AP Golf Writer
PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) -- Jim Furyk lost in a playoff a year ago at the Tampa Bay Championship and had no reason to feel as though he threw one away. Luke Donald simply beat him and two others with a 7-iron out of the rough to 6 feet for birdie on the first extra hole.
Furyk just had no idea it would be the start of the worst kind of trend.
He had three more chances to win that year, and all three times he came up empty. There was that snap hook with a fairway metal off the 16th tee that dropped him out of a tie for the lead at the U.S. Open, and he never caught up. He had a one-shot lead and was in the middle of the 18th fairway at Firestone when he chopped his way to a double bogey and lost by one. He had a share of the 54-hole lead at Sea Island and finished two shots behind.
And that doesn't include the Ryder Cup, where he had a 1-up lead with two holes to play and lost to Sergio Garcia.
Furyk figured the best way to get over it was to forget about it.
This was different from the last time he had a sour taste in his mouth at the end of the year. This was more mental than physical.
Coming off his biggest year -- three wins and the FedEx Cup -- in 2010, Furyk had only three top 10s against full fields the following year and was No. 53 on the money list, his lowest position since he was a rookie.
"I really had a chip on my shoulder to get back after it and to improve and get back to playing the type of golf that I had in years past," Furyk said Wednesday. "So I worked really hard more mechanically on my game. I worked out a lot trying to get stronger. But I was very driven."
And after last year?
"I really tried to get away for a while," he said. "I was really happy with a lot of things I did well in 2012, but it was going to be a frustrating, disappointing year to look back on with the finishes, and not being able to finish things off. In a lot of ways, it was better than 2010 in all the unimportant ways -- the statistics. But all the important ways -- finishing off tournaments and winning -- it was a frustrating year."
Such is golf, and for Furyk, it was a harsh reminder.
He only had three chances to win in 2010 and had three trophies. He had four chances in 2012 and had nothing to show for it but frustration. There was no need to fix anything with his swing. This was a matter of clearing his head.
"I tried to figure out where I went wrong and what I could have done better and how I could have fixed it, and then you really can't dwell on it," Furyk said. "At that point, you beat yourself up over and over again. I tried to blow off steam, but I really tried to get away and really get my mind fresh."
He has played only four times this year going into the Tampa Bay Championship, which starts Thursday on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook. He has played reasonably well, with a tie for 13th at Riviera and losing in 22 holes in the second round of the Match Play Championship to Bubba Watson.
And he's waiting for the next chance to win -- with hopes of getting a better result.
Furyk is playing Innisbrook for the fifth straight year, and he won the tournament in 2010.
The Tampa Bay Championship gets overlooked as the third leg of the Florida Swing. So much attention is on the Honda Classic, which was boosted by its spot on the schedule between two World Golf Championships, and is helped by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy playing because they live in south Florida. The WGC event was last week at Doral. The Arnold Palmer Invitational is next week at Bay Hill.
Innisbrook is a gem, however, considered by many players to be the best tournament course in Florida. It features surprising changes in elevation, especially for Florida. Water only comes into play on seven holes. The fairways have subtle movement and are lined by trees, and the course typically is firm and fast.