not good enough for college golf.

Another sportsman with a unique style was Olympic champion Michael Johnson.

His peculiar upright running earned him a place in the 200 and 400metres record books and he admitted: "Experts wanted to change my running style. I had to make decisions, so I stuck with the coach who believed in my way."

South African cricketer Paul Adams found his extraordinary head-down bowling style likened to a "frog in a blender", while world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe looks distinctly uncomfortable as she runs away from her opponents and rewrites the record books.

Radcliffe said of her bobbing- head style: "It's the way I've always run. If you were to cover up my head, I'd look like any other runner.

"It would probably cost more energy to try to stop it than it would to leave it be. I don't really care too much what it looks like."

In soccer, Wimbledon's Crazy Gang used prehistoric route one tactics which were seen by the experts as the worst possible way to play, but they were good enough to win the FA Cup in 1988.

Now Furyk has defied the odds after years of having his unorthodox, homemade delivery dissected, mocked and maligned.

He has long grown tired of answering the same questions about his unconventional play.

"I could be leading a tournament but I still spend 90 per cent of any interview talking about my swing," he said.

"You get the same old questions over and over. You can only answer a few ways."

Furyk's highly individual swing, plus a hot putter and unrelenting focus that wasn't even disrupted by a topless women approaching him on the 11th hole, allowed him to coast to victory at Olympia Fields.

The championship was also a triumph for England's Justin Rose, who finished tied fifth on level par just one shot off third.

The 22-year-old Rose now relishes the thought of trying to tame Royal St George's in The Open next month.

He said: "I can't wait to get back there after this. Major championships are the ultimate goal and I seem to be learning the knack of playing well in them.

"Jim Furyk has given us all inspiration. He showed you don't have to hit flash shots like Tiger and swing the club like Tiger to win Majors.

"It often just comes down to playing sensible, solid golf, and that is the direction my game is heading."

As Furyk said: "The style works for me."

CAPTION(S):

LIKE TRYING TO KILL A SNAKE IN A PHONE BOX; THAT was how TV golf commentator David Feherty once described new US Open champion Jim Furyk's unorthodox swing... but it has earned the American more than $10million on tour, three Ryder Cup appearances and now the first Major of his career.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 17, 2003
Words:612
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