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August 9, 2016
LAURA NEAL: Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today for this very special announcement and incredible timing, if we do say ourselves. It is my pleasure to welcome media joining on our teleconference as well as those who are here in the conference room in Florida at the PGA TOUR entertainment. We have two special guests who will speak first and then we will have our introduction of the Payne Stewart Award winner. I would like to introduce Chris Womack who is in the room with us. Chris is the Vice President Of External Affairs for Southern Company.
And also joining us by phone is our PGA TOUR commissioner, Tim Finchem, calling in from Rio where the Olympic games with golf rejoining the Olympic games this year.
At this time I would like to turn the call over to Commissioner Finchem who will formally introduce and congratulate this year's Payne Stewart Award winner. Commissioner.
TIM FINCHEM: Thank you, Laura, I hope everyone can hear me all right, I'm actually in transit in Rio. But this is a very special award that we're talking about today. A lot of us believe it's perhaps the most important award of the year where we recognize a player who has made significant contributions to the interests of the PGA TOUR and the sport of golf. A player who believes in giving back and who has championship beyond charitable causes throughout his career. And a player who is handled himself with sportsmanship and comportment.
So it's a very important award and I would like to thank Southern Company for their partnership on the award over the years, because their efforts have led to this award becoming much more well recognized and really carrying the message of what this award means to the PGA TOUR and the other players.
I would like to congratulate Jim Furyk for being recognized as this year's recipient. He will be receiving this award in Atlanta during the TOUR Championship and as I recognize him, I want to congratulate him on his career both on and off the golf course. He has been a superb, consistent player. If he stopped playing right now he would be closing with the lowest score ever shot on the PGA TOUR, 58 this weekend.
I want to point out that this decision on his recognition of the Payne Stewart Award was made prior to him shooting 58. But I also want to recognize what he has meant to the PGA TOUR, its image, what people think about the sport, in our home area of Ponte Vedra Jim and his wife Tabitha have been absolute leaders and have had stunning success in giving back to the people and communities around the Ponte Vedra and Jacksonville area. And he continues that work constantly. He is a great contributor to what the PGA TOUR is all about, in addition to being a very, very great player.
So Laura, I would like to thank Jim, thank Southern Company, and we look forward to September to the ceremony.
LAURA NEAL: Thank you, commissioner, we appreciate it. Tim, before we ask Chris for some remarks on behalf of Southern Company maybe just a reaction on receiving this award after what's already been an exciting whirlwind weekend for you.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I want to thank Commissioner Finchem for that wonderful introduction and Chris thank you and Southern Company, really for not only your support of the Payne Stewart Award, but your support of the TOUR, the TOUR Championship. I have got a lot of work to do to come see you in Atlanta as a player, but I look forward to Tuesday night. It's an honor.
Payne was a friend, he and Tracey kind of took Tabitha and I in. When I was early on TOUR we met them really in Bermuda for a shoot‑out for a challenge and his spirit, his character, he was so much fun. I look back to our careers and I see a lot of similarities. A father that guided us through the start of our career, meeting a woman early in our careers that had a strong character and I think helped guide both of us to success and having a soulmate and someone to share it with. He had a way of his dress and the plus fours and the Kangols, the way that he identified himself from everyone else on the PGA TOUR.
For me it was having a strange unique swing that I gained a little recognition early in my career probably before I started playing well, so, I look back and just so many similarities in the things we have done and also I think one thing that sticks out about me about Payne was his love of playing for his country for the Ryder Cup and for the Presidents Cup and good leadership on those teams and especially in '99, that was something I'll never forget. So, to win an award that has his name on it and to look at the recipients below me is an honor and it's humbling to be here to accept it.
LAURA NEAL: Thank you, Jim and congratulations. Chris, if you could share some comments about the recipient this year and your association with the award.
CHRIS WOMACK: It's very easy, because we have followed Jim Furyk for many years and had a great admiration for all that you've done and how you've done it.
At Southern Company we talk about a lot about not just what we do, but how we do it. So it was very important that it's about how we do the things we do and making whatever we do, doing what we can to reach people is bigger, after we leave, and we want to do it with a great deal of integrity and that's very important. Southern Company in association with the PGA TOUR with.
Commissioner Finchem and with the Payne Stewart Award it's so very important to us because it aligns with what's important to us as we grow our business. So, having Jim Furyk be the winner this year is incredible today and 58 is the icing on the cake. If anyone hasn't heard about the 58 late Sunday night, when I heard about it, it just enhanced this unique experience. And we look forward to making the official award at the TOUR Championship and we wish you good luck being there as a player as well. We're very excited to be in this partnership with the TOUR and in connection with Payne Stewart and all that it means.
LAURA NEAL: Thank you. I think at this time we'll open it up for the questions. We will also have questions from the phone lines but if anyone in the room would like to start.
Q. You've had a lot of great accomplishments and achievements. Prior to the 58, 959, the U.S. Open, the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup, where do those rank in your mind in terms of importance and can you even do that?
JIM FURYK: It's so hard to put them in order. I think as a player you get judged, I always said you get judged by Major championships. The greatest player of all time in my mind is Jack Nicklaus with 18 Major Championships. I know Tiger has won 14. Everyone has a number attached.
So, I look back to being able to win a U.S. Open and carry that with me for my life and keep that trophy forever. But ordering things is so hard. I'm proud of being able to win 17 times and play on Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams and especially those teams that have went on to success and won. The 59 was a great accomplishment. I'm a little flabbergasted that I had the opportunity to break 60 again and was able to do so and to do it with a 58, it's amazing. I guess I look at it is it's one day versus a career, but it's also one day that no one else on the PGA TOUR has ever done.
So it's a wonderful accomplishment and I'm still kind of pinching myself that I'm going to have to wake up and still play that Sunday round. Because a lot of it has been a blur.
Q. I would like to note one more birdie, you could have worked out a great deal with Heinz 57. That would have been great for a Pittsburgh kid.
JIM FURYK: You're right. It would. We have the ketchup bottle all the time in the kitchen.
Q. Two weeks ago, a Nationwide Tour guy shoots a 58 and I'm wondering if the players‑‑ and we have had a few 59s in recent years‑‑ any kind of a trend here and trend seems to be the only power hitters who shot this number really were Duval and Appleby but the rest of the guys are have the total package, the total game, hit fairways and hit greens. Is there anything to that in achieving this kind of a number?
JIM FURYK: No, I just never ‑‑ people look at my game and kind of assume that it's kind of setup for a U.S. Open and setup for tough courses where par is a good score but I look back earlier in my career and three of my first four wins were LasVegas and that was like 25‑under par. But I don't know if there's a rhyme or a reason or a style of play. If I would have thought anyone was going to do it it was going to be David Duval in his career because I played so much golf with him and he was beaming with confidence, he had the total package, power, accuracy, ice in his veins, confidence. I learned a lot playing alongside him. And he was my partner, thank goodness.
I don't know if there's a ‑‑ I just never thought that I would be sitting nature event with the opportunity to break 60. A when I had that opportunity three years ago at Conway I think what I kept telling myself was you may never get this opportunity again. Let's treat it that way, let's go out there and have fun and enjoy it, and, heck, let's take advantage of it. This isn't going to happen again.
I got to the ninth green and hit a ‑‑ kind of had an easy putt, finishing up on Sunday night, I had a kind of dummy putt on 7 and 9 where I had a little tap in, and lo and behold 8‑under 27. And I kind of went, here we go again. And I never thought I would be in this situation, but let's take advantage of it and it became very clear with the birdies at 10, 11, 12, that maybe I could get past the barrier of 59. And then it just becomes a mental battle on the way in.
Q. Do you have a favorite Payne Stewart story?
JIM FURYK: We had a heck of a time in Bermuda. That was a place where I was probably 25 or 26 years old, showed up in Bermuda, very proper island, dressed up, we were again, 25, 26, wanted to put a pair of shorts and T‑shirts and flip‑flops. We felt like we were going to the island.
And we saw this little Mexican restaurant that we were going to go have chips and salsa and a couple beers and hang out. Didn't realize Payne and Tracey were there and they invited us to join them. And hours upon hours upon hours later we got back home and Payne and I were scheduled to do the junior clinic in the morning. So it was a long, rough junior clinic.
But the way that they took us in, how gracious they were, how nice they were, down to earth. We had a blast. And as a young player, to look up to people like that and have people treat you so well is a great memory.
Q. Those of us who knew Payne kind of saw a transformation in his personality and in his life and certainly on TOUR. He won the U.S. Open in 1999 and the lasting memory of that him grabbing Phil by the fairways. Kind of turned into a bit of a mentor early in his life but it turned out to be late in his life on TOUR. Is that how I helped you and Tabitha?
JIM FURYK: Well, I think, yeah, there, early on but he was a strong presence. In the Ryder Cup we needed some veteran leadership. Hal played so well. Payne kind of was a little bit of an inspirational leader. We had a lot of young guys on that team and you need those veteran guys to kind of lean on. I just, it was really just his love and his desire. I didn't see that as much in '97 when I played, there was a lot of controversy around the '97 Ryder Cup, there were guys I don't think they were asking to get paid but there was a lot of controversy around '97. And Tom Kite was able to kind of hold it together and we played went over there as a team but '99, Payne was a big part of that, the players showing their love for the Ryder Cup. That, hey, it wasn't about getting paid, we love playing here. Guys would bend over backwards to make that team and Payne was a big part of that and kind of led that desire. I just remember it. I always was dying to get on those teams as a young player. But it's the same passion that I have and something I'll never forget.
Q. He didn't mind being a big personality or big presence, right?
JIM FURYK: Not at all. Not at all. I think that's one of the differences with Payne that he had a way ‑‑ like he could spot a weakness in a friend. If he realized he was getting on your nerves, he loved to just keep needling. He had a sarcastic wit, which I feel like my friends see that in myself, but he's just a much bigger personality, more outgoing than me. And I was a little built more reserved and shy. But he had away of just, you're going to have fun, I rode on many planes and from events to events and you would of fun if Payne was around. You had a good time. I enjoyed that.
Q. You talk about Payne's passion. What kind of drives you today?
JIM FURYK: What drives me today?
Q. What's your passion for golf today? What keeps you coming back every day?
JIM FURYK: I think that honestly, it's days like Sunday, to be honest with you. You never know in this game really. Sunday was the last day that I would ever imagine a score like that or a great round coming out. I wasn't playing that well at the PGA, I hadn't played that particularly well at Hartford all week. So the 31st day of a 31‑day trip. Teeing off in the third group on Sunday morning. Most of the time most guys are trying to figure out how early can they get on that plane and get home. And I was dying to get back here to Ponte Vedra to sleep in my own bed, to be with my family.
But with a big push coming up here, the playoffs coming up I kind of wanted to find something. I went to the range Saturday night to practice, talked to my dad quite a bit. But it's days like that. To have a chance to win the U.S. Open this year in my home state on Sunday, to go out there on Sunday and at Hartford and shoot 58 it kind of felt like I was trying to win a Major Championship out there.
The crowd showed up, there was cameras every where, just to get the juices flowing, I think every competitor lives and breathes moments where they can really get focused, they can really get excited and champion around something and that was my moment on Sunday. And I guess that's, for opportunities to win more tournaments, for opportunities to get in situations like that, that's what keeps me at 46 still interested.
Q. Was there a best piece of advice that stands out from Payne and also wondering when in your career you realize that had by what you're doing you can help people kind of the spirit of this award.
JIM FURYK: I tend to really hang on to the fun times and fun moments and the wit and we shared a number of different fun times with him as did everyone on the PGA TOUR and there were folks that knew him far better than me, but I had plenty of moments with him and I guess I remember the fun. I remember Paul's speech at the funeral about the boat and just there were a lot of fun times. So that's what I choose to kind of remember. The second half of that was?
Q. When did you realize through your PGA TOUR career that you could help people through what you were doing?
JIM FURYK: I think pretty early in my career ‑‑ I don't know if the TOUR does it anymore, but my rookie year on TOUR, every rookie was supposed to do some volunteer work at at least one event during that time. And mine was a big deal to me. So I was supposed to, I gave a speech, which was interesting for a young guy, I gave a speech to the volunteers. It was just a little bit of a background about what goes on at a PGA event. I got to see 1,200 volunteers, different setup, different committees, it started to dawn on me that a lot of people had to go through a lot of work for us to go out and make a living.
And then through that dinner, I also learned a lot about how many charities were affected in that city. The Champions Tour plays up there now. And it started dawning on me that you could be proud to play the PGA TOUR, we were fortunate, I mean I was 22 years old playing the PGA TOUR for a living, and it was my dream in life, but you can take a lot of pride in the fact that every city we left we were trying to help them be better and there was some Committees and organizations in each city set up to make a difference.
And I think a lot of players ahead of me had started their own foundations. Peter Jacobsen running the Fred Meyer Challenge. Billy Andrade Brad Faxon running their event and as you noticed different players had charity events around the country, championing the causes that maybe difficult times their family had gone through or causes that were near and dear to their heart. And it just, it started making sense. And as I got older I think Tabitha and I talked about starting our own our own foundation and I wish we probably would have done it sooner, but when I had my year in 2010 that was so successful, it just was kind of, okay, now or never. And I give her a lot of credit. She's the one that really grabbed the bull by the horns and got things started and she runs the foundation. She's the rock for all of it. So, it happens throughout for so many players on TOUR doing similar things and so I feel very fortunate and very honored to be here.
Q. Now that you've gone 58 and the handful of guys that have gone 59 you know what it takes, do you think it's possible that there's ever a 57 out there? Whether for you or anyone.
JIM FURYK: Yes. There's always going to be barriers to break and amazing rounds and I think Al Geiberger got to sit on it now for probably what, 40 some years? It would be really nice if I got to sit on it for another 40 some years.
Q. You were 12‑under through 16.
JIM FURYK: Yeah I was 11‑under through 12. With a reachable par‑5 and a reachable par‑4.
Q. So you're standing there saying don't make bogey or more birdies?
JIM FURYK: Again, that's the mental battle I was talking about. I had everything clicking, I drove it, there was some holes in my mind I had to get by, because you can shoot a low number at Hartford but there's also some water, some holes like 17, if you short side yourself on some holes you're not getting the ball up‑and‑down. I had to get by the drive on 13. I had to get by the drive on 17. And I thought if I could do those two things, I could work it out pretty well.
Q. Did you hit driver on 17?
JIM FURYK: At that I hit a hybrid it was a little down breeze I should have hit hybrid, 9‑iron. I kind of steered the hybrid out there and I had it where I hit 8‑iron. I hit it too hard. But really, my short iron game was phenomenal. I holed one shot and almost holed two others, so it was, at that point I was thinking let's just get the ball in the fairway because I've got the short irons going at the pin. But it was just a mental battle of not letting, let's not make bogey here creep in. Staying aggressive but patient. And not thinking about ‑‑ and you can't help it, but thinking about the barrier, the whole time, I mean he's got it 11‑under, one more birdie is 58. I'm actually putting for birdie on the last two holes to get to 13‑under.
So the hardest part, and I liken it to breaking 100 for the first time or breaking 90 for the first time. I remember my first opportunity to break 80 as a kid and I double bogeyed the last hole for 80 and I was so mad. It was my last tournament of the summer.
My very next tournament I went out and shot 79. And then immediately shot 73. Those are barriers that, the first time you get a chance to break 70, same thing, just a number, but you start playing different and my goal on that mental battle is not playing any differently, so realize things are going well and just let it go and let it happen.
Q. Three quarters of this award are charity character and sportsmanship. Can you talk about one thing that you learned from Payne?
JIM FURYK: One thing that I learned from Payne? There is a number of thugs I learned from Payne. I guess the one was as gracious as he was when he treated Tabitha and I. I think how much of a difference you can probably make in a young player's career. I have probably about a handful of guys that have approached me as a veteran player and will start asking questions and looking for advice. And I think that really taking the time and listening to what they have to say and doing your best to try to help those guys makes a big difference. If that makes sense.
I know that they appreciate it, because I look back and appreciate Payne being such a nice guy. I think also early in my career I probably struggled enjoying what I did. I looked at it so much as a life and death and every shot you lived on and my days were judged by my success. 75 was a terrible day and 65 was a great day. And I know it was probably a struggle for Payne as well, but he seemed to enjoy himself and he was such a fierce competitor. It took a long time to really be able to sit back and enjoy, it took me way too long to enjoy golf, despite the score. It took me a long time to do that.
Q. What do players like you like best about the FedExCup format and what kind of motivator is it during the season for you?
JIM FURYK: I think there's a number of lists of why the FedExCup is so important to a player is numerous, but one I think it brings us all, it brings every one of our sponsors and tournaments together as a whole, as a group, a season that they can get behind and be a part of. It's great for our fans because texted tended our season another four or five weeks.
Once the PGA Championship ended in the past, and before the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup, there was a little bit of a void in our schedule and a lack of interest as far as TV viewers and now we have got a great ratings and folks watching and exciting finish to a season. I think for a player, it just helps our TOUR. The exposure with sponsors, with fans, it gives us another four or five weeks of exciting golf, big purses, it really has transformed, I think, our TOUR in the last 10 years.
And honestly, I didn't understand it, I still remember sitting in a meeting in the TOUR Championship in Atlanta and having Commissioner Finchem explain what he wanted to do and it was just so different and I think a lot of us sat there with a dumbfounded look on our face thinking, I don't know if this is going to work. And it became very clear two or three years later that it's probably the best thing that's happened to our TOUR since I've been on it in the last 23 years.
Q. Who are you playing with on Sunday and what did they say to you? I was in Palm Springs when David Duval shot his 59 and his player was Bob Tway and he said Bob Tway just kept saying, good shot, good shot?
JIM FURYK: It's a little bit like a pitcher throwing a no‑no, everyone in the dugout kind of goes to the other side and no one even looks at him. I was playing with Angel Carballo and he and his caddie Martin, I had played with them the day before. And his caddie is real outgoing, Miguel speaks ‑‑ his English is good, but's pretty quiet guy by nature, I'm a pretty quiet guy by nature, we didn't talk a ton. We talked, I asked him where he was from and where he lived.
And as the day went on and I started making birdies I kind of got in my own little world and Martin was going about his business and he would talk and it was refreshing for me because he was talking and I was able to relax a little bit and have other conversation.
I remember walking up 18 and we were chatting and I looked at him and I said, hey, let's both make birdie on this hole. I wanted to keep my mind focused. And he flagged it in there he hit it about six or seven feet and they asked how we should putt out and I told them it didn't matter to me if they wanted to go ahead first, just in case mine goes in this place is going to be a little hectic for you to knock in a six or seven‑footer. So he went first.
LAURA NEAL: Thank you so much for joining us. Those on the phone and those in the room.
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