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An interview with Jim Furyk


September 14, 2004

JULIUS MASON: Jim Furyk, ladies and gentlemen at Oakland Hills. Just talk about your practice day, Mr. Furyk, and we'll go to Q&A. How was your day today?

JIM FURYK: My day was very good. Had a fun pairing. A couple young guys on there. Actually, well, three young guys but one has played in about 15 of these. I had a good time. I got a chance to see Chad's game. I haven't seen Rile's game too much, a little bit here and there, but a fun group. We had a good time out there. I enjoyed the golf course. I've been around it now and have a good feel for the golf course and what I'm supposed to do on it. It's a wonderful golf course, in good shape. It's a little soft right now and I think, as all events, whether we were at a regular Tour event or a major championship or here at the Ryder Cup, I think we'll probably see it firm up a little bit as the week goes on.

Q: You must be taking this Ryder Cup pretty seriously, you played a few holes when you were here for the Buick Open and we caught you on the range Saturday when your beloved Buckeyes were almost getting beat?

JIM FURYK: I'm not a beloved Buckeye. My wife's a Buckeye. I went to Arizona. I root for them, but I don't want to be one of those, now that they won the National Championship bandwagon. I root for them, we buy season tickets. She's the Buckeye. I hope they do well. Doesn't ruin my day, put it that way. It doesn't ruin my week or my day if Saturday goes badly like it would be for my wife. Sunday is a different story. I made sure I cut out here just early enough to get out of here to watch the Steelers play. I had the sound from the Lions, but I was watching the Steelers game. There's a lot of TVs in that place.

Q: Physically how are you feeling and are your practice sessions the last week and your playing last week and practice sessions so far this week give you any kind of confidence that you're going to perform well this week?

JIM FURYK: I feel like I'm playing pretty well. I'm comfortable with my game. I wasn't really -- I think I played relatively well to mediocre at Boston. Took a week off and took some time to prepare on some things I wanted to work on. I still have a couple things I want to work on in the next couple of days. This is a long practice week and one that if you have played in enough Ryder Cups you know how to pace yourself. We're not used to three practice days or three official practice days. I was here Saturday, Sunday. Came out, Saturday I just hit a couple of balls and chipped and putted just spent a very little time out here. Sunday came out in the morning and played nine and went and watched a little football. Monday came out and practiced a little bit. I haven't been killing myself, put it that way. I'm here to prepare for a couple of reasons, one, we got a lot of rain at home. It's awful wet. We're playing on wet bermuda, totally different style of grass, different condition. I felt like I had the time, I had the ability to come up here and practice and get ready with a week off and I felt it was going to be good for me to get used to the turf, the firmer, faster greens. I could do more practice and better practice here than I could at home. I had the ability to be here and I brought my family up here. I feel like my game is in good shape. I'm looking forward to the week.

Q: Any damage from the hurricane? Are you guys okay?

JIM FURYK: No, we were very fortunate. They were very fortunate. I think the Ponte Vedra/Jacksonville area, I think on the whole, there was some trees down and a lot of debris. For the most part, we were relatively fortunate. I think south of us, South Ponte Vedra, St. Augustine and those areas got hit pretty hard from what I understood. I have some friends in the South Ponte Vedra area that really had a lot of damage to their house and are going to have some concern here in the next couple of months for how to fix everything up. Hurricanes are strange. In one light you're going, "Please, please, just don't come to our area, and please, don't hit our house." But then it's almost you feel bad because it's not like you're rooting for it -- it's going to hit someone's house, unfortunately, and I don't want to root for it to hit someone's house. You hope everything is going to be fine and wish the thing would just tail off and stay in the ocean somewhere. It's unfortunate, we are in that time of year right now and our state has been hit really hard. Orlando area has got struck with two so far. I guess we'll sit and wait. I haven't really followed Ivan too much, but I'm hoping that it kind of slows down a little bit and dissipates.

Q: It's going to Mobile it looks like right now.

JIM FURYK: I knew it was coming up the Gulf and heading west. Sad part is it's going to hit somewhere and do a lot of damage. You hope the best for all of the people that live there.

Q: You touched on this earlier, you're a veteran with this, this is your fourth Ryder Cup Team, you know how to prepare, what to prepare for. What do you take into this after the first three Ryder Cups and is this team beginning to get a personality kind of like the other ones had?

JIM FURYK: I'm not sure what you mean by personality like the others had. I think that David Toms played wonderfully the last time, and it was his first Ryder Cup. Obviously he is an accomplished player and had a major championship under his belt. So I don't think that you have to have a lot of experience to play well in a Ryder Cup. But it's nice. It's nice to know what to expect. It's nice to know a little bit about the week and the functions and I like to give -- I was happy to get here a little early. I was happy to get settled into my hotel yesterday and get arranged and get everything in it's place. Just with clothes alone, I've got a roomful of clothes to organize, to figure out what's supposed to go on, on what day. I like to be an organized person but more or less kind of get organized now and save myself some time later. We're going to have functions tonight, tomorrow night, and we're up early the next mornings. I'm one of those people that cherishes my sleep, so that organization helps me get an extra 30 minutes or an hour of sleep and maybe get close to eight hours the next couple of nights, which I think comes in handy towards the end of the week because you're going to be physically and mentally drained after Friday's and Saturday's round.

Q: Must have left the baby at home.

JIM FURYK: Actually when we came up, we brought my family. There's no time really, an event like this, it's different. Normally I go home and see my kids and have dinner and I put them to bed. This event's a little different. We have my parents and my in-laws here. They are taking care of the kids this week at a totally separate hotel well south, about 30 minutes away from where Tabitha and I are staying. We brought them up really at the last minute because we were not sure exactly where Ivan was going at the time when we left. It was still supposed to -- we were hearing reports of a tropical storm or category one in Jacksonville because of the rain. Obviously her parents wanted to see the Ryder Cup, too, so we decided to bring everybody up and get them situated. We won't see the kids at all this week but they will be close by if there's a problem.

Q: I saw Andy North last week up in Toronto and he was talking about the feeling of being in the match where the decisive point is won by the other team. I just wanted to ask you, two years later, what is that like to have to be standing there as the bulls are cut loose on to the street so to speak.

JIM FURYK: It's not a pleasant feeling, I'll say that. I was involved with winning some down the stretch at Brookline, putting up -- I think I put up the 14th point and about five minutes later, Justin knocked his putt in to secure the half point to put us over for victory. Being at The Belfry, basically I was left, I made my par on 18 after a good bunker shot, Paul gave me the putt and I sat there and I don't remember how long his putt was, but we're giving it 10, 12 feet and it's a pretty helpless feeling. When you're on the golf course, you can do something about it. A lot of that nervousness goes away, but to just sit there and watch and that's all I can do at that point, I played my heart out and he got a putt to halve the match for a point and he hit a great putt and knocked it in. So Paul is a great guy and I'm happy for him, but it's an empty feeling to be standing there and watch it unfold. It's one of those that it's always going to be someone during the week whether it's our side or theirs. Teammates usually go up there and give you a pat on the back. It's just not that guy's fault, it just happens to be a half-point or one point during the week out of 14, 15, 16 whatever it is. Yeah, it's a hollow feeling and it stung. Eventually you get over it and you move on. But it probably had actually a little bit to do with how well I played in 2003 as far as I didn't want to be in that position and I thought I played pretty well at the last Ryder Cup. Ended up I think my record was 1-2-2 where I got a couple halves out of some matches I played where I didn't close the door, and one win, a couple tight losses, I had a lot of matches go down to 18. I think being that close and not quite getting over the hump sometimes pushes you to work that much harder and wanting to succeed that much more.

Q: You made a pretty strong and passionate offense a couple of years ago, I won't say where, about when people were questioning the togetherness of the U.S. Team. I don't know if you remember that, RTJ?

JIM FURYK: That was way back at Presidents Cup, yeah.

Q: He said it, not me. Where do you think that perception came from?

JIM FURYK: (Waving hand toward media). Well we sure as heck didn't write it. (Laughing). I don't know, you know, I remember at The Belfry, Tiger wore a mock turtleneck that was cream-colored or off-white. It was part of our team uniform that they were allowed to wear at any point. But because his shirt was a different color than everybody else's, he was an individual and he was standing out and was like he was being a little kid testing the waters in the press. Where it was just not an issue. Tiger and Calc and a couple guys like to play real early practice round times. And they went out early at The Belfry because that's his normal routine and that was a huge deal in the press that week. I think that on paper, which is garbage as it is, we are the favorite at RTJ or at The Belfry and didn't win. -- actually we did at RTJ. At The Belfry, we didn't win. You know, I don't think there's a favorite or underdog. You're playing 12 of the best players from Europe versus 12 of the best players from the United States. You're always going to have a great match. It's come down tight. I haven't looked at the stats but the last five, six, seven eight Ryder Cups have come down basically to the last matches on Sunday. It's been a tight race. So it's going to be -- it should be a close match. So, I just think it's more of a perception. We were supposed to win, for some unknown reason. We were supposed to win, just because, and because we didn't, I guess we were viewed as not pulling together or not being a team. I guess for someone like me who I really consider myself, as far as Julius or Susan Martin or anyone from the PGA of America is concerned, I consider myself pretty much one of the guys that is very team oriented. I think we all are, but I would have to say that I'm relatively low maintenance, maybe more now these days than I used to be, but not a guy you have to worry about being on time, whether I'm going to be here for the media, whether I'm going to be there for the practice round, whether I'm going to be there with my suit on, ready to go to the cocktail party at night. I'm relatively meticulous, on time, not one of those guys you have to worry about too much, and I feel like as being one of those team people and team players, I take that a little bit personally as a shot, to me, to myself, to my team. And now being one of the more veteran players and maybe someone that can, I don't know if lead is the right word but someone that can maybe lend some advice, talk to some of the younger guys about what to expect, yeah, I take that a little bit personally, that we are not seen as gelling or coming together and, you know, I think in some of those other events, we were outplayed. We were outplayed by a team that played better. I'll stand here and tell you, we got out played Sunday at The Belfry. They played better than us. They won that event. My hat is off to them. I don't think it had anything to do with us being team oriented or not. We want to be that team. We want to be the team that outplays the other. I don't really think there's a -- I don't see it. I'm in there behind closed doors, I'm seeing what the players are saying, I'm hearing what the players are saying, I'm seeing their body language, I'm seeing them prepare for a tournament which I see behind closed doors every week, week in and week out. I see how it's very similar to what these guys do week-in and week-out and how bad they want to win. I see a team, I see everyone that is willing to give up themselves individually for the betterment of the whole, and whatever is written though is something that we really can't -- we don't really have much say in. So, yeah, I think in years past, I've taken it a little bit personally and when I stood up that one time, I think I caught a few of you off guard because I was very quiet at the time. But I had pretty much had enough. I was tired of answering the question. And I don't think it was because of me standing up but it seems like I've heard that question a lot less the last few years which is nice. I didn't hear it much before The Belfry. I haven't heard it much before this event other than it's now like, well it used to be you guys were perceived that way, but no one comes out and tells us that anymore like they used to, which maybe that's an upgrade.

Q: On the same path, so much of this must be hard to put into words to someone who has not gone through it, but with so many newcomers to your team what sort of advice can you give them, what sort of experiences can you share about this?

JIM FURYK: There's newcomers to both teams, a relatively even amount, I think it's five each from what I've read and there's always going to be. There's always going to be new faces on each team and there's so many wonderful players on each side that have the ability to make this team. A lot of it is just what to expect. I think a lot of it is letting you know it's a long week. My first at Valderrama, I might have played 54 holes in practice, I was just so excited and I couldn't wait till Friday. And just pacing yourself, just handling it and treating it like another week. Even though you're here for maybe an extra day because most of us don't -- major championships are usually won on a Sunday night, but practice days, it won't be all day every day. But for a regular Tour event, I'm going in Monday night pretty much the earliest, playing nine holes in the Pro-Am and it's a little bit different. I'm used to a routine and they can throw you off your routine a little bit because you're here so much earlier and it's an extra day and it's a Friday start rather than a Thursday. Just getting the guys in their normal routine, letting them know to pace themselves a little bit. I don't know what the atmosphere is going to be like, what it's been like in the past, it's different here versus being on European soil just from there's going to be biased fans. When you are out there, you want to hear a lot of quiet over there and you want to here a lot of cheering here. It's always been that way and it's one of the wonderful things about this event. When you're over there, it's pretty quiet when you hit a good shot and when you hit a good shot here, it's a deafening roar at times. That's the way it should be. It should be a lot of fun. Just little questions here or there, some of the guys will say, what's this like and what's that like. I was pretty quiet and I didn't ask a lot of questions. Maybe I should have. Maybe I should have asked a few more questions to get a feel for what it's going to be like.

Q: Can you talk about Hal Sutton, it appears to be that he's saying so many of the right things and pushing the right buttons and we haven't even started play yet, but he had a very spirited news conference.

JIM FURYK: He's spirited.

Q: If I were on the team it would seem to me he's exactly the type of guy, and I don't want to compare him to other captains, can you give examples of things he's done that lit a fire for you or said, this is the right guy for this team?

JIM FURYK: Hal is a captains I have, whether it's Tom or Ben or Curtis. All four of those men are people that I've looked up to and that I've watched, whether I was, I don't want to make them feel bad, whether it was junior golf, high school golf, college golf, those are people that I looked up to that I wanted to emulate, that I wanted to be like. And then having the ability to play for them and getting to know them so much better was, you know, was an honor. Hal is a guy that I played alongside with. We've played similar equipment. We were on the Top-Flite Hogan staff together. I got to know him real well. Now Callaway has got that. Because of that, we test a lot of equipment together and talk a lot of equipment. So I know Hal pretty well. Now that I'm a little older and played more, I know this captain a lot better. He's got a lot of spirit and he's very passionate about what he does. He's very opinionated about what he does and I like that. He's confident. He knows what he wants. He knows what he's going after and he knows how he wants to go about it. But he's let us all, with all that, he's still let us all prepare the way we want to prepare. We are all professionals and do things in our own mannerisms. He let's us be individual within one group, team as a whole and he's done a real good job as of that.

Q: Do you like the fact that he's kind of saying, "This is the way it's going to be", at least the way he's telling it to us, not knowing what's going on behind closed doors, but, "These are the decisions I'm going to make, it's going to be this way, you can critique me later but I'm going to stand behind what I believe." Do you like that approach?

JIM FURYK: Sure. I think that's why he's the captain. (Laughing). That's what he does. We are supposed to go out there and hit the golf shots and play our hearts out and he's supposed to take care of the details and put us out there in the groupings and pairings and he has a formula for what he wants to do. Not all of it has been relayed to us yet and he's basically said that, you know, you'll know in due time and you'll know when you need to know and we have a plan. We're getting little bits and pieces of that plan every day. He has a way, he is definitely very organized and he has a way that he wants to do things. I don't think there is anyone that could be upset with it because, like I said, he's kind of let us all be individuals, although I'll be a be all as one. I don't know how he quite put it together the way he did but I think everyone is going to be happy with it.

Q: So much was made of the crowds in '99, the rowdy partisan nature, are you interested to see what it's going to be like now?

JIM FURYK: Yeah, I think that I'm hoping that our fans are extremely rowdy; that they cheer all of the good shots they say. I don't want to see anyone cheered against, but I expect when the Europeans hit good shots, I expect nice polite claps and when we hit great shots I expect deafening roars. I think that's the way this event should be. We had a few fans that went over board at Brookline. I think in any tournament that I've ever played in, throughout the entire world, I've always heard at least one or two awful remarks during a golf tournament. You know, instead of if I hear those one or two this week, I hope it's one or two, and I hope that 39,998 fans act the way they are supposed to and there's only two bad apples and they don't spoil it for everyone else.

Q: You mentioned asking questions, not asking questions as you were getting your feet wet in this event. It seems as though everybody expects Tiger to take a leadership role, even though as he pointed out he's 28 years old, the youngest guy on the team?

JIM FURYK: Is he the youngest? That's funny.

Q: Yet everybody wants to hoist him up there on the dais and take the leadership role. Is that unfair or unrealistic to expect a guy to change his personality because he has been thrust into a team context?

JIM FURYK: I think there's different types of leaders. In some sports, a team leader can be a guy that's in your face, cheering you on, smacking you -- whether football, whether it's smacking your helmet, getting in your face when you make a bad play or coming up there and giving you a lot of love when you make a good play. I think there's also guys that are quiet leaders that go about their business, they work hard, they are the first people in in the morning and the last people out at night. They lead by example and everyone knows where they are coming from. You know, if Tiger, I don't know what he said or how it came out in his press conference but I view him as whether or not he views himself as a leader, I view him as a leader. Whether it's an out spoken leader, whether it's a quiet leadership, whatever it is, he works hard. He works as hard at this game and works as a golf professional as hard or harder than anyone on TOUR. Vijay has got that reputation, Tiger has that reputation, maybe not as much as Vijay because he's not seen hitting balls, but there's different types of leadership. At 28, I think that that probably gets cast upon him because of how great of a golfer he is and how wonderful a golfer he is. It may be a little bit unfair but it's unfair what's expected of him basically week-in, week-out. It's something he deals with and is good at dealing with.

Q: Could you reflect for a moment on your unbeaten singles play and also your matches in Ryder Cup have come right down to the wire. For those of us who will never ever experience that, could you describe what that's like?

JIM FURYK: Oh, definitely, as you come down the 18th hole, The Belfry is a great example. It's a demanding drive. It's a little nerve-wracking. It's a demanding second shot and a tough green to putt. It's an exciting feeling. There's a lot of pressure, but I've always said that when you stand on the first tee with a chance to win a major championship on Sunday, you're nervous but it's a great nervous because that's where you've always wanted to be. That's what you've dreamed of. And being in that position in the Ryder Cup, it's an excited nervous. We've all practiced hard, we've all worked hard, we've worked whole years to put ourselves in this position. Although you're nervous which you should be, it's an exciting nervous because you've always wanted to be there. Sometimes it's going to work out to your benefit and sometimes it's not and hopefully more often than not. It's nice to finish those off 4 & 3 out there on the 15th green and walk in, but it doesn't always work that way. You know I've been on the good side of some 18th holes and on the bad side of some 18th holes. That's part of the game. As far as the individual record, I've been fortunate. Obviously my last one was a halve at The Belfry and not a very, like I said, really more of a hollow feeling. Paul and I played each other in at least three matches at The Belfry so we got used to seeing each other. We kind of shook hands and laughed at each other on Sunday, like, "You again" type thing. He's a good man and I don't know him all that well -- but I consider him a good friend because we have gotten along well on the golf course. Hopefully, we'll get the better of them this week. You know, that's part of it. I enjoy standing on the 18th tee with that opportunity and like I said I would much rather it end earlier, and hopefully you pull some of those out more often than not.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about last night's function, the dinner and the things that Jordan had to say what it was like to have Jordan in there and how it may have affected you at all?

JIM FURYK: I wasn't aware that he was going to be present. We were there for about 10 or 15 minutes and you kind of look over and do a quick double take, because everyone is aware of his face and who he is. I think he just kind of chatted with a lot of the guys and at the end, he had to take probably a few more pictures than he would have wished because a lot of guys probably never had the opportunity to meet him. It was a lot of fun. They asked him kind of on the spur of the moment to say a couple of words and it was more just he was really happy to be a part of this and he loved the game of golf. Obviously couldn't do what we did and no one can do what he does in his aspect of life. But he talked about just loving it and really thankful to be part of it. It's kind of interesting because in all the aspects of the people, we are very fortunate of the people we get to meet whether it's politicians or actresses and actors or athletes. I've always been a huge sportsman growing up. I played football, basketball, and baseball and was a Michael Jordan fan from the time he was a Tarheel and hit the shot when he was a freshman. I'm more interested in meeting the athletes because I've always wanted to be able to do what they can do on the court, on the football field. I'm fortunate to be able to do what I do on the golf course, but I've been a big fan. So I enjoy meeting other athletes and talking to them because of how much I appreciate what they do in their respective sports.

Q: That was the first time you had met him?

JIM FURYK: I think I've briefly met him before, but it was kind of in passing.

Q: One of the unique things about the Ryder Cup is these team rooms. We've heard about them at various Ryder Cups. Can you talk about maybe a couple fond memories from past team rooms and what this year's team room is shaping up to be like?

JIM FURYK: It's just a place on our floor where we eat breakfast, lunch, whatever it may be. There's food, snacks, drinks, a place where we can hang out, we have to sign our pictures and all that stuff. It's just a place where our wives really will spend a lot of time in there this week hanging out together. It's a place you can get a soda or a beer or water, some snacks. Really it's just the camaraderie. It's a place, you go home at night, you take a shower and that's -- you go over there, kick your feet up or whether it's playing cards or whatever it is, whatever you want to do, it can be made available. It's just kind of a big gathering place for everyone to -- that's part of it. That's part of it. It's a great place for camaraderie and for a team unity and for everyone to collect otherwise you're stuck without somewhere to go. It's just a collection area. So it's not really a -- yeah, there's some games, whether it's -- I know ping pong was the big thing at The Belfry. Everyone knows who was owning the ping pong table at the time. Whether, you know, there's some video games, there's -- whatever you want, there's something to do. Really, it's bringing us together in unity and it's a place for us to spend time together and I think that's good for the team.

JULIUS MASON: Jim Furyk, folks. Thank you very much.

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