There's plenty to be excited about with the flip of the calendar to a new year, but this one is going to be extra special for golf fans on both sides of the Atlantic.
Why? Because 2018 is a Ryder Cup year.
Nine months from now, the biennial matches will take place at Le Golf National, Paris, France, as the USA looks to defend its victory from 2016 at Hazeltine.
For what it's worth, the USA has not won a Ryder Cup on foreign soil since way back in 1993.
Ryder Cup USA Captain Jim Furyk is looking to change that.
We caught up with Furyk recently to discuss the building excitement as we inch closer to the Ryder Cup, the state of his health, what's been going on behind the scenes and more.
PGA.com: Beginning with last week's Sentry Tournament of Champions and right on through the PGA Championship, Ryder Cup USA points will now be awarded on a weekly basis. Is it nice to get the ball rolling with points?
Furyk: It'll be fun to keep an eye on golf. I haven't been one to watch a lot when I'm not playing. It's not hard to peek and see, but I think I'll pay attention a lot more this year, especially the weekly updates.
As a player, it still seems like the Ryder Cup is so far away. There's still a whole body of work to put into the effort to get there.
But, as a captain, it seems so much closer. I'm working on it each and every week and thinking about it each and every day and what needs to be done in preparation. A player's perspective is different. Even when you get to the middle of May, you realize there's still three majors to be played and plenty of points to be gained. I was one that tended to watch the points list quite a bit because it was inspiring and gave me goals to shoot for. But it can also be detrimental if you see your name sliding down the list, falling to 10 or 11. It's exciting, but ultimately, all these guys know they have to worry about the process of playing well and rest will take care of itself.
PGA.com: It's been one year since you were officially appointed as captain. Can you believe we're just months away from the matches now?
Furyk: That's right. It's been a year. I can believe it. We spent a lot of time preparing in 2017. There's a lot in front of us, but I'm excited to take care of what I can before the team starts to form. I can't wait to spend time with the first eight to make the team and then the next four to have the team as a whole and head to Europe. It's exciting. It's been... I haven't been inundated, but it's been fun. It was a job I always wanted to get. I've gotten wonderful help from Julius Mason and Susan Martin at the PGA of America. They've been at every Ryder Cup I've played in, so there's a lot of experience there. Soon I'll add some vice captains to Davis Love III and I'll have wonderful help there as well.
PGA.com: Speaking of the vice-captains, do you know when you'll announce more of them?
Furyk: I'm not sure yet when we'll announce, but I would guess some time in the next three months. It's about finding the right day and time to get it all together -- vice captains and media. That's important.
PGA.com: It was recently announced that you are going to be the 2018 recipient of the Francis Ouimet Award for Lifelong Contributions to Golf. What does that mean to you?
Furyk: It's humbling. You look at the list of folks who have received that award and what it stands for, the scholarships, money and funds they've raised for folks in the northeast. It's pretty inspiring. Looking down the list of winners, I knew about Francis Ouimet, but found out a lot more about him through Ben Crenshaw when we played that Ryder Cup at Brookline in 1999. Ben talked a lot about the history there, kissing that 17th green three times, one time for Ouimet. It's a great honor.
It's interesting to look at the invitation too. They're celebrating "lifetime achievements." That's cool, but it makes me feel old. That's the only minor bummer to the award [laughing]. I feel like I still have some achievements ahead, but it puts things in perspective.
PGA.com: Let's talk about Tiger Woods for a second. He's looking healthy and we got to see him in action last month at the Hero World Challenge. Did you watch any of it? If so, what are your thoughts?
Furyk: I watched the scores, but I didn't see a lot of golf. I was interested just like everyone else. It was impressive. He had three real solid rounds. The Saturday round was tough for everyone. He got off to a little bit of a bad start, but it was impressive that he was still fighting and salvaging the day. And coming back strong on Sunday.
PGA.com: Back in 2016, early in the season, Davis Love III arranged a dinner for Ryder Cup USA hopefuls at the home of Jack Nicklaus. Do you have any kind of a get together like that planned?
Furyk: I do. I'll have to look at the schedule and see where a bulk of the players will be. But for me, the Players Championship here in Ponte Vedra Beach is a home game. That's in May. I'd love to get together and have all the guys together for a little bit and briefly talk to them. I think it's nice to get Ryder Cup week on everyone's radar and prepare them. I haven't picked the dates yet, but with the Players being my home event, it would be an easy event to do all that.
PGA.com: When we last spoke at the end of October, you talked about how you were "licking some wounds" and your health had been "a puzzle." How are you feeling now? Do you have any return date circled on the calendar?
Furyk: I'm playing it by ear now. Starting to feel better. I wasn't hitting balls last time we talked. I'm trying to work to get stronger and get the stamina in the injury to hit more balls and be strong and have it last throughout an entire day and week. It's one thing to play 18 and practice a bit, which I haven't done yet, but 5-6 days in a row and then 2-3 weeks at a time. I'm not to that level yet, but working toward it.
PGA.com: What kind of Ryder Cup business/tasks are going on behind the scenes right now?
Furyk: We were done with uniforms in the fall. My wife, Tabitha, has helped me with just about everything down to the little things. She's been a great resource.
Recently, I've been working on golf bags, setting up the team room and graphic arts around that. That's the next step. Those are parts of the process. The golf bag designing is fun.
I can remember what it was like when -- as a player -- you'd open that box at home. It was like a little kid getting his or her little league uniforms. It's a proud moment.
Now they get it at a tournament site, so it's a little different, but it's still been a fun process.
Outside of that, it's been working on the graphic arts for the team room and formulating the message you want to send to the team when we meet with them. So much gets packed into 7 days that Ryder Cup week. I want to prepare and get ready now. Things happen fast and you need to adapt on the fly a lot. You've got to be ready for all scenarios and I'm using this year to get organized and be as prepared as I can be for that. It'll make things a lot easier once we get to France.