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THE RYDER CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 13, 2018
St. Louis, Missouri
JULIUS MASON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm the PGA of America's Julius Mason, and I'm pleased to be joined by 2018 United States Ryder Cup captain, Jim Furyk, the morning after the PGA Championship, where eight players have qualified for the 2018 United States Ryder Cup team.
Jim, on September 4, you will make three captain's picks. On September 10, you will make your final pick to finalize your 12-member team. But here we are today, a year and a half after you've been named United States Ryder Cup captain. Can you tell us maybe just what's going through your mind right now?
JIM FURYK: I'm excited, and I know these eight players are excited as well. I've been waiting 18 months to get a touch, to get a feel for who our qualifiers would be, who the eight players would be, and that 18 months has flown by in certain respects. It also seems like it's taken forever in others.
More than anything else, I'm excited. Wednesday we talked a lot about the type of player we're looking for on this team and the atmosphere we're going into in Europe, the boisterous crowd; they have a great crowd. We talked about the team that they will have, which will be strong, and I wanted guys that really enjoy that atmosphere, and these eight guys, when I look at them, these are guys that enjoy that challenge, and I'm excited to have them on the team.
JULIUS MASON: As you can see on the monitors, we have listed the eight players who have qualified for the 2018 team. Can you tell us maybe just a little bit about what you see with the flavor of the makeup of your team.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I guess going through the list, you know, Webb Simpson, I'm sure had a tough week. It's always tough to be that No. 8 spot. I've been close to that 7 or 8 before. It can be a little sleepless, and Webb had a good, solid week, finished 19th in the event. He's excited. I texted with him last night. You look at a guy here that's won the PLAYERS Championship, and when I was trying to pick out golf courses on our TOUR that were similar to Le Golf National, TPC at Sawgrass was one of those. He was a runaway winner there at the PLAYERS, and I think the golf course really suits his game well.
Rickie Fowler, when I think about Rick, you start thinking about strengths and weaknesses in players, and I think Rickie's biggest strength is he has no weaknesses. He's a very well-rounded player, well liked in the team room. He's an easy guy for any captain to pair. He can go with a number of different players. He's a huge asset to the team.
Jordan Spieth. Jordan is one of those guys that is wise beyond his years. He's very mature. He's a leader at a young age. And what I've seen from him in the team room is a lot of fun and very interesting. He stands up, and when Jordan speaks, everyone listens, and he has something to say, whether that's kicking everyone in the rear end, whether that's kind of being the calm in the middle of the storm. Jordan's a leader and something that any captain loves to have on a team.
Bubba Watson, what a great story. 2016 he was 9th in Ryder Cup points, left off the team, and the first thing he asks Davis Love, "Can I be a vice-captain? I know you have an extra spot, and I want to help this team in any way I possibly can." I thought it was a touch of class. I think he gained a lot of respect from his teammates, and I also know how much game this guy has and came back and won three times this year. I don't have to deal with any more texts saying, "#I need an ear piece". He earned a spot on this team and can do so many things with a golf ball. Excited to have Bubba on the team. I know he's really excited himself.
Patrick Reed, wow, this guy's been a bulldog. I mean, a bulldog for us in 2014 and 2016. He's fierce. When you talk about going into a crowd that is going to be loud and boisterous, I feel like the bigger the challenge, the louder the crowd, the more attention you need to pay to Patrick Reed. He loves that atmosphere. I guess I'm proud to be the United States captain, but Patrick Reed's been Captain America for the last two Ryder Cups. So happy to have him.
Justin Thomas, man, got to love this kid -- fierce. I kind of chuckle, he's our Ryder Cup rookie. He's the only guy I can pick on right now and call him Rook. But you know what, PGA champion last year, PGA TOUR Player of the Year. This guy's got a lot of experience. Loved to watch him in the Presidents Cup last year. And more than anything, he's a great kid, but I love the way this guy plays the game. He plays it the right way and fun to watch.
Dustin Johnson. What more can you say? This guy's got more talent. Love watching him play the game. But what I really enjoy is Dustin strikes me -- I played alongside him as a partner in his first Ryder Cup. I've been around him in a number of Ryder Cups, both as a player and as a captain. He really loves the team atmosphere. He loves hanging with the guys. He loves being a part of it. And when one of your most talented players is a leader in that respect and loves that team atmosphere, it's a feather in a captain's cap. So glad to have Dustin.
Brooks Koepka, I mean, this guy started out the year injured. So as a captain, I'm scratching my head, and I'm worried, you know, how can you not have Brooks Koepka come to Europe with you? You know, I know that his number one goal. He talked to me about making this team, and I know his number one goal this year was to get healthy. Right from the moment that he sat out the Masters, from the moment he got healthy this year, he hit the TOUR running, and it was like he never missed any time. So now to think in April I was worried, watching him slide down the Ryder Cup list in the points and worried about his health, you know, I think he fell to 7th or 8th at one time. Now he's won the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship. Great to have him on the team. Fierce competitor. He carries himself with a swagger that everyone talks about. Love having him on the team.
This eight is exciting for any captain. Love having this group, and they bring a lot to the table, and they love to compete. That's what sticks out to me the most.
JULIUS MASON: Thank you, Captain, very much. Ladies and gentlemen, we're happy to open the floor for questions.
Q. Jim, just briefly, to stay on the eight who made it, you've had the last two Majors where there could have been some possibilities of guys moving into the team and didn't get it done. How do you view that? Again, positively that they had a chance, or does it concern you at all that they didn't finish it off?
JIM FURYK: I don't think we had any poor finishes or anything happen in one of those events that would concern anyone. I feel like we had a lot of guys compete. It may be some opportunities to move in that top eight, but as we talked about on Wednesday, some guys gave it a great run, obviously. And I think any time you play well in a Major championship, any time you challenge, any time you've basically challenged to win that event, it's a plus. I don't look at it as a negative.
Q. Jim, you pointed out you've got one rookie on the team. Do you feel it's part of an obligation to invest in future generations of this team and add in more rookies, so they start to get experience?
JIM FURYK: I've had that question come to me a lot this week. I understand it must be an important one. I feel like my role as a captain is to -- we are investing in the future. We are looking ahead, and we have a long-term plan, but we're trying to identify the four players that fit with these eight. So when I look at my captain's picks, I'll be looking at guys that have had a great body of work this year, guys that are playing well and maybe hot players at the time. I'm looking at pairings. I'm looking at who fits in well with these eight players.
I'm also looking at the golf course. I mean, Le Golf National is a wonderful golf course, in my opinion, but it suits a certain style of player, and I'll be looking at that. So it's my job, I think, to round this team out in the best possible way, and these four players that we'll add, I think, will give us the best opportunity to be successful, whether that's adding more veterans, whether that's adding some rookies to the team or some youth, I think both can be very valuable.
Q. Jim, I wonder how well do you know Thomas Bjorn, and how important is it for you to know your opponent?
JIM FURYK: I think Thomas and I are -- we've been friends for a long time. We're very similar in age. We came out on the tours at similar times, played alongside each other. We're friends. I guess in some respects it's probably important to know your opponent, to know what you're going up against, and I have a lot of respect for Thomas. He's been around these events. He was a great Ryder Cup player but has also been a vice-captain and been around these teams for a number of years. So he's learned by being in the fire.
I guess, if you knew your opponent very well, you might pick up on some tendencies, but I imagine that Thomas is a little wiser than that, and he'll be a formidable opponent.
Q. Jim, as you look ahead at your picks, does it matter that Tiger is No. 11 instead of No. 20, or is it just because he's Tiger Woods and it doesn't matter?
JIM FURYK: I'm not sure the numbers are always that important when I look down the list. What is important is how well Tiger has played. 6th place at The Open Championship, a 2nd place at the PGA. His game -- I think the word he used is "trending". His game is trending. So it's great to see him playing well.
For me, the numbers are -- they're nice, good to look at, but not always the most important. We want the players who are going to help us be successful.
Q. Do you think he can help you?
JIM FURYK: That's a good question, Doug. He's playing very well. I think there's a lot of folks out there who probably think he can help us, and we'll -- really what we wanted to talk about today was the top eight players. I realize Tiger is a story. I realize he's playing very well, and I'm excited to see that.
Q. A little bit on the heels of that, as far as you filling out the team, you talked about maybe looking at some guys, over their body of work over the season, some guys, who's hot. Could you just take us a little inside the process of the next few weeks and what you're really looking to do to fill this team.
JIM FURYK: I think this week right now, I think this is a week off for most of the players. So I'll probably give them a day or two to decompress, and then start hitting the phone and start talking to each and every one of these eight players, getting an idea of -- you know, we have an idea of who they want to play with, who we think they pair up well with. I'll start kind of getting that down on paper and moving things around. That will give us an idea of what we need for pairings, what we think may help pairing-wise.
But we also have some big tournaments coming up, heading into the playoffs, heading to New Jersey, heading to Deutsche Bank. We get an opportunity to see some more guys play well. And you know, a body of work, who's played well for the season is important, but the reason we put this structure into place, in the past, ten years ago, I'd be -- 10, 12, 14 years ago, I'd be making my four captain's picks right now. The reason we put this system into place is to identify hot players, maybe a Billy Horschel four years ago, identify guys that are playing well right now that can help this team.
So the numbers, as we talked about, looking down the list, 9, 10, 11, 12, that's important, that's nice, but if a guy gets hot and starts playing well, he'll definitely catch the team's eye, he'll definitely catch the vice-captain's eye and mine. I'd say the door's open in a lot of respects, but we're still looking at this year and a body of work as well.
Q. Jim, first of all, how big is the pool of guys you're looking at?
JIM FURYK: I don't really think I've defined like a set number. It's easy to say we've got four captain's picks, maybe we have eight guys on the radar right now, but that door's open. There could be guys that -- and I just threw a number out there at eight, but it might be more. But we look at, more important than that number, a guy could go out there and win New Jersey, and he's on the radar. So there's not really a set number or a set pool. It's just trying to identify the four players we think help us the best.
Q. And out of those four, if you had to pick one more important, is it pairings, or is it a guy that's hot?
JIM FURYK: I think they're both very important, but you want to like nail me down on what's most important?
JIM FURYK: Looking at our players and looking -- it's a really difficult question. I'm not sure I'd lean one way or the other, and you know how much I like to ride the fence on these questions because I've done it to you for years. It's fun tormenting you, actually, to be honest with you.
I guess that depends on how hot. If a guy's really hot and wins a couple times, like Billy Horschel, I'd say that probably takes precedence. If not, I think those pairings are very important as well.
And it doesn't mean to say that a guy that's hot is not easy to pair as well, if that makes sense. So those two could kind of go hand in hand.
JULIUS MASON: Looks like we're continuing with our one-on-one interview.
JIM FURYK: I thought I answered it, though.
Q. One thing that kind of strikes you about the eight that made it, there would seem to be natural pairings in that they've all played with each other, whether it's Justin and Rickie, Jordan and Patrick, et cetera. Does that shape at all the way you think going forward? Not so much Alex's question, but you can almost say you've got, you know, four teams right there. I'm not saying it's going to happen but --
JIM FURYK: There are some very good built-in pairings, as you mentioned. And if you all paid attention to past Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, a lot of guys have played together on this team. So to better understand your question, go ahead.
Q. I'd like to understand it myself actually. When you look at the four, would you be looking not so much at how they mesh with the eight on the team but how they mesh with each other? Would you be looking at pairings that way?
JIM FURYK: That's a good question. I think a little of both. I still think you want to be able to weave the four captain's picks into the framework of the eight that we have, but, yeah, you could pick two guys that paired very well together as captain's picks as well, absolutely.
Q. Jim, this is more of a perspective question on you: You turned professional for the first time here in St. Louis 26 years ago at a local event, and now you're sitting here as a Ryder Cup captain. Do you recall how the ambitions of that first week compare to the reality of what you're in now?
JIM FURYK: I definitely was wide-eyed and very green getting here for the St. Louis Open. Just came off winning the National Championship as a team with Arizona. I hopped in my car in Albuquerque and drove to St. Louis. So just excited, green, wide-eyed, a guy that was very much under the radar coming out of college. So the thing that I had is I was able to kind of improve at my own rate without a lot of outside expectations or distractions, and I was able to improve at a pretty quick rate.
I remember finishing fourth, and I think I made a check of $1,500, which I thought was massive, to be honest with you. That was a big check. So that was a great start to a career. It's definitely come full circle to now be sitting here as captain of an international team and be captaining the U.S. I promise you in 1992, when I came to the St. Louis Open, no one would ever have thought this was possible. It's been a pretty wild ride. But really exciting.
Yeah, I had a hole-in-one, but was the second one to get a hole-in-one on the hole that got a free car. It was probably about a $10,000 or $12,000 car. It was worth a hell of a lot more than first place. So I was a little bummed about that. Good memory.
Q. How confident are you with this team going into the Ryder Cup? I know you still have four players to pick, but how confident are you?
JIM FURYK: I'm excited. I'm excited. As I said, we have eight guys that love to compete. I also know the team we're going up against in Europe is very strong. You look at the World Rankings from both sides, it's really even in the top 20. Europeans know this golf course very well. It's a great golf course. They have a lot of experience around it. They'll set the golf course up in a way that they think will favor their team, and they have the home crowd.
So when you look at these matches, it's been very lopsided the last 20 to 30 years to the home side. So I'm very excited about my team, and I have a lot of confidence in these eight players, but each and every one of them knows the task ahead of us, and they know it's going to be tough. But I couldn't be more excited about the eight I have, and I do have confidence in them.
Q. Jim, Brooks Koepka, a lot of people have talked about him as under the radar. Now the guy has three Majors. Can you see his role kind of expanding on a team like this, given how hot he is and what he's accomplished?
JIM FURYK: I know he loves this atmosphere. He loved playing in 2016. I know it was important to him to make this team and how much he enjoys it. I think that under-the-radar role is sometimes a blessing. I mean, I'm not sure how Brooks feels about it. You'd have to ask him. But to go about your own business and not have all that outside distractions, I had that for a lot of my career, and I actually enjoyed it personally.
He's not going to be under the radar for very long, winning three Major championships in two years. So three of the last seven Major championships, and he's only played in six of those. So he's won 50 percent of the Majors he's played in in the last two years.
He's a tough, fiery guy. He's not going to back down. Great for these teams, great for this atmosphere. And, yeah, he's not going to be under the radar anymore. I'm not sure how he feels about that, and I always enjoyed it, to be honest with you.
Q. Two quick questions for you: When you did not win that car at the St. Louis Open, do you recall what you were driving at the time?
JIM FURYK: I do. Actually, had a pretty nice car. I was driving a Pontiac Bonneville. So one of the first things I did, we bought a brand new car, and mom and dad helped me out with that, and I had something decent to drive and travel. I think that first year -- the first full year as a pro on the Web.com Tour, I started in Yuma, made it to Florida, made it to the state of Maine, and that car made it back to Texas and to the state of Washington all in one season. So I had a lot of miles on it.
Q. Have a good 8-track player in it?
JIM FURYK: It did not, but I had the portable DVD player that I could plug into the lighter and play it through the speakers. Got pretty good at changing DVDs on the road.
Q. The one I wanted to ask you about yesterday, when you finished, which was moderately early for a Sunday, what did you do for the rest of the round? If you watched, did you watch as a fan, as a player, or as a captain?
JIM FURYK: So the beauty of yesterday -- the bad part of yesterday was I actually hit my drive off of 1. I think I was the fourth group off yesterday. I walked back, I striped a 3 wood, I handed it to Fluff, and I said, "You know, it really stinks to tee off the fourth round of a Major championship and not be nervous on the 1st tee." I was in about 71st place going into the final round.
But it was nice to get done early, get back to the house way before the leaders even teed off, and Tabitha and I spent the whole day with the TV on and kind of trying to figure out points and scenarios and what if. It was amazing. Actually, at the turn it looked like ten guys had the opportunity to win that golf tournament, and then three guys separated themselves from the field.
You know, I was a little bummed and disappointed. I really wanted to see kind of how Tiger was playing, and I only got to see, I don't know, like every shot he hit for the rest of the day (laughter). It was great theater really. I thought that having Brooks and Tiger and Adam kind of in the mix and all the birdies they threw up on the back nine on some really difficult holes. You know, 15 and 16 included. They were knocking the flagstick down. It was impressive to watch and great theater, and I think fun for Tabitha and I really to get a real good feel that, wow, the team starts tonight with eight players. It was an exciting day for us.
Q. How many of the eight players that are already qualified have traveled and played Le Golf National?
JIM FURYK: So looking real quick, Brooks played the European Tour, knows the golf course real well. J.T. played the French Open. Bubba and Jordan came over and played practice rounds before. So of the top eight, we have four that have seen the golf course. And I think Bubba played the French Open in the past as well. So four of the eight have already seen the golf course, know it pretty well.
Q. Two things: One, if, in fact, you need a vice-captain, will you pick another vice-captain, if one of yours can't be a vice-captain?
JIM FURYK: Will I pick another vice-captain?
Q. If Tiger's not the vice-captain and ends up being a player, will you pick a vice-captain?
JIM FURYK: Yes. I want to make sure I have five vice-captains there. That's what we're allowed, and I see a lot of value in having all five there. So I will have five. I think that was the question.
Q. Last question is, you've been disappointed before not being picked on a team. What kind of process will you put in place in regards to those guys that don't get picked?
JIM FURYK: I think it's my duty to make sure I call folks that are in the mix, let them know one way or another. I think, obviously, a difficult part of the job is making those calls to say, "You know, I'm sorry. I'm going a different direction." It sure will be fun to call those four guys and see their reaction when they are picked.
I let these guys know early back in May that I really wasn't going to hover, I wasn't going to bother them. They know the task at hand, and they know what's ahead of them, and playing well throughout the playoffs is definitely a way to catch everyone's eye. So I'm not going to hover and really put any more pressure on the players, but I will call everyone and let them know one way or another.
Q. Jim, I'm not sure if I didn't understand Alex's question or your answer, but if we could assume for a second that Tiger is on this team as a player, and I know he's talked about --
JIM FURYK: Hypotheticals, right?
Q. Hypothetically. I know he's talked about being both, but what would be the value, hypothetically, of him serving both roles when, I mean, he probably feels like a vice-captain even if he doesn't have the title, you know?
JIM FURYK: Tiger's been a vice-captain in the team room as a player -- or he serves that role in either direction. So the value of -- his value -- he's priceless, to be honest with you. He's been really a big help to our captains in both 2016 and 2017 from a strategy perspective, from a personnel, personalities, and also really serving on the golf course. I mean, walking with players. I think it's been a big boost having the best player maybe to ever live following your group and being there for support.
So he's a huge value and someone -- I rely on every vice-captain heavily. With Davis Love serving as a captain twice and Stricker being our Presidents Cup captain last year, they intimately know these players and know them very well. So to have them there is great. But Tiger serves that purpose as a vice-captain or a player and looking forward to having his help.
Q. Jim, of all the Ryder Cup teams you were on, can you think back, and was there one move or decision that the captain made that you thought, wow, that was really -- whether it worked out or not, you thought, wow, that was really a smart move? Just if you can pick out one from over the years.
JIM FURYK: I guess some of the difficult decisions that a captain has to make and kind of on the fly is afternoon pairings on both Friday and Saturday. So you usually get a chance to watch your team play for maybe 9 to 13 holes, and then you've got to figure out who's going out that afternoon, sometimes not knowing how those matches are going to end.
The last time, I'm thinking the Saturday of 2016, and we were trying to figure out exactly who was going out on the Saturday matches in the afternoon, and Davis had a lot of different opinions on who that was going to be from his vice-captains. And he kind of drifted off by himself for a few minutes, wrote four pairings down on a card. I think whether he called them in or handed them that card, but came back and told us what was going to happen and why he was doing it.
That lineup went out. I think what was difficult is there was a lot of different opinions on what was to happen. It was kind of a cloudy situation for Davis, and he made a very definitive decision. If you remember, Saturday morning things tightened up, and there was a lot of pressure on the U.S., and that group that went out that afternoon played very well and won that session, and I think gave us -- if I remember, either a two or three-point lead going into singles. It was a wise decision and kind of one made on the fly with, like I said, a lot of cloudiness at the time, and he did a great job.
JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes our news conference. For the next ten minutes, we'll look into our media scrum. Jim has a live hit at exactly quarter till. Hope you had a wonderful week.
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