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May 22, 2006

Jim Furyk

JOHN KACZKOWSKI: My name is John Kaczkowski. I'm the tournament director for Western Golf Association. I'd like to welcome everyone to media day for the 2006 Cialis Western Open. We're proud to have our defending champion Jim Furyk on the line with us today.
Jim has won the Wachovia Championship this year, and he is currently the fifth ranked player in the world. We're very excited to have him joining a headline of a stellar field this year that should include four of the top five players in the world right now.
What we're going to do is have each of you if you have a question we'll pass a microphone that will be located on either aisle, just raise your hand and we'll get you a microphone.
Jim, we certainly appreciate you joining us this morning. I think I'll ask the first question. I know you obviously enjoy Cog Hill as a golf course. You've played here very well for your whole career at the Western Open. Can you talk about what you like about Cog Hill from a player's perspective?
JIM FURYK: Well, I think most of the people there that have talked to me before or interviewed me before realize that I like old, traditional golf courses. I'll be pretty frank in saying I'm not as big a fan of modern architecture as I am of golf courses built back in the early 1900s to early 1930s, '40s. I think Cog Hill is a little beyond that, but it still has an older feel to it.
I grew up in southeast Pennsylvania on golf courses built in that era, and that's where I'm comfortable. Cog Hill reminds me a lot of home. It has tree-lined fairways; you have to work the ball a little bit off the tee and basically has a lot of greens that are relatively round in shape and sloping from back to front so you have to keep the ball below the pin to have an opportunity to make a birdie putt.
It's a little bit of a comfort level and it's an architecture that I'm very comfortable with. I've played well there in the past and always look forward to coming back to the event.
Q. In that regard, there are changes planned to Cog Hill in a few years. Rees Jones is going to come in and start a redo after 2007. You know his work. What do you think of the notion of making Cog Hill even tougher?
JIM FURYK: I know that they've been throwing Cog Hill around for years and years and a potential major championship site. You know, I think that when I first played Cog Hill back in -- well, I played in the late '80s in the Western Junior and then in the early '90s at the Western Open, I thought of it as a relatively long golf course, and now by the Tour standards it is not a long golf course anymore. We're going to hit a few 3-woods off the tees and you've got to curve the ball to keep the ball in the fairway.
I think in this day and age with the way technology is going, that is the route every golf course is taking, and I think at any time you're always a little anxious when changes are going to be made because you're curious what changes will be made.
But I think that the possibility there to improve the golf course and make it even better is there, and I respect Mr. Jones' work and hopefully the players will like it.
Q. What will be your scheduling -- a lot of big events obviously coming in now, but kind of a two-part question. What will be your schedule leading into the Western, and we know about the Wachovia win, but how do you assess your play so far this season?
JIM FURYK: You mean leading into the Western or for the rest of the season?
Q. What do you plan to play in before we get to the Western?
JIM FURYK: I'm going to play -- I'm off this week, and I'm going to play The Memorial, going to play Westchester, U.S. Open, and then I believe it is two weeks off and then heading up to the Western.
Q. I'm looking at a picture of you holding the trophy, the Western Open trophy, that Luke Donald did. Have you seen it?
JIM FURYK: I have not.
Q. It looks a little bit more like Luke than you (laughter).
JIM FURYK: (Laughing) that's something to feel good about. Considering I have no musical or art talent, I won't be critical of any picture (laughter).
Q. I'm just wondering, from a player's perspective, what's your understanding of what's going to take place next year with the FedEx Cup and the season ending Championship Series and how the points system is going to work? And what do you think of the whole concept as a whole?
JIM FURYK: Well, I think my understanding as far as -- being a player, I'm not on the board of the PGA TOUR, but just being a player, I think my knowledge is relatively good. That would be the first part.
The second part was how the points are going to work next year, and right now our board and our commissioner are all trying to figure out -- they have a lot of different models. I think they started with six models of how the points are going to work out. They've narrowed it down to three is my understanding, and it seems like they're working double time. They tend to meet every couple of months on Tour, and it seems like now they're meeting every three weeks right now to try to get things straightened out.
As far as how I feel about next year's schedule, I think that it has an appeal to it in that, one, I think it's going to make the end of our season more exciting, definitely going to draw a lot of attention to golf next year. And I'm excited about basically having an end-of-the-year culmination. It's just been the TOUR Championship the last couple of years; we get through the fall schedule, which has been criticized widely as far as the strength of field and such. I think now we're going to see at the end of the schedule a lot of players, big-name players and a lot of players trying to play as many events as possible to try to get themselves in good position, and then we have a series of three events where you try to qualify for the TOUR Championship. It could be a really exciting playoff-like structure.
As far as the points work, that is the one thing that we as players have been I think most critical of, not because we've seen the models, we just don't know what's going to happen. We don't know if every tournament is going to be the same number of points, which we think is going to happen; we don't know how much the major championships will be worth or if the World Golf Championships will be worth a lot of points, a great number or a little number; we have no idea.
So I think I'm a little hesitant -- I'm excited about the new format but I'm a little hesitant in how everything works out. You don't want to put your stamp of approval before you know all the details if that makes sense.
I think how the points work out is really a big factor in how this is accepted. We want it to be as simplistic and easy to follow as possible, but it seems to be very difficult at the moment, and I think we just simplify things and make it easy for the fan to follow and understand, and hopefully we pull it off and hopefully it ends up being a great thing in the world of golf and a great thing for the PGA TOUR.
Q. We kind of touched on it earlier in this conversation, but let's go back to it a little bit; it seems like there is a tug-of-war going on right now between course designers and the equipment manufacturers. You saw that Augusta National ostensibly was a setup that eliminated a lot of the shorter hitters, medium hitters theoretically, and shot makers, and all we're doing is putting in a layer of improvements in golf courses to make them longer and tougher and then equipment manufacturers react. I consider you a shot maker in golf. How did you react to what you saw at Augusta and what they're doing, and where is it going to go from there?
JIM FURYK: Well, I think there were a few changes at Augusta that opened some eyes this year. I think you're right; in certain conditions, Augusta is going to eliminate a percentage of the field, if it's playing slow, wet, if the golf course is playing very long after some rains. I'm thinking about like the last time Vijay Singh won the golf tournament when we got all that rain and we had some mud around the golf course. When it gets slow and wet, it's going to eliminate a lot of players at the length it's at right now.
As long as it's firm and dry and fast and the ball is running, I think that the average length player still has an opportunity to win that golf tournament.
This year I thought the golf course played relatively firm and fast. Even though we did get a little bit of rain, it was fast when we got there.
As far as the changes, I was happy to see that both the 4th and the 7th hole were playing relatively down breeze. 4 is usually right to left, maybe a slightly helping breeze, 7 is usually downwind. Those are the two holes that probably would make the most difference in my time to the average length hitter. 11 has gotten the most publicity, but you can always run the ball up onto the 11th green. You always have an avenue to get the ball there. 4 and 7 you have to fly the ball onto the green, and I think that poses the most problems. I think those are the two biggest changes on the golf course, being an average length hitter.
But as long as that golf course plays firm and fast, we have the opportunity to win the golf tournament. As far as the way technology and golf course architecture goes hand in hand, I'm not really sure what came first; I know that the architects will claim technology -- definitely technology has pushed lengthened architecture, but architecture and the green structures and things have changed so much over time.
One of the things we get criticized for in our generation is a lack of shot making, and I think that some of the modern architecture has actually called for a lot of shot making. It calls for hitting the ball far, hit with a lot of spin, and it doesn't really matter which way you work the ball, right to left or left to right. I think sometimes my era or my era of player basically gets criticized a little unfairly with the style we need to play, when really the courses that we play -- we play what the courses call for, if that makes sense.
Q. Getting back to the FedEx question for a moment, the schedule next year calls for playing the PGA and then you have a week and then there's Greensboro and then you go into the three tournaments and then the TOUR Championship and then maybe The Presidents Cup and other years the Ryder Cup. It's a pretty solid -- pretty busy load for you guys, looking at playing five out of six weeks or six out of seven weeks, something like that. Do you think guys will be willing to make that commitment to play that heavy load of schedule, especially for the top players?
JIM FURYK: Yes, to answer that simply. I mean, I'm in a middle of a stretch now where I'm playing six out of seven events with Wachovia, Nelson, Colonial, taking this week off and then playing the next three. I think six out of seven isn't really that difficult.
But I think some of the issues we have is everyone keeps telling you that I'm going to get off earlier in the year, that by mid to late September the year is going to be over, I'm going to have all those months at the end of the year to do what I please, which is great, but I'm also cramming in a lot more tournaments or the same number of tournaments into a shorter period of time.
I think in this six-out-of-seven-week stretch I have six weeks off before and I'll have two weeks off after, where I probably won't be afforded that luxury next year as far as being able to take that many events off and still get, say, 21, 22 tournaments in by the end of the year before the TOUR Championship.
It will be interesting. That's the easiest way I can say it. I'm not sure it's going to work out. The Tour might go to a younger scale to guys that don't have as many aches and pains that can play more events. I'm a little nervous if guys start chasing these points and start -- let's say I used to play 25 or 26 events in ten months and one week, and that gets us through the first week of November with the TOUR Championship. Let's say I tried to play 25 events in eight and a half months. I actually don't think my body is physically capable of that, so I'm probably going to have to tone it back a little bit, which only makes sense. So I get 21 or 22 weeks out of it, I think I'll still be playing more events more often in the beginning part of that season, and I'm also a little worried about injury. I think as your body gets tired, as you stress it out, you become a little more injury-prone, for backs, for different things.
I'm interested to see if we get a few more injuries on Tour. Maybe it'll force us to become a little bit more athletic, a little fitter.
That was supposed to be a joke (laughter).
Q. I also wanted to ask you, I don't know if you heard about the future of this tournament, that this year it'll be here, next year it'll be here, and then during this Championship Series it'll rotate out of Chicago every other year, 2008, 2010 and 2012. I know this is one of the more popular Tour stops for the players. Your assessment of the possibility of this tournament rotating out of Chicago every other year?
JIM FURYK: Well, I've been told that same information. I didn't know the dates that it would be in Chicago for the next couple years and then it will rotate out. I will say this, I will miss Cog Hill because it's a course I like a lot.
Let me ask you a question first: When it comes to Chicago, will it always be at Cog Hill?
Q. Yes. It will be at Cog Hill, and then the other courses they're talking about would be Belle Rive, Hazeltine and Crooked Stick.
JIM FURYK: And all courses that have held major championships. I guess I understand why they want to take -- this event wants to be more of a Midwestern event than a Chicago event. It's difficult to -- I'm trying to put this in the best words and I'm stumbling all over myself here (laughter).
I understand the tournament moving sites and moving around the Midwest because we have so many good sites in the Midwest, St. Louis, Minneapolis and the Crooked Stick site being there, but it's hard to not imagine golf -- one of these events being in Chicago when we have the capability of doing that, being such a huge sports town and all the events we've had there, getting so much exposure and having so much fanfare and media exposure.
It's kind of a double-edged sword. I understand the theory, but taking cities like New York, Boston, I think Chicago is easily a great site, and I'd hate to see it move from Chicago every other year, but I understand both sides of the picture.
Q. One of the things that's been kind of operating under the radar is the USGA has asked some of the equipment manufacturers, the ball manufacturers, to come up with a ball that doesn't travel as far as what we have today, and of course golf is the only sport that doesn't have a uniform ball. Where do you stand on that? Is there something there that needs to be fixed or should it be left alone?
JIM FURYK: What do you mean by uniform ball? I have a very strong opinion, but I need you to clarify uniform ball.
Q. You show up at a tournament site, like what Jack Nicklaus has talked about, and when you're checked in you're given five boxes of balls and that's what you're playing with.
JIM FURYK: With all due respect to my idol, who I really respect Jack Nicklaus, one of my two favorite people in the game of golf along with Byron Nelson, I strongly disagree with that theory. The reason I say that is what ball would we use?
We as players have the opportunity to play different styles of ball, and I'm not talking about the distance; I don't mind that the distance gets reined back. I have no issue with that. Courses with millions of dollars of renovations, they don't always go over real well. I would say more often than not when you renovate a golf course, the changes aren't liked rather than liked, if that makes sense.
I wouldn't mind seeing the golf ball getting reined back or pulled back a percentage. But when you make every player play with one ball, I think you're treading a thin line there.
What I mean by that is -- I'll pick two players out. Tiger Woods, probably the ball that he plays on the PGA TOUR is probably the softest ball played on Tour. I had an opportunity to hit it at the Presidents Cup. I heard what other players said about it and how they felt it flew, and it's very soft and very spinny. He has a lot of power, generates a lot of club head speed and he wants a soft ball because he feels he can control the ball better with a lot of spin on it.
Other players are looking for distance; take a guy like Freddie Funk or Corey Pavin. They're probably not going to play the same ball as Tiger because they're looking for distance. A guy like Corey, who is a magician around the greens and can do things with a wedge that most people can't, maybe will give up a little spin and control around the greens because he's so good, to gain a little distance off the tee. I'm not saying if that's true or not, but I guarantee Corey plays a firmer ball than Tiger Woods.
When we're given these five dozen balls as we register, whose balls are going to play? I'd sure like to see Tiger play a really firm golf ball. It would help the rest of us out tremendously. He has more club head speed and it would be difficult to control it. If you played Tiger's ball you might eliminate some guys because they wouldn't be able to hit the ball as far.
The best players would probably be able to adjust, but I also think that there's so many different variables out there in golf balls as far as spin rate, hardness, softness, trajectory, hitting it high, hitting it low, different guys like to see different things. One guy might get out there and he likes to hit it low with a lot of spin and another guy likes to hit it high with a lot of spin. Every guy has his own characteristics, and when you give them one golf ball you limit the creativity of the player, and I think you take a lot away from the game at that point.
I don't mind, and I know our commissioner has worked with the USGA and has worked with some of the governing bodies to try and come up with plans for the future so that if the world of golf feels like we need to limit the golf ball, they're trying to put a plan in place so we can do that down the road, if needed. I think that's what the USGA is doing right now with some of the manufacturing companies, and I am all for that.
But I'd like to see the companies have a little leeway what they can do with the balls as far as making them softer, harder, spin rates, up, down to try to fit golf balls to players. It's one of the reasons I'm with the company I'm with right now, Srixon, is they can make a ball for me that I'm comfortable with.
You hear Tiger talk about it. When I hit a shot and I look up in the air, I want to see the ball where I expect it to be on a good golf shot. Companies are good enough now that they can adjust hardness, softness, launch angle, spin rate to give the ball a feel and look of how we want it to look in the air. I think that's very, very important.
Limiting it is fine; one golf ball, I would strongly disagree with.
Q. Getting back to the shot making, there's been a lot of talk about young American players and how suddenly some players have struggled to break through on the PGA TOUR and they're not winning as much as perhaps their counterparts in Europe. I'm just wondering what's your assessment? Obviously the guys can hit it a long way, but is there something missing with these guys because they didn't perhaps grow up learning how to be shot makers like you and Corey Pavin and some of the other guys that you've mentioned? What's your assessment?
JIM FURYK: Well, I think, again, I heard the same thing with my era when I was coming out of college and young on Tour. We didn't hit as many shots as the players 20 years older than us, 20 years our senior. Now the guys behind us are probably going to hit a little less shots than what we do.
I think the game of golf has changed. It's become very power-oriented. The way the golf courses are built and designed today; the way the golf courses are set up today, power is an important factor in the game. It's not the only factor, but it's a very important factor.
I have parents ask me, my kid likes to play golf, what should I do for lessons? What should I teach him? I think Davis Love's father was right on; he taught Davis to hit the ball hard. He could hit the ball as hard as he wanted as long as he stayed in bounds. Then as he got older he was taught how to control the golf ball as far as three quarter shots, how to knock the ball down.
When he got on Tour, he was kind of a John Daly of golf. As he grew as a player, he learned how to hit different shots and control it, but he's always had that power.
What I tell parents with their kids is when my kids decide they want to play golf or learn how to play the game, I'm going to teach them how to hit the ball hard, the reason being is you can always take someone that hits the ball hard and teach them to tone it down, but you can never teach a kid who hits it short and straight to be long. You're never going to teach Freddie Funk and Jim Furyk how to be long, but you can teach someone that bombs it to tone it down later in life.
You know, I think that that's just the new age of the way golfers play, and I think quite honestly the way a lot of our golf courses are set up and the way a lot of the new golf courses are built, it's an important part of the game. It's the way our game has gone, and I'm fine with that. I'm not criticizing that. I just think the players adapt to what's called on for them, and in this day and age, I think that's what's called on.
We have 43 or 45 golf tournaments on Tour, and I think 35 of them you can get away with that. But still, you're going to have to hit some shots, at the major championships, at some of the old classic golf courses we play, you're still going to have to -- Colonial this past week is one of them, you have to hit golf shots. You have to work the ball, hit it high, low, draw it, cut it in order to keep the ball in the fairway.
I'm taking a little bit of a bold stance saying that's what our new architecture calls for, but that doesn't mean to say that -- I get asked the question a lot, being an average length guy, am I afraid the game is going to pass me up. My answer to that is I was 4th on the Money List last year, and I'm presently 2nd on the Money List this year; it can be done.
It would be nice to have 20 extra yards, sure. But at my length, at the right tournaments, at the right golf courses, it can be done. Quite honestly, if you're good enough, it can be done pretty much at any golf course. Look at Bernhard Langer, who hits the ball average, and he's had a long career, one at least two majors, maybe more. If you're good enough like that -- Nick Faldo has had a great career -- I think it can be done if you're good enough.
Q. It sounds like you take a great deal of satisfaction in being able to do that, not just being a long bomber.
JIM FURYK: I'm not putting myself in the category of Bernhard Langer or Nick Faldo, but I get asked these questions a lot because I'm a guy who has consistently been in the Top 10 or the Top 20 in the world and I'm one of the shortest. I get asked about the power, the strength, and every year at Sony and the first month of the year, you get guys like a Bubba Watson who comes out and plays great at Sony and is hitting 360-yard drives, and a young guy like Camilo Villegas, who I really respect his game. I've talked to him a lot this year and I think he's a great guy, and I actually think he has more shots than people give him credit for. But he's kind of a small guy who's really fit; he bombs it, and all of a sudden there's new fresh faces on Tour, they gain a lot of exposure, TV jumps on them, the print media jumps on them and they really follow them because they're young, fresh faces on Tour. They're a great story, and they deserve the credit that they're getting.
So basically it seems like I'm trying to answer your question about being average in length, and all the people that ask are you afraid the game is going to pass you by, you're going to get too short. Eventually we all get too short; whether that happens in your 40s, your 50s, your 60s, whenever it happens, you eventually get too short. I've been able to get longer every year because of technology. I'll get more fit and I'll get stronger every year until a certain point obviously, and I'll work on it to make sure that my level of strength is good.
But my answer is simply, hey, I've been able to do it up to this point and I was able to do it last year, so I know it can be done. It doesn't mean I'm going to do it every year, but I think as far as my game, I'm taking pride in working at it a little bit, being able to hit different shots.
But we all have a gift. You don't hit everything maybe. Maybe Tiger is as close as they get to getting most of the gifts. But you get a God-given talent and you work hard and you try to use those talents to the best of your ability and fit in on the PGA TOUR and use those talents better than other people.
Mine obviously aren't in the power area. It's interesting because when I went to college I hit the ball really long and really crooked (laughter), and I found in order to play well for me, I needed to tone it back and try to become more consistent and hit the ball straighter. Then average length and straight added up to better scores than long and crooked.
It may not work that way for someone else, it's just the way it worked out for me. But when I went through junior golf and college golf, I was pretty long and crooked, and I turned it around to raise my game to a new level to be able to golf professionally.
JOHN BUSH: Jim, thank you very much for your time this morning.
Now we're going to get on to part 2 of our program, but before that I do want to recognize our original pieces of art here that Luke Donald -- we had commissioned Luke Donald for the tournament. Obviously the one to your right is his painting of Stephen Ames hitting his final shot into No. 18 in 2004, and the one to your left is Luke's original work of art of Jim Furyk holding up the trophy in celebration of his victory last year, so we're unveiling that for this year's tournament. You'll see a lot of publicity and images of this painting kind of all around the tournament this year.
Now I'd like to bring up a great friend of Western Golf and the U.S. brand team leader for Cialis, Mr. Matt Beebe.
MATT BEEBE: Thanks, John. Just wanted to make just a couple comments here. First of all, I'd like to thank on behalf of Lilly ICOS John and his team for putting on the tournament that's coming up, the 2006 Cialis Western Open and all the thousands of volunteers, as well as the WGA, Rich Peterson and Don Johnson. When we look at the combination of the WGA and John and his tournament, we say this is the best in the business how to put on a PGA TOUR tournament. We're very lucky and privileged to be part of this.
I also had a chance to think back to two years ago when we first came as title sponsors of the Western Open with Cialis. Two years ago when all of you came to this event, I kind of identified three reasons you might have been here. The first one is clearly golf, right, that's the main thing; the second at that time was to have a chance to interview Tiger Woods, who was the defending champion two years ago; the third was to find out what this new company in Lilly ICOS and this product in Cialis was actually going to do with this tournament. Lots of questions about that. In fact, Ed, you wrote a very appropriate article that said we're just going to take a wait-and-see attitude and see how Cialis handles this tournament which is very special in the Chicago sports community.
Two years after that we can sit here with some results. The first result and goal for us was to make sure that the Western Open continued to be one of the top tournaments on the PGA TOUR, and we think we've done that in the last two years, and that's a great partnership between Lilly ICOS as well as John and the WGA. In fact, last year I think it was on Friday, they had record attendance of 45,000 attendees, and so we can confidently say that the Cialis Western Open continues to be, from a local standpoint, as well as the PGA TOUR, one of the top tournaments. We're excited about reaching that goal and continuing that goal.
The second goal we had was to connect it back to the city of Chicago and the wonderful sports heritage here, and we tried to do that initially with the history booth and walk-through and taking a tournament that's been around for over 100 years and bring that back to the city of Chicago. As we thought about our goal for the tournament itself, it was to reconnect with Chicago in the sense of the Cialis Western Open, and we think we've done this successfully with the attendance.
And then the last from a business standpoint is we were launching Cialis, so we had to appropriately launch this product in a very tough category, and what we can say now, we sit here with over 6 million men worldwide that have taken Cialis, and the more we understand this disease state of erectile dysfunction, we're realizing this is a pretty special product that does some amazing things for men and their partners. The fact that it lasts for 36 hours translates into this concept of relax.
We think of what we do and the advertising for Cialis, what we try to convey so men can take the product, forget about the pill and go about everyday life. You see that from the relaxation centers that we have spread out around the course for the humid and hot days here in Chicago in July to all of our advertising.
So Cialis has been extremely successful not just in the U.S. but around the world in the last several years. So we're very happy about that and clearly meeting our objectives there.
As we think about the future, as we think about kind of in closing, when we all sit back and say ultimately what is the goal of the Cialis Western Open, we can all collectively be real excited and proud of the money we've raised for the Evans Scholars Foundation. That's ultimately the true winner here, providing scholarship funds to young men and women going on to school. In the last couple years over $4 million have been raised for the Evans Scholars Foundation, and I think ultimately that's the benchmark we can hold ourselves to, and I would say that also has been tremendously successful.
With that, again, thanks in advance, John, for what we believe is going to be another fantastic Cialis Western Open here in 2006, and we certainly look forward to seeing you later on today on the golf course and certainly in early July. Thank you.
JOHN KACZKOWSKI: That concludes this portion. Now we've got breakfast, brunch and golf for you. What we're going to do is everyone make their way over to the 2/4 building. Upstairs we have brunch set up for you. The range is open, you can hit balls, and then we're going to start golf at approximately 10:30. It'll be a shotgun start and Gary has your pairings so you know who you're playing with.
Thanks again.

End of FastScripts...

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