An Interview With: JIM FURYK
KELLY ELBIN: One of the veterans for the United States Team, Jim Furyk, joining us at the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club. Jim is making his eighth Ryder Cup appearance, which ties him for second all time among U.S. Team members. This is Jim's eighth consecutive Ryder Cup, as well.
Jim, welcome and comments on another return to another Ryder Cup.
JIM FURYK: Well, obviously couldn't be happier to be here. I had to look for a captain's pick, and I was excited to get that call.
You know, looking forward to the matches. We have played a couple major championships here. There's been a couple changes to Medinah since. But it's basically the same golf course, and we have a team right now that's played pretty well here the last few weeks collectively. So you know, got to kind of pace ourselves for the next few days, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, have some dinners, the gala, the Opening Ceremony. So it's easy to get anxious at this point.
Right now it's kind of trying to get our game in shape and chipping away and conserving some energy. Right now, I think more mentally kind of pacing ourselves and realizing the matches are still three, four days away.
Q. You and Tiger and Phil have been such a core of this U.S. Team for so long. If you go back 15 years ago to Valderrama when you first all played together, could you have imagined back then that you would have been on every team, barring injury, since then, and would you have expected better results from yourselves collectively?
JIM FURYK: Well, I think back then, if we would have let people vote, they would have chosen Tiger and Phil probably. I know Phil is my age; he was always the golden boy from junior golf and college golf on. I think everyone would have probably chosen Tiger and Phil to be in all those matches, maybe not necessarily me. So I'm proud of that fact and proud of the consistency over the last few years.
And I think that, yeah, considering this is we have played in seven, we have won two and lost five, I would have expected and definitely wished for a much better record than that.
Q. Could you talk about the dynamic that some of the young kids have brought to this team? It seems like there's a lot of energy from some of these guys.
JIM FURYK: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think we've got a good mix of guys. But that energy, we just basically got all together yesterday and last night as a team. I think the young guys start figuring out what the team room is all about and enjoying themselves and having fun. It's a place to relax.
But basically, last night was our first dinner together, and kind of getting together. So that dynamic is going to grow and get stronger, and that bond will grow and get stronger as the week goes on.
Q. With regard to Tiger, a little bit bouncing off of Doug's question, for the obviously record setting success he's had in majors and everywhere else around the world, is it at all surprising to you that his Ryder Cup record has not matched that at all? And do you have any theories as to why with the different dynamic
JIM FURYK: I don't actually even know what his Ryder Cup record is.
Q. He's 13 14 or something like that.
JIM FURYK: So about .500, basically, roughly.
Yeah, I think with as dominant as he was through most of those years, I think anyone would be a little surprised to see a .500. But also that has a lot to do with no one has an extremely good record on our team, would be my guess, and that would be because we haven't won a lot of these matches.
If we all had a 75 percent winning percentage, we would be 5 2 rather than 2 5. So I think basically my theory there is, you know, I would be interested to hear what his individual record was, rather than team, so part of it's team instead of individual. And as a team, we haven't played that well collectively for seven Ryder Cups. We have played well in three or four of those, but not we definitely had two or three where we did not play very well.
Q. What do you remember from your first ever tee shot at Valderrama?
JIM FURYK: Everyone's asked me that this week. I played with Tom Lehman in my first match at Valderrama. We played against Jesper and Per Ulrik Johansson. I remember Jesper had played the U.S. Tour full time. I played a lot of golf with Tom. Both of those players were much longer than me. The first hole at Valderrama is a tight hole. We were all hitting 3 woods.
They were probably 15 a good 15 to 20 yards longer than me at the time, and I hit it 20 yards past anyone off the first tee. So I just remember being really jacked up and had a lot of adrenaline at the time. I wish I could tap into more of that when I needed it. But was able to hit that one pretty far.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what you're expecting from the crowds here, especially from Chicago sports fans that will be in attendance?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I know the Chicago fans are good fans. I know they are loud. I know they are boisterous. I think that's what I'm expecting to hear.
I know the European fans, even with, say, 3,000 fans here, they can make a lot of noise. That's what they are good at. They have their soccer chants and songs. That's part of their culture as far as, you know, being heard, being loud. They are good fans, as well.
But I know that 37,000 Americans can drown out 3,000 Europeans if they want to. So our job is to and that's kind of what happened at Valhalla a little bit. They let them have their fun for a while, and then when they got tired of it, they just started, "USA, USA" and made enough noise that you couldn't hear them anymore.
Our job will be to get out there, try to make a good start, make some birdies and engage the crowd and show some emotion ourselves. I think if we can do that, I think the rest of the world will find out how good the sports fans here in Chicago are.
Q. Tiger is 4 1 1, by the way, in singles, since you asked.
JIM FURYK: 4 1 1? So, yeah, that's probably the rest of our fault then; how's that? There's my theory. (Laughter.)
Q. What do you make of the experience of The Ryder Cup? You've played in so many of these, obviously so have Tiger and Phil and several of the European guys have. Is it a big advantage to have that? Does it matter much or overstated? What do you think about that?
JIM FURYK: I didn't quite understand.
Q. Is it a big advantage to have experience, or is it not as big of a factor as it's made out to be?
JIM FURYK: Well, I think it's an advantage. You mean from a team perspective or as an individual? For me, I think it's nice to go in knowing what to expect. You know, whether you go back to the first time you ever played in a golf tournament, the first time I ever went to Tour School, the first time I got into contention on Tour; it's nice to have experience on your side. You can draw from it positively and negatively. You can draw from both situations.
But is it a necessity? No, if that makes sense. I think it's great to have a good mix on each team, but, you know, for the young guys that don't have experience, they have all got a veteran that's kind of in their ear saying, hey, you've been here before, you've done this before, just go out and play your game and play your style. You're on this team for a reason. You qualified; you earned it. Go out and play golf the way you know how to and don't try to do any more, and you'll be just fine.
So I think the team atmosphere as an individual, it's sometimes difficult to step into a new situation and know what to expect. In a team atmosphere, you've got people there to kind of help you out and let you know and I think make you feel comfortable. So it's probably a little easier to be to come in without some experience in an event like this.
Q. Maybe sort of the question I was going to ask, but it is about the fact that you guys do have four Ryder Cup rookies on the team, but obviously they are on this team for a reason. Talk about the role of the veterans such as yourself and Phil and Tiger and what you will do to help them to experience something that they have never experienced before. And also, is it easier to have your rookie experience on home soil?
JIM FURYK: I don't know if it makes it any easier to be on home soil. You know, I still I like I think it's good to have our rookies on the team, and I think it's good to have some new energy; but also guys that are playing great. Jason had a year that wasn't equaled by many guys and through the middle of the year was basically our Player of the Year.
You know, Webb had some experience at The Presidents Cup, which I think is a feather in his cap, and I know he's a Ryder Cup rookie but he's been through the whole process before, which is good. And then we have got Keegan and Brandt, and Brandt's as hot as anyone in the world right now coming off a win in THE TOUR Championship and playing so well in the Playoffs. Keegan and Phil are good buddies, so I know Phil is there for Keegan and that's his veteran he'll lean on. They are good friends.
It's basically being comfortable with the situation. I think the veterans' role might get overplayed; as I'm getting older now, I get asked a lot about that. I think Bubba called me a quarterback last week, which makes me a little nervous, because I'm not sure what the plays are and I'm going to have to call them.
It can be overplayed a little bit. It's just a little thing here or there that could help or may trigger a guy. As a veteran player, I try to step out of what's going on inside the team room and sit back and watch and look for some body language. When you're on the golf course and a guy is hanging his head, you can tell he's upset about the way he played; just a comment here or there to relax them and let them know we are going to need them the next day. Hey, it happens to everyone, or whatever it may be.
But just letting the guys know what to expect. I think it gets overplayed to a certain extent. There's only so much; I'm not going to tell Keegan or Brandt or those guys how to play golf. They basically all had probably a better year than me, and I had a good year; so they know how to play the game and they know what's good for their game, how to prepare, what they are going to do to play well this week.
It's just a little, maybe a positive shot here or there that can help out and give them a jump start.
Q. Who are you playing with? Who is in your group in the practice round and do you have a preference who you're partnered with?
JIM FURYK: Everyone has a preference of who they play with. I think today I'm going out with well, the three guys that are going to the media today are playing together, and I think we are the last group. So me, Jason and Tiger, and Sneds is playing with us.
And do I have a preference with who I play with? Absolutely. You know, I think the goal in a Ryder Cup and the hard part for a captain is to try to get six strong teams, or at least get four really strong teams out there. You know, not necessarily putting the best team out and then working your way down; it's trying to get the four strongest combinations in every match out there.
And I think in some years, it's maybe been a little bit more difficult to find guys that play well together. I think Davis has a lot of options this week, and you have a lot of guys that I think pair up, both physically in their games, but also I think, you know, the mental aspect and the personality aspect of the game, I think you have guys that pair up well together.
So I expect that we'll try a bunch of different combinations and ideas in the team room, and as we play our practice rounds, we'll figure out more and more as we go during the week.
JIM FURYK: I asked if I would share who my preference was, and I said no. I've had 13 partners?
Q. Does that make you versatile?
JIM FURYK: There's only 12 options this week, though. Yeah, I'm either versatile or no one likes to play with me, one of the two.
Q. You're the only guy who has played in the decisive singles match on the losing end and the winning end. I wonder if you can share what you recall; McGinley in 2002 and the Mechanic in Valhalla?
JIM FURYK: Basically Paul made a good birdie putt on 17. I missed about a 15 footer; he made a 15 footer to halve the match. We went to 18 all square, both missed the green, and he hit a great pitch from about 40 yards from the pin left to about 12 feet. And I had a bunker shot up there in gimme range, and it's kind of an empty feeling. He's got a 12 footer to halve the match, but that half a point was to win The Ryder Cup. It's kind of an empty feeling when you're done and there's nothing I could do to affect the outcome at that point, and he's sitting over that 12 footer. Watching it go in, seeing the place erupt and being on the green, you feel responsible, even though it's a team event, even though I didn't lose my match, but that half point cost us The Ryder Cup, and that empty feeling stuck with me. You feel responsible. Every guy on the team will come up and kind of put their arm around you and say, hey, man, it was all of us. But it's a bad feeling, and I kind of every time we play in a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup, I usually tend to seek out that one person, and I remember it being Stuart Appleby in the very next Presidents Cup, and just trying to say something nice; it's a team event, not an individual event. But I kind of said the same thing to the Mechanic. I'm blanking on names right now.
When I won the match at Valhalla, and that was the decisive point actually, it probably shouldn't have been me because I should have made a 5 footer on the hole before to close the match out. Should have been J.B. on 17.
But before celebrating, before getting really excited, I wanted to go over and shake his hand and talk to him a little bit about it, as well. You know, there's nothing you can say that can make anyone feel better, but wanted to show him his due respect because he played so well during the week.
Q. Would you have done that with the Mechanic had you got gone through what you did with McGinley?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I think you always want to show respect in those situations. I just wouldn't have known the feeling before then, if that makes sense. I kind of always remember when we have gone through I think it was Faxon at Valderrama, and you kind of remember the guy, because basically they feel terrible. And so you remember.
And I remember feeling bad for Fax, because we really had not played well as a team, and in the team area, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves in the individual and basically it boiled down to that one match.
You know, you don't know how empty that feeling is until you sit in those shoes.
Q. A little on that theme, because it's a team event, generally at these competitions, there is that guy, and then there's Graeme McDowell, 2010, who gets through on the decisive match. When you go into these things, do you crave to be the guy that's made the winning putt? And as much as you dread being that guy, whether it's Hunter in 2010 with how disappointed he was
JIM FURYK: That's part of what we do for a living. And I think it's something that you have to accept. It makes you stronger in the long run. You know, what I went through this year at the U.S. Open, what I went through at Bridgestone, definitely not happy about it. But it's life and it's sports.
You're going to go out in a Ryder Cup and you know if you're sitting in that if it's a tight match and you're sitting in that 7 to 11 range, it could come down to your match. If you go out early, your match isn't going to be the one. I mean, every match is equally as important, though. But that 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 match, usually it comes down to one of those matches, teeters on The Ryder Cup, and you know that can happen.
I think everyone that's playing in this tournament would love to be in that position. You just have to be able to accept the fact that sometimes it turns out good and sometimes it doesn't.
You know, my hat's off to well, as bad as I feel for Hunter, I mean, the shots that were hit against him, the iron shot into 16, the putt that he made down the hill; I mean, Graeme, ice in his veins. That was as clutch of golf as I've seen or witnessed or personally watched in my career. I like Graeme a lot. I consider him a friend. He's a good guy to play with. But really some good golf he played down the stretch. I know Hunter feels bad, but he was beat by some great shots.
KELLY ELBIN: Jim Furyk, thank you very much.
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