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September 25, 2018
CLARE BODEL: Jim, since the last time you were in here yesterday, you've had the players together and they are out practising today. How are things going, and how are things feeling amongst the team today?
JIM FURYK: Pretty well. I came in here after guys got through nine holes. They were just finishing up the front nine.
They are just trying to learn the golf course. I said yesterday, one of our keys, really, would be these three days of prep, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. I've got six guys that have seen the course, six that haven't. They are mixed up today where each group has got someone that's played the golf course that can show the others around a little.
But we're just trying to figure it out. You know, Europe knows this golf course well. They have played The French Open here. We're trying to figure out the setup and what they have in store for the week.
The three days are important. Right now, my guys are all going to play 18 today. I think the fresh air, the walk, camaraderie, really trying to get rid of jet-lag and knock some of the dust off and the cobwebs from a long flight, and we'll start getting down to particulars the next two days.
Right now, I really want them to learn the golf course and get an idea what they can do off each tee and where the least narrow parts are of these fairways. There's not a lot of wide parts out there. Trying to figure out to hit the ball, where to go. Europe had the opportunity to set the golf course up, so we're trying to figure out what they have in store for us this week.
Q. Phil and Tiger have made no secret that their relationship is better than it used to be. How much does that help the team dynamic, both two years ago and this year?
JIM FURYK: It definitely doesn't hurt, but both Phil and Tiger have been really involved in our team atmosphere and have been leaders in our team room. Tiger doing it as a vice captain the last couple years but as a player before, and Phil hasn't missed a team event in, whatever it's been, 25 years.
Both of them have been huge, huge leaders in our team room and have helped the younger players significantly, and both are excited to be playing this week. And the first time they have both been on a team together in quite some time, and it's a lot of fun. They've always been big helps in the team room and guys we have relied on, captains have relied on in the past, players have relied on.
Q. Can you talk specifically about Phil's leadership and what he brings to the team room? Seems like he's always been a default leader.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I think, one, he's got so much experience. He hasn't missed a team since -- help me -- maybe '95, where he's been on every Ryder Cup Team, every Presidents Cup team. He's seen the inner workings of the team room, the captains.
I think, one, you know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone. He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor; I think provides some levity.
Also, I think at the right times, understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been in good that atmosphere. He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.
He's just a valuable guy to have in the team room, and you know, as a captain, it's like having a player like him is like adding a vice captain to your staff.
Q. How much, if at all, should we read into today's groupings as far as potential partnerships for Friday and Saturday?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, what I was worried about with the guys today, I talked about, was having -- every group I think has at least two guys that have played the golf course in the past. Maybe one in that first group. Two or three guys in the others.
I really was trying to mix the guys in there, and today is a lot about working in their own game, right. I mean, we're coming right off a flight. Everyone's -- I know how I would feel on those first three holes. My swing would feel kind of loose. Club would feel light in my hands, and throughout the day I'd be working on hitting the ball solid.
Not really worried about how straight I was hitting it, just trying to solid move it down the fairway, and if I start hitting and stringing together some really good shots, I'd be excited.
But today is really about trying to learn the golf course and hit some solid golf shots. There may be some pairings out there and there's some groups there isn't. Just want them concentrating on their own game right now. They are very aware of who they will be playing with this week and they are very aware of some of the options they have, and they will work on that a lot in the team room and they will work on that a lot in the next couple days.
Q. With regard to doing the pairings for the foursomes and fourballs, can you -- unless you'd like to divulge, which I know you won't, can you talk about the inner workings and machinations of putting guys together for each of those competitions and what goes into it?
JIM FURYK: Just for fourball and foursomes?
Q. Differences there?
JIM FURYK: Well, you start out with you can look at it from a personality standpoint, you can look at it from a technical or data standpoint. I think that, again, changes per golf course. I mean, how we may have paired guys together at Hazeltine, because it's a significantly different golf course, so much longer and a much more open golf course versus here, being not nearly as long and a much tighter golf course; you may want to change the type of players you play next to each other and how you may try to take advantage of strengths for a golf course.
There's a number of different aspects that go into it. I think looking at Le Golf National versus Hazeltine, it's just significantly a different golf course. I looked at it from a little bit different perspective this time, but really it has a lot to do with games that match up well, personalities that match up well, and really kind of get an idea of everyone's comfort level. You want them out there really excited about the folks they are playing with and excited about their pairing, and that could be for a number of different reasons.
Q. What did you make of Tiger's win the other day, and not that you necessarily needed it, did it give the team a boost coming over?
JIM FURYK: It certainly doesn't hurt. Everybody is excited to see Strick, as well. Strick is a popular guy in the team room, being a captain last year and being a vice captain this year, had two TVs on and cheering them both on.
It's a nice boost for everyone, and I think for Tiger in general, it's cool. I think the arm's up in the air on 18, it looks like that's going to be a cover on maybe about a hundred magazines this week; you could tell it was significant for him. I also know how important this event is to all 12 guys and to Tiger, as well. He was able to get to the team room. Everyone gave him a pat on the back and was excited.
You know, being a guy with his status and that number of wins, he can flip the page and turn his attention to this week. So he's out there on the golf course right now, working hard and grinding and trying to help this team as much as he can.
Q. Before Hazeltine, everybody kept saying that Europe had the superior team spirit in this event, and the win two years ago maybe changed that around a bit. How much of your role as captain is maintaining that team spirit and cohesion from two years ago?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I think it's funny how when a team does well and they are successful and everyone is all smiles, it appears that there's a lot of cohesion, right.
Then when a team is struggling and not playing as well and you've got the frowns on the faces, well, it appears that there's no -- I think, you know, in sports at home, when the coach says "winning solves everything" type thing.
This group is very easy when it comes to team and cohesion. They get on very well. They go on vacations very well. They hang out together. This core group, I think we have Bryson and Tony probably on their first team; Justin played in The Presidents Cup last year. Most of these guys kind of understand the dynamics of a team room and look forward to it.
And as a captain, it's been very easy. I mean, we try to breed that and we try to breed the team getting together and everyone kind of taking care of each other, but really it's one of my easiest jobs because it's such an easy group.
Q. You keep mentioning personalities in terms of getting teammates together. When you have someone that's outwardly fiery, like Patrick, versus someone I guess like DJ who is insular, is it best to put them together or keep them apart? Do you have two guys similar? What's your sort of thoughts on that?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I talk to the guys that way. You look back to Luke Donald and Sergio GarcĂa, the fiery and the stoic, and they made a great pairing together.
I think as a captain, I like to talk to the guys throughout the year, do you like to play with someone who is fiery and pumps you up, or do you want someone who is a little bit quieter. You get a feel for what they like and what they want, and try to match up some games with that. It can go a number of different ways, if that made sense.
Yeah, usually don't see -- if Patrick and Sergio were on the same team, there would be a lot of fire, I'll say that. There would be a lot of passion for one grouping. You try to get an idea of everyone, what makes them tick and what makes them play their best, and you try to pair those type of personalities together.
Q. There's a learning curve for any rookie out here, but do Justin's credentials and what he's accomplished over the last two years perhaps make him more well equipped to handle this situation than a typical first timer?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I think so. You look at the rookies on both sides, you've got a lot of talent. You've got a lot of guys that have some veteran experience. This may be their first Ryder Cup, but Noren and Fleetwood won on this golf course. Jon Rahm's ranked top 5 in the world, I believe. You go down the list, every rookie in this event has got some experience.
Yeah, you look at a guy like J.T., he was our PGA TOUR Player of the Year last year. Pretty tough to call guys that I mentioned before from both sides rookies, but it is their first Ryder Cup. It's a different atmosphere.
You look at this first tee, and I don't know, what is there -- someone help me. Is there 5,000 seats back there?
CLARE BODEL: 6,000.
JIM FURYK: 6,000. I'm telling y'all short. 6,000 seats. It's a different atmosphere, but it is a wonderful atmosphere and phenomenal. I said it a lot through my captain's picks: You want a team that loves that atmosphere, right. I mean, we all looked forward to trying to make these Ryder Cup teams when we were younger, and they have an opportunity this week and they are going to walk down that walkway into the first tee and the place is going to be going absolutely crazy. And of that 6,000 people, probably 5,500 will be crowded and cheering for Europe.
But what a great atmosphere and what a great opportunity for these 24 players, and you couldn't ask for much more.
Q. What do you make of the notion that this is somehow an anti-long hitters or anti-bomber's course and that will favour the Europeans? Paul McGinley, former captain, said that there's no more than four drivers out there.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I would say he's correct. This morning, it was a little cooler. Ball wasn't traveling quite as far. There might be a few more than four drivers. I know the exact four holes he's talking about.
In colder weather, there may be a few more. It is somewhat limiting off the tee for most players, even someone as short as I am on the PGA TOUR, when I played here in July, I only went around with seven drivers. The longer players, I could see three or four pretty easy.
I still think it's a great golf course. I don't think there's a guy from either side of these teams from Europe or the U.S. that would not say this is a great golf course. You've got to put the ball in the fairway. You've got to -- very much is a positioned-off-the-tee golf course, and you can get aggressive. The better iron players, the better putters, the better thinkers are going to have an advantage around here.
I still think the best players in the world on either side; you know, Rory McIlroy is one of the best players in the world and he bombs it, but Rory is going to find a way to play well on any golf course because he's a good player. That's what all these players are going to have to do.
It does limit some of their length and the advantage that they have, but the best players on either side of the pond are going to find a way to play any course.
Q. As a player, what was your comfort level in playing the foursomes format, and as a captain, what can you do to help your players be more comfortable in a format that they just don't see very much?
JIM FURYK: It's interesting. As a player myself, I love the format. When asked by my captain, I always wanted to play the foursomes. Even if you're going to play me two sessions, and that's it, I want -- give me the foursomes, because I love it. I think it favored my style of game. Good ball-striker, guy that putts the ball in the fairway, it puts a lot of pressure on your game. I enjoyed it and the team atmosphere of it and working with my partner.
I think you try to identify the players that are comfortable in that format; that you feel like the style of this golf course, the way they play the game, how much they enjoy that type. I've had a number of players on my team come to me and say, I love foursomes, and history shows why because they have pretty good records in that format.
You try to match up those guys the best you can and get them on the golf course. But I have a lot of confidence in all 12 of the guys, and they all have partners and scenarios to be out there in foursomes.
Q. As a pretty low-key, stoic guy yourself, can you describe what some of your feelings have been on the first tee at Ryder Cups and how different of a dynamic that is? I know you just addressed how large this gallery is going to be here. Whether you go to Augusta or wherever else, you're there on your own, but -- you know, you're kind of -- you know what I'm saying, how much a different dynamic is it -- is it -- with that atmosphere on the first tee --
JIM FURYK: The one thing I'll say about Augusta, hitting my first tee shot at Augusta at the Masters and Byron Nelson was on the tee. The crowd wasn't that giant, but the fact that Byron Nelson was there made me nervous. I don't know why, such a gentleman, one of the best ever.
The Ryder Cup first tee is -- there's nothing like it. It is an unbelievable experience. I still remember my first shot, who I was playing with, what club I hit. I remember everything about that first shot at my very first Ryder Cup in '97.
There's a mixture of both nerves and excitement. Just so wired and jacked up. I hit the 3-wood at Valderrama so far. It might be the longest 3-wood to this day. I out-drove everyone in my group by 20 yards, and I was by far the shortest guy in the group, but I was just so jacked up and flushed it.
The guys are going to go through a lot of those emotions, but I can't think of a better atmosphere and more fun.
As far as personal versus team, I don't really think that changes the nervous part. They are going out there in a team format. You've got support. You've got your partner. I see it as comforting going out there in a team atmosphere, and even in fourball, you've got two guys going out and that's how we're starting.
I love it. I look up there and I see the fans chant and they are singing songs and give us a wave, and the place is going absolutely bananas, and it's an atmosphere that I always just loved.
Yeah, the club feels light and sometimes you don't remember the swing very well because you were nervous, but that's the spot that every one of these guys on both sides want to be in.
Q. Who did you play with?
JIM FURYK: I don't remember (laughter) Tom Lehman, we were playing Per-Ulrik and -- it was Per-Ulrik and -- might have been Jesper, actually. I remember everything about the shot. I ripped it. I cut the ball and I ripped a draw down the middle, and I mean, it went forever. It went absolutely -- I hit like three less clubs into the green than I had all week. I think I flipped a wedge in there; I was shocked.
Q. Thomas was here and he said he's about 85 per cent through his process of his pairings. Curious where you are on his spectrum --
JIM FURYK: 86.
Q. What over the next three days could change your thinking?
JIM FURYK: I think coming in here we both were going to have a plan of exactly what we wanted to try to do. There's always going to be a reaction what you're seeing on the golf course, what you're feeling, options to branch off of, but I've got a really good idea of what I'd like to do for day one.
Maybe not quite as exact on day two, but have some options to branch off and work some different pairings. I still want to see -- get some reaction from the players the next couple of nights: What do you think of the golf course; talk to me now, now that you've seen it, now that you have been around it, you have a feel. What do you think of your partners? They have some options, as well. They will tighten up the gaps.
Q. What did you see in Tiger today from an energy-level standpoint two days after his win?
JIM FURYK: Seemed pretty good. I actually followed him for about three holes today. I had three groups out there. I watched each for about two or three holes. You know, being the consummate professional and no one is going to out-prepare Tiger Woods, I'll say that. I think he looked very focused on kind of learning the golf course. His game has obviously been very sharp here in the last couple of months. You know, getting over the jet-lag, getting out there and hitting some solid golf shots, and he gave me a couple things he thought about the golf course there.
We tried to give these players expectations. You go out on the golf course, here is what I see about it, here is how I would describe it and here is the shots I think are important that you need to play out there. He let me know what he was expecting and a couple little differences.
We talked briefly out there, but we'll talk in more detail later on.
Q. If you saw a guy hit maybe a club that you weren't comfortable with, like say driver on a tight hole, do you say anything at this point in preparation for this, or do you let it go?
JIM FURYK: I think today, there's a couple holes -- there's one or two holes out there where I saw a lot of guys hitting a lot of club off the tee. It was a downwind hole, No. 5. It's a little bit of a slider to the right. Today the wind was down and to the left and the ball was traveling a lot farther.
When they pulled the club, it seemed like the right club, but ball was traveling a lot farther and they all hit it through the fairway and realised good shots were catching the left edge of the fairway. Shots were traveling farther, some were in the left rough and they realised it was too much club. You get out there, you kind of mark a spot in the fairway, I'm going to hit it here tomorrow and they are ready to go. They figured it out.
If someone were to turn to me and say, how far do I hit it off this tee, I have a pretty good idea on every hole. 265 would be perfect. But they do it every week, they and their caddies, they work on a golf course and figure out the best way to play the golf course. They are working with teammates out there, some of them are partners. They will figure it out.
Q. Over the past four years as you've making the transition from player to captain, was there a point early on where it was hard personally to come to grips with the fact that you were not going to play in this event, even though you were still going to be a huge part of it?
JIM FURYK: I got to ease in, my first stint as an assistant captain was at a Presidents Cup in 2015. It was a team that I had qualified for, and suffered an injury, was trying to get ready and about a week before we left, I had to call Jay Haas and say, I'm not going to be able to get ready; I can't go.
I guess I missed the competition, and I knew that was coming. But I really missed being with my team and I missed the camaraderie and I missed the team room. Jay offered me a spot. The Tour approved having an extra vice captain over there because I had made the team. So the guys kind of eased me in and talked to me about that side of things.
I really had a good time, and more than that, I got paired a lot with Bubba, who I didn't know that well at the time, and J.B. Holmes. J.B. took my spot on the team. It was a great connection between the two of us; that I could help him with everything, and I think he enjoyed the fact that I wasn't able to play but I would do anything to help him out. Got to know Bubba a lot better. I just really enjoyed the process. I enjoyed being out there and helping the team.
It was ultra tight. Came down to the last match, basically, and to see the guys do well and win was exciting for me and it was healing for me. I was so disappointed I couldn't play because I had earned that spot. Yet, I was kind of able to help and be there. It was a great way to ease into being an assistant captain, a vice captain. Didn't feel like I had a lot of pressure on me because the captains had been named and Davis and Jay and Freddie and Strick kind of took me under their wing and showed me what they had been doing all these years.
It was just a good way to learn and to help out a good friend; to help out Davis at Hazeltine was an honour to get that call. Time goes on. I had an opportunity, I think I was about 14th in points at Hazeltine. I had an opportunity to maybe make that team, and wasn't able to play well enough.
You come to grips with that. Time moves on. I've gotten older. I'm 48, and I was really kind of anxious to flip the page and hopefully get an opportunity to do this one day.
I really enjoy it. It keeps me young. It keeps me out here with some younger players. It keeps those relationships really strong, which has been a lot of fun for me.
Q. There was a time when caddies would come to a Ryder Cup with their own accommodations, their own travel, etc., kind of be an afterthought. Through the years seems like their importance has grown a little bit in this event. There's so much intensity out here. What's the value of the caddie this week?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I took some of the guys to dinner at the BMW and let them know they were valued; valued by us as captains. Their player relies on them 52 weeks a year, and I wanted some feedback, some input. Wanted them to help me do the best job I could for the team.
You know, obviously to have them over here and the prep work and to see their work in the yardage books, in the greens books, what they do on a weekly basis for their players is just not -- you can't replace it.
The players will be under the most stress they have been, a lot of them have been in all year. To have that confidant on their side is comforting.
You can't replace that, and I guess that position -- I'm not sure it's changed over the years, but I think it's probably been valued and probably appreciated more, as it should be.
Q. When you think back at the coaches that you've had in your life, what attributes do you admire from them and what have you tried to incorporate into your own stint as a coach now?
JIM FURYK: In all sports growing up, you're saying? Yeah, I think -- that's a good question. How would I answer that?
My dad was my coach in golf for my whole life, and so I guess I take a lot from -- we have a close-knit family, so I take a lot from the way my father taught me in the game of golf. I look at my coaches in the game of golf -- probably the ones that played me the most were my favourites.
Breeding a team atmosphere and breeding -- as I say, it's not difficult with these guys -- but breeding an atmosphere, I think I had some coaches that were very good at treating us as a team all the same as people, but they were able to communicate with each player in a different fashion.
And so when I thought back to the coaches that I really enjoyed playing for, or coaches in sport today that I admire, I think being able to communicate with different types of players, with a Patrick Reed that's fiery versus another player that may not be. You treat everyone the same because they are part of the team, but you have to communicate in a different fashion, and great coaches are able to do that, and that's one of the tasks that I have this week.
CLARE BODEL: I think that's all for today. Thank you, Jim, and thank you, everyone.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports