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An Interview with: JIM FURYK
KELLY ELBIN: Jim Furyk joining us at the 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club. This will be Jim's sixth Ryder Cup appearance for the United States. Jim, welcome back to Valhalla.
JIM FURYK: Thanks.
KELLY ELBIN: Some comments on the golf course, please, that you saw today, as well as the first practice round with your teammates?
JIM FURYK: Well, you know, it always ... it's always no good following Tiger Woods in the pressroom; everyone clears out. So for the 14 of you that stayed, you know, I'm excited, as always. It's my favorite event, love coming to the Ryder Cup. You can feel a great presence out there, a lot of fans following us, pulling for us.
I've got Kenny and J.B. out there playing with me today. So half of Kentucky following us and pulling for those two and wowing at J.B. driving par 4s and hitting it 80 by me for most of today. So I had a good time, had a lot of fun.
The golf course has changed a little bit, but for the most part it's the same routing. Similar to what we saw ... 2 is now a par 4 instead of a par 5. 6 has changed a little bit. Off the top of my head, 16 and 17 have some pretty drastic changes.
But for the most part, a lot of it looks somewhat similar. 8th green is a little different. But a lot of it looks the same, some of it is different. Some things came back to me. I remembered some things. But the course looks pretty good, and I'm, you know, I'm looking forward, still, to the next two days and making sure I'm totally prepared and ready to go, but I feel pretty good about my game right now, I just need to ... I'd like to see each of the holes one more time and get really settled in and comfortable with how I think the golf course is playing.
Q. For those of us who weren't out there, could you just sort of describe what it was like out there at 13 when he did that? I mean, what were the people saying? How crazy was it? Was it Tiger like?
JIM FURYK: Well, we're a little sheltered from hearing what the people were saying. We heard the crowd cheer. I wouldn't call it a roar, but I would call it a loud cheer when the ball hit the green. I have no idea how far that is. I would never even think about getting the yardage. But it leaves the club quick, I know that. So I was a little ... I was amazed.
Q. Just to follow up, Zinger was in here just a little while ago saying he's very seriously thinking about starting them off first Friday, alternate shot. I'm just curious what you think that would do for the American team in terms of excitement, or could it backfire?
JIM FURYK: Well, anything ... I know ... could it backfire? I don't know, thankfully that's something I haven't had to think about yet this week. So I'd probably need a little bit of time to think whether that was a good thing or a bad thing in my opinion, and my opinion doesn't really matter all that much, so it doesn't matter.
Yeah, I just hope that for Kenny and J.B., I know there's a lot of added attention, focus that's being put on them, being from Kentucky, playing in the Ryder Cup, really feeling like this is a home event for them, and that can be a positive or a negative.
A lot of times you can ride that momentum and you can feel all that love and rise to the occasion and it feels great, and a lot of other times you put a lot of extra pressure on yourself.
I know Kenny is out there ... he was running for office today. I mean, votes aren't coming in until November, but he was pressing some palms out there today (laughter). And he was worried a lot more about making sure the fans saw him and were happy. He says, "Man, you sign 100 autographs, there's 101 people, and now one person thinks you're terrible. I just can't live that way." Kenny is just so nice and so worried about everyone else. He's running up to the tees and grabbing his driver and swinging real quick and then running down the fairway.
That can also be a negative, too. You can just try too hard to make everyone happy. You know, I caught the tail end about this is what he's going to be remembered for. It probably can't get any better than playing in your home state in front of your home crowd and in a Ryder Cup event like this. I wish him the best. It was fun to be out there with him today and feel all that from the crowd.
Q. If I have it right, I think you're now the third oldest player on this Ryder Cup team. It's your sixth Ryder Cup. How has it changed for you, and are you accepting more of a leadership role with each passing Ryder Cup?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, that's part of it. That's part of it. It definitely ... things definitely change over the years. Your captains go from the guys you watched as a kid and in high school and that you idolized to guys that you played 15 years alongside on TOUR. It is definitely a part of my job to help out, make sure everyone is comfortable, everyone knows what to expect, and everyone enjoys themselves and has a good time this week, because the week can fly by fast.
We're all anxious, we're all looking forward to Friday, but you've got to enjoy Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday first and pace yourself a little bit.
It's definitely my job to help out a little bit and discuss some of those things with Paul and Olin and Raymond and Dave and figure out if they need me in any other areas, as well.
Q. It bodes the question, have you thought about and would you like to be captain someday?
JIM FURYK: I think everyone that's played on a Ryder Cup has thought about whether or not they would want to be a captain, and I think every one of those people has pretty much said yes. It's an honor.
You know, I couldn't think of a better choice than Paul Azinger. He's accepted it as an honor; everyone does. You know, I couldn't be more excited about being here as a player, but to be able to lead 12 guys from our country, the 12 best American players into this tournament, would be a great top per. Most of those guys haven't played for the last few Ryder Cups, they miss it, and to come back and be a part of it in that realm would be wonderful.
But I'm hoping to play in quite a few more myself, and I'll worry about that time when it comes, if and when it does happen.
Q. Playing in the foursome today that you played in, it's you and three good ol' boys. Can you just talk about that experience and how much fun, if you picked up on any slang or anything?
JIM FURYK: Well, I definitely brushed up a little bit on my language last week. I've got a couple good friends from the south and gave them some calls and tried to get some good terms I could use.
If they get talking a little quick, it's kind of like being in a foreign country, you've got to lean in a little extra and really concentrate on what they're saying at times. But I've got it; I'm doing all right.
Q. One of the things, if you look at the last five or six years, or ten years I should say, the number of partners that the Americans have had compared with Europe really stands out. I think you've had ten partners, 10 or 11 partners in your Ryder Cup, and someone like Lee Westwood has had five, Sergio has had four. They seem to stick with the same teams over and over again, and you guys are mixing and matching all the way through. Just your thoughts on that. I guess it could go either way, but I'd be curious why that is and why the U.S. hasn't maybe found partners and stuck with them more often.
JIM FURYK: I mean, it's a very good question. I'm not sure I'm going to shed any intelligence on it, either. A lot of it ... I mean, we have six newcomers this year; is that right? First time?
So in order for me to play with the same guys ... it always seems like you have four to six new guys every year. So to keep playing in the same partnerships seems like it would be really difficult. But you find guys like Mickelson and Toms were on a good stretch there for a while. You find guys that kind of make good partners and you stick with it. Maybe that's a testament to my team record being so damned bad, I don't know; maybe I'm still trying to find that guy.
Q. If we'd been here at the point at The K Club two years ago or at Oakland Hills four years ago, we would have been anticipating ... we were all anticipating a really close match. Neither of those matches ended up being close, and the previous eight were very close. Have you any conviction that this is going to be different, and what gives you that conviction?
JIM FURYK: Well, what gives me that conviction? The fact that I look ... the same thing that gives the Europeans ... every guy on the European Team that conviction, the same thing that gives every guy on the United States team. It's something that we've looked forward to.
It's something when you look around the team room you look at the other 11 guys on the team and you have a lot of respect for the way we play the game and the talent and the preparation they've put into it. It's the fact that we all want to win so darned bad. Not only us in the United States but the Europeans.
I look forward to this event so much, and it's my favorite event. I've played in five of them and walked away with one victory and four losses as a team. It sure is a heck of a lot more fun to win.
So that in its own right, that gives me the conviction that ... I look around and I look at my teammates, I realize the Europeans are a very strong team and we have our hands full, but I look around the room and I have a lot of confidence in my teammates, and I think the fact that we just want to win so bad gives me an idea that we have the ability and we can turn this tide.
Whether we can or not, we'll see; but you have to believe it for it to happen. So I think that's really what gives me the conviction. If you don't believe it can happen, it's never going to, and you have to believe that it will.
Q. Paul Azinger was in here earlier and said basically that one response to losing is to shake things up, and he definitely did in putting the team together and a format change. I don't know if as a player you can pinpoint anything over the last several Ryder Cups that you would look at from your standpoint that you would hope would change just from players, but what change might you hope for in this thing just from the way things have played out for Americans?
JIM FURYK: I don't understand. What do you mean change? Not getting beat so bad; that would be one.
Q. Is there anything other than just playing better that gets it, or is there a change in attitude or approach or anything?
JIM FURYK: Well, we've changed ... I think Paul has done a good job in changing a lot of approaches, and you all are aware of them. First and foremost, the way the points are. The way we accumulated points, which I think was a great change. He gave himself a little bit more leniency or added a little bit more pressure upon himself with four picks rather than two.
He's doing a few things differently from a team perspective, the way that he's organizing us in our team room, a little bit different. Nothing drastic, but it's different, it's a change. For six of us, I guess six of us have played in the Ryder Cup. For the other six, that's the way it's always done; this is their first Ryder Cup.
I think the fact that we have six new comers. I think Paul is actually very happy about that. He said it before, I heard him say it at his press conference, I don't know if experience is all that important because those guys have experience in losing. However many of the last ... we won one in the last five or six, whatever it was. So I think the change is good, but when you look back ... I've always been the one to stand up here and to just say, they made more putts or this or that. I mean, they just outplayed us. They did it for the last three Ryder Cups.
I didn't mean it to be funny, I just meant I think you've got to own up to it. You've got to man up and say, "they beat us." In order for us to do better this year and in order for us to change that tide, they're a very good team, we're going to have to play better, and we're going to have to play better than they are and basically make no excuse about it. I've kind of said it every time; they've just played better. There's no magic secret to it. We're going to have to play better. We're going to have to be the better team this week.
KELLY ELBIN: Jim Furyk, thank you very much.
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