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March 21, 2000

Jim Furyk


NELSON LUIS: Welcome, Jim. Appreciate your time this morning. You have gotten off to your best career start so far this year in terms of you have got 4 Top-10s already in your first 8 tournaments, including a win. Maybe you could start off just talking about your really good play here in Florida so far the last few weeks. Just trying to continue the streak here in your hometown.

JIM FURYK: I guess Florida swing is interesting. Last year I took off Doral, Honda, and played Bay Hill and THE PLAYERS there year. I switched it around a little. I guess it was for the best, considering I did so well in South Florida. But so far the year has been going well. I thought I played pretty well on the West Coast and didn't really get all that much out of it. And now with the first couple of events in Florida, I definitely got a lot out of my game, I was putting well. And it is nice to be off to a good start, nice to be playing well and already have a win under my belt and still have the big bulk of the season left to go. So I am excited for it.

Q. Is there any difference -- with your win early, and then your other victories have been relatively late in the season, does winning early relax you, enable you to play better for the rest of the year?

JIM FURYK: It didn't in 1996.

Q. Do you think it should?

JIM FURYK: We will see. That wears off pretty quick. Won in Doral, then I was still pretty happy-go-lucky at Honda. Take a week off, now no one remembers about Doral. I don't even remember Doral too much anymore. I think that that wears off and you get back to business as usual. And I will still treat the events the same way. I don't think that it will let me relax or become more patient or anything of that. I am thinking that I am going to pretty much take everything the same way as if I hadn't won and still keep working hard. And I don't really think there is going to be a difference.

Q. Has there been a common thread towards you being able to kick in a victory in an event like this, or a Major, where you've contended, or you have been in the Top-10 a lot of times in those events, what do you think is going to be the difference between finally winning one?

JIM FURYK: In a lot of those Top-10s, one of the things -- there has been a lot of pull-away victories in major events where one, two, three guys have kind of pulled away from the rest of the field. And a few of those Top-10s I really wasn't in the heat of the battle, in contention and a few that I was. So I think I had -- U.S. Open at Congressional, there was four guys: Els, Lehman, Maggert, someone else. They were way out ahead. I tied for 5th I was kind of like leading the second half of the tournament. Same with when Justin won the British Open, himself. I think it was Jesper, maybe Darren Clarke or someone that were way out ahead. Then I finished fourth. But I was still quite a few shots back where I really never got within six the final day. So I guess the experiences I will draw from were 1997 or '98, I can't remember, '98 I think I was at 18th tee at the Masters at one back and hit a shot into the green, and just actually burned the left ledge of the hole. Almost made birdie at the time, which would have been tie. Birdied 16, 17 coming in. I am trying to think, I had a shot at the British when Mark won, at Birkdale coming down the stretch. I didn't make a few putts, or I think I lost that tournament within two also. Really tried to draw from those experiences where I got myself in contention in the heat and I played some good golf, just didn't play quite well enough. I made some birdies coming down the stretch at the Masters. I hit the ball great at Birkdale. Didn't make some putts. I just draw from those. Hopefully, this year I get myself in a situation where I have a chance to win and I will be able to do the same thing that I did at Doral.

Q. Would a victory here be remotely in the ballpark of a major championship victory for you?

JIM FURYK: Yeah. Definitely. I think that I mean, among the players, we rate this tournament very high because of the strength of the field. Basically, I think just about everyone is here. If they are not, there is probably a reason why they are missing it. But strongest field, biggest purse, the players definitely put a lot of importance on this event. And you know that when you have won it you have beat the best field in golf. But then again, it is not a major. The 4 majors are still, in my mind, are still the cream of the crop. And this is running a very close second.

Q. How much when you are a playing like yourself, who has been consistently in the Top-20 in the money list for most of your career since you have won your first one, how much does a purse like this get your attention? Does it still mean an awful lot?

JIM FURYK: Well, not as much as the field. Not as much as, I mean it will skew the money list kind of, and make the year look that much better. But in your heart, you know how well you have played in the year, how many times you contended, won, or how many times you had a chance to win events. I think more than anything it is beating the best field in golf, that is an accomplishment. The strongest players are here, and you have to beat a lot of them to win the event. That is a nice bonus though.

Q. How are you playing coming into this tournament, and how do you like this course as far as your game is concerned?

JIM FURYK: Obviously was playing real well in South Florida. Took a week off, relaxed. I am mentally ready. I am rested and ready to go. At Doral and Honda, really wasn't too much lacking in my game. I felt very confident. As far as this golf course, I really haven't had a ton of success here. I think that this course changes dramatically on the setup to what kind of player it favors. I think that in last year's event it definitely played differently than, say, the year Justin won it 16-under. And I think that, add that effect with the greens getting very firm and fast or maybe putting some rain on them and being able to hold the greens a little bit easier, that it brings more players into -- with the greens holding, it brings more players into the event. With the greens very firm and very fast, it definitely favors one side sort of player. So I think depending on the setup depends on how much, or how much it doesn't favor my game.

Q. Would you forgive my ignorance, but what type of player does it favor when they are fast like they will be?

JIM FURYK: I think when the greens are fast and -- not as much fast. When the greens are very firm here, it favors a player that is long and a player that hits the ball very high ball flight and spins the ball a lot and scores -- doesn't allow anyone to bounce a ball on the green. There is maybe, if there is 3 greens out here that you can actually roll the ball onto from the front of the green, I would be surprised. With the undulations and the slope in the greens, you are actually hitting to third or even sometimes quarters of a green. So you really don't have that much green to work with when you are hitting shots into them. When they are very firm, it helps a lot to be a heck of a lot closer to the green, a guy that can bomb it off the tee, but still obviously keep it in play and have a wedge, 9-iron, 8-iron in their hand instead of 5-, 6-, 7-iron in their hand, has a lot more advantage again, to hit the ball high; spin the ball on the green and stop it somewhere near the pin. And it makes a world of difference out here. The driving areas this year, they seem to be maybe just a smidge wider than they had been maybe the last couple of years in a couple of areas. There is some areas out there. But for the most part, they are not unbelievably tight fairways. Hopefully, if you are playing well, you should be able to hit the ball in the fairway. And really comes down to a lot of iron shots and a lot of patience and putting the ball on the right spot in the greens.

Q. Leaving aside the debate about where this stands in comparison to the majors, has this course evolved into a major-championship caliber course?

JIM FURYK: I mean, that is really tough. You are asking for my opinion. But opinions are -- everyone is going to have a different opinion of the course. Everyone has a different opinion about Augusta, about every major championship course. I think that living here - I don't mean this in a derogatory way - but I honestly think if you are going to have a major championship, it shouldn't be held at the same course every year, other than Augusta. That is one place where I will put an asterisk in the footnote because I love that place. It is just special. Whether we ever get that special feeling here or not, I don't know. Will it ever happen, will a tradition eventually prevail, but when you play the U.S. Open, you play a different course every year; PGA; the British Open, and different courses are going to favor different horses. I feel like when you come here, you are having one event that favors one style of player. And I think, as far as putting it in a major championship category, my personal belief is that is probably what hurts it; that is what keeps it back as the fifth event in golf. Not that this is a poor golf course, I just feel like if it were really "THE PLAYERS Championship", we would move it so all the players had a bigger area. There are some guys that really get cut out on this golf course.

Q. What are your thoughts on heading into The Masters this year, and will you be changing anything in the way that you play this week to prepare for Augusta?

JIM FURYK: A little bit. I get really excited for Augusta every year. It's my favorite event. It is just a different style of golf, a different golf course, but it has a special feel for me. It was the one event from -- my first time was excited to come to the PLAYERS Championship for the first time. I was excited to go to each major for the first time. But I was extra excited to go to The Masters the first time. As far as changing my game, I won't do too much differently except I will work a little bit more on a right-to-left ball flight off the tee because there is only a few holes where it is a must, but there is six, seven, eight holes where it is a huge advantage that you can get another 20 yards off a tee shot; can get a lot shorter club into a green. I am predominantly a left-to-right player, I am more comfortable cutting the ball off the tee and next week I will work a little bit on trying to draw it and until I get there and you actually stand on the holes and see the shapes of the shots that you want to hit -- it is not a big adjustment but it is a little one that I will make. I won't hit too many draws off the tee here, like 2 and 16. Most of the rest of the day, I will cut the ball off the tee. Really just trying to get used to the speed of the greens, although these greens are -- these are the best I have ever seen the greens by far here at THE PLAYERS Championship. They really have them in good shape; a lot of grass on them, and they are as quick already this year as I remember them in the past. And they are rolling very well. So that adjustment probably won't be as great, but there will still be a little bit of adjustment just with -- these greens have a lot of slope, but Augusta is just unbelievable in spots.

Q. Is there a certain group of players that is eliminated from Augusta the same way that there is a group of players that would have a hard time winning here?

JIM FURYK: I will say that there aren't players that are eliminated from THE PLAYERS Championship, but when the conditions are like they were last year, then there are players that are eliminated. Players that aren't long enough off the tee or can't hit the ball high enough to go ahead and win the golf tournament, they could play a good tournament, but it is going to be tough.

Q. Is Augusta a little more open in the type of player that can win there, that can compete there?

JIM FURYK: I don't know. Over the years you see a pretty common style player other than -- you see kind of a couple of different styles of players that do well there, but you have the long bomber that really can overpower the course, but then you also have a guy like Nick Faldo who is just Mr. Control when he was playing his best and winning The Masters he kind of did it just by pinpoint accuracy which you wouldn't really think of too much at Augusta. Then you got a guy like Crenshaw who isn't overpowered and long but does well at The Masters all the time and I don't know what you credit that to. He loves the place. Obviously the best putter when he gets it going in the world, but it's overrated, you can't just putt and win golf tournaments. You still have to hit the shots in the right place. You can't make putts from the wrong spot at Augusta, I don't care how good you are.

Q. Back to this tournament, how many times a year do you feel that you play this golf course?

JIM FURYK: Probably not more than a dozen, 15, if I were really lucky, but I played bits and pieces of it more than anything, like four rounds - I probably don't play a dozen, but I will come out and go play four, five, six holes maybe seven, go play a quick nine and run around in a cart; find an open spot play some holes and just work on my game a little bit that way. Rather than coming out teeing off 1 and finishing the entire round.

Q. Guys that live here really don't play this course under the conditions this week?

JIM FURYK: Under the conditions this week we don't. Thank goodness, I'd never come out here. The rounds would be about eight hours long. I was telling one of the guys from NBC that yesterday, he said he was a 30-handicap, he was talking about the condition of the course. I said, thank goodness it is not like this when you come out, you'd really struggle. You think it is hard normally, you should see it now. But yeah, the course does go through a little bit of transforation. I think the greens become much more difficult to hit because of the firmness of them and also all the slope on the greens is accentuated so much with the speed of the greens, where you can hit it on the wrong side of the pin on an average day and still not worry about knocking a putt by. Now you are hitting putts very easy and gentle. Good example would be on the 13th hole, when the pin is down on the left, you hang one up on the high side, right of that tower on a normal day, it is not any problem to stop that putt down there. Now it is a really delicate putt. And it is almost impossible not to knock it three, four feet by. Good putt goes three, four feet by where you can stop that putt easily any other time of the year. So it is still an advantage I think to play here and to be here and to play the golf course a lot. But I have lived here for four years and I don't think that is any advantage over a guy that has been on Tour 15 years and played 15 PLAYERS Championships but it has definitely helped me out on this golf course to be able to play it a lot. -. One of the hard things for me on this golf course when I first started playing it, it is very hard to find a target off the tee. A lot of the background on this golf course -- step on The First Tee, try to pick a tree, there is 300 of them out there. They all look the same, tall pines and not much definition in the background. There aren't a lot of fairway bunkers or things that you can cut the ball off of. There aren't a lot of targets off the tee. It is very -- the fairways -- it a little bit of an angle to -- almost to the tee boxes, the angle that you hit the ball on the fairways cut out, by quite a bit of yardage, just maybe five or ten yards left-to-right off the tee, you might lose 25 yards of fairway. So it is difficult to find targets to aim at. The more you play the golf course you get more comfortable with where you are aiming off the tee and where the fattest and widest part of the fairways are.

Q. In this day, people with a lot of statistical information, putting, driving accuracy, what have you, sometimes it is kind of hard to figure what other than the money list, obviously, who is playing the best. What of those stats do you feel like correlate most to success out here and do you have something that you can point to kind of?

JIM FURYK: Scoring average. Not even any doubt. I think greens in regulation, fairways hit might be good stats to look at, maybe year-end to year-end, but as far as an individual event like Pebble Beach in February it is pretty easy to hit fairways because you are hitting the ball about 245 or 250 in the air if you are lucky. And the ball rolls a good six inches after it hits. So hopefully you hit some fairways there. Then you get to a place like the U.S. Open or Augusta, hopefully I hit somewhere in the 80 percentile there.

Q. Little bit more room?

JIM FURYK: A lot wider. You get to the PGA or the British Open, U.S. Open, you say a guy might only hit 65 percent of the fairways but that could actually be pretty good times. In windy conditions if you are putting ball in the right places when you miss it, that could be pretty good. So, it is a -- really to compare even sometimes the West Coast versus the East Coast it could depend a lot on weather, driving distance could depend a lot on weather whether you are playing at Pebble Beach or Phoenix or Las Vegas, there could be 40 to 50 yards difference just in my drivers. But I think we look mostly to scoring average because the way they -- I don't know if anyone knows how to explain how they do it, but somehow that goes on the average of the score in the field -- it really shows your average in relation to the rest of the field every week, so you know how well you are doing versus the field.

Q. How about putting in particular?

JIM FURYK: Putting is a tough very tough stat for one reason, if -- it is only kept for greens that you hit and for a guy that hits -- I mean, there is a lot of different areas. Some guys are aggressive with their irons, hit it right at the stick, John Huston would be a great example - I don't think I have ever seen John aim anywhere else but at the flag and he hits it close quite a bit and makes a lot of birdies. Other guys are very -- they are not that aggressive with -- they hit a lot to the middle of the green so their putting stats are not going to be as good. A guy that hits par 5s in two quite often and -- left with a long putt, if they hit it in two and have two putts still counts for two putts. Where a guy maybe like me that is a smidge shorter, I hit it around a lot of par 5s, but maybe not on a lot of par 5s, hopefully I get a wedge on it, knock it up there close; now I have a short putt for my 1-putt, where Davis Love is going to have a long putt and 2-putt for birdie more often than not. I think the stats are there. It is not that they are bad, but I think they are very short-minded. I think we know as a player when I finish a round and I shoot 65 or 75, I know why I shot 75. I don't have to go back and count how many fairways I hit or how many greens I hit or how many putts I had. I can tell you if I putted poorly, I can tell you if I drove it poorly and if I am hitting my irons bad or my wedges I can come in and I can complain with the best of them and tell you what was wrong.

Q. Speaking of Las Vegas, what is it about there that you like so much?

JIM FURYK: I don't know. It is not really a course that anyone would ever pick that would favor my game, but I have played real well there. I am comfortable there. And I like the other courses that they play besides Summerlin. I have played real well on -- everyone always points to Summerlin, but I have done real well at Las Vegas Country Club and done decent at DI, so -- and also at the -- they used to play the -- I think they call it Hilton Country Club now; used to be Sahara. I am not sure what it is. A lot of it too could be used to the elevation of Tuscon is somewhat similar to Las Vegas, the ball goes a lot farther in the thin air, and I can kind of draw off the experience in college just for distances and yardage. Takes me maybe a little less time to adjust to it.

Q. Darren Clarke said this morning that more American players have been congratulating him on winning the Match Play than European Tour players. The reason might have been that you guys were kind of glad somebody beat Tiger. What do you think of just in general Tiger's current streak right now?

JIM FURYK: It is pretty phenomenal. I think that I have lost track now how many events and how many events he has won. But it's got to be like seven in the last 10 or 9 - I may be cutting him out of one there. It might be nine which is pretty phenomenal. I guess it is pretty evident right now that if he is playing well starting the week that he is going to be there on the leaderboard; he is going to be the guy to beat which we haven't had -- I guess Nick Price got on a roll like that in the mid-'90s, a couple of guys Norman in the early '90s, but I don't think anyone has dominated the way he has in a long time. Maybe Nicklaus.

Q. Is there a different feeling, Jim, when you see his name on the leaderboard than there was a year ago at this time, two years ago at this time?

JIM FURYK: Not for me. I think that -- you really can't control what other players are doing or -- I don't think a lot of us really focus on what Tiger is doing. I know that he is on an incredible streak. I know he is playing well, and I do think it's phenomenal, but in the same respect, I am not looking at the board to see if I can find his name on it while he is playing. I have got a lot to worry about out there and a lot to focus on in my game so I can't really worry about what the other guys are doing.

End of FastScripts….

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