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August 14, 2006

Jim Furyk


KELLY ELBIN: Jim Furyk, ladies and gentlemen, participating in his 12th PGA Championship this week. Jim tied for 8th in the 1999 PGA Championship here at Medinah and is currently 3rd on the Ryder Cup points list, having clinched a berth on the Ryder Cup next month in Ireland.

Jim, some thoughts, please, on the golf course from what you've seen.

JIM FURYK: Well, I managed to play about 15 holes today. It looks good. It reminds me of '99 quite a bit. Some of the holes are a little longer. But then again, I guess, so are we.

You know, the fairways were chasing a little bit. The golf course didn't seem overly long even though on the card it says 7,560. You know, I saw some significant changes in quite a bit of the greens. I kept my old yardage book and was looking at some of the differences today. I thought they looked good. I like the design, I like the look of them, and I guess the biggest change really to the design of the golf course is probably 17, bringing the green back down by the water, moving the tee back so it plays similar length. But obviously a lot more difficult shot with the water in front and the back right pin placement being very difficult.

I thought the course looked good. It's a little soft right now. The greens were quite receptive, and I expect them to get firmer and faster as the week goes on, but the golf course looks great.

Q. This golf course caters to the kind of golf that you like to play. Are you excited to come back this year?

JIM FURYK: Yeah, I liked the golf course when we played it back in 1999. It's a wonderful layout, it's challenging, I think it's a great test and a great town for a major championship.

I played well here, and on top of that, Chicago has been pretty good to me with the U.S. Open and Western Open at Cog Hill. I always enjoy coming back, and hopefully I can have a good week.

Q. How did you find the rough out there today, and how does it compare to what you saw at Winged Foot?

JIM FURYK: You know, I didn't I will say that I was fortunate enough today that I didn't drive it in the rough too often. It's difficult.

Around the greens, it was pretty tough, actually. I felt that it was long enough that it started to lay over a little bit. It had grasses running different directions. It was playable, but very challenging. I don't think, you're not going in there with any 3 irons and letting them fly. But you can get a short iron on the ball, and around the greens, I felt like you had an opportunity to possibly get the ball up and down but it was also very challenging.

Q. Could you just compare and contrast typical PGA setup with a typical U.S. Open/USGA setup?

JIM FURYK: Well, I have a feeling the typical USGA setups are in the process of being changed with the primary and secondary rough.

But usually here at the PGA, we have we're going to score lower for the most part. I think maybe Oak Hill in Rochester was maybe one of those places where the rough was extremely high and very penal and didn't give you very much opportunity to play out of it. For the most part, the golf courses are not set up like we'd play on Tour but maybe not quite as severe as we'd see at the U.S. Open. It gives guys an opportunity to play a little bit more, maybe take some more chances.

You know, I guess the biggest difference is usually they are both played at very old, traditional, great golf courses. Some of the same courses have hosted both U.S. Opens and PGAs. But the fairways are probably a touch narrower and the rough is usually a touch higher than you would see in a U.S. Open than the PGA.

Other than that, I think that has a drastic reflection on some of the scores, and usually you see, you know, 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 under can win the PGA at times, and obviously that doesn't happen very often in the U.S. Open.

Q. This being the longest course for a major, the added length, do you see that as much of a factor being critical; do you see that being important?

JIM FURYK: Not really. Obviously in the way the golf course played today, if it were really wet, if the ball wasn't rolling, if you put a lot of long irons in, and the guys that hit it around my distance, if you put a lot of long irons in our hand, then I think the length would be a huge difference.

But the golf course, I won't say it was firm because I felt the greens were pretty soft. But there was still some chase out there. When I go back through the card, I didn't miss the only long par 4 I didn't play today was 16, and I didn't hit a 3 iron into any hole today on the 4s. The longest iron I hit into any green today was a 5 iron. You know, the par 3, the one that jumped up and got me was 13 definitely raised an eyebrow for me. It was 244 straight downhill. It plays close to ten yards shorter because of the hill, but that green isn't all that deep, and there's a pretty severe bunker fronting it.

There's some tough holes. It's always an advantage to have length and be able to hit the ball far and high and spin the ball and have some options. But there's still a lot more important things I think on this golf course, as far as you still have to drive the ball extremely well, and the greens are very severe from back to front on a lot of them. You have to put the ball underneath the pin to give yourself some opportunities.

I would love to be 20 yards longer, don't get me wrong, but usually at major championships usually, not always, length isn't an important factor. We've played a few courses where that is the case.

Q. You're in contention almost every week now, playing some of your best golf. Do you feel like you get the attention you deserve for how you've played, and how much does that matter to you?

JIM FURYK: You know, it's never mattered. I think that you know, I'm happy with where I stand in the world of golf, and I'm happy with the way I've been playing. Whether or not I show up on TV every week versus Tiger or Phil or whoever it may be, is not important to me. I think the guys get the attention or get more attention than me are deserving of it and are obviously great players. I get my due.

So it seems, you know, between the holes from 17 green to 18 tee and 16 green to 17 tee, the people out there figured out who I was, so they were all trying to get an autograph.

Q. How close are we to an 8,000 yard course?

JIM FURYK: 7,561, this is the longest ever, is that correct? If I remember, this was the longest back in '99, too, I want to say. When we played it in '99, it was the longest. And it's kind of like moving to a new neighborhood where everybody wants to build a bigger house than the last guy who built one.

8,000, it will happen, it will happen some day. I know I will be long gone and retired, I know that.

There's courses, like Kiawah I think from the tips can play 7,700 or 7,800. There's courses that are that long, I believe. But until we play from it, you know, I have a feeling they will probably tone things back probably quicker than we'll get to 8,000, but I would never rule it out.

Q. If you would talk about your year in the majors, as you look back, especially at the last two, take good out of that and give yourself two great chances, or frustration being so close and having nothing to show for it?

JIM FURYK: No, I take good out of it. I think at the British Open, it wasn't like I was right there with five holes to play, and, you know, I had an opportunity on Sunday to go out and fire a low number. In hindsight it would have had to have been really low. I didn't get it going on the front nine and had a good back nine to finish up well.

The U.S. Open, obviously within a shot or two coming down the stretch. I really felt like I had an opportunity to win that golf tournament. So it's frustrating, it's disappointing. But it's also in that same light, you take a lot of positive out of that. To go in and finish tied for 2nd or finish 3rd, to get close, obviously you're frustrated because getting real close and not quite getting over the hump is tough, but it's still a positive.

I think it stings initially, but as a I got over it actually really quickly as I've talked to a lot of you about it before. I went on a family vacation and was a little bit ticked off about it that night, woke up the next day, had an outing, got my mind off it and then went on a family vacation with the kids and fishing and doing stuff and got over it. That's fine, part of golf. Getting close, that's tough, but as time goes on, you draw a lot of positive from it and think back to how well you played. You know, I think you can only, only draw a positive from that.

Q. Knowing what you know about the Ryder Cup situation where there's probably going to be a fair amount of rookies on the team, and I'm assuming you've played with guys like J.J. and Vaughn and Brett, is it a 50/50 gamble as to whether a rookie will respond like Chris DiMarco did in 2000 and be the horse or the way Chris Riley did in a couple of matches or whether they kind of freeze up under the gun? And knowing those guys, what do you think it might be with, for example, Vaughn Taylor?

JIM FURYK: I'm staring at the table because I'm looking at the list down here.

Right now, there would be four rookies in the Top 10, Vaughn Taylor, J.J. Henry, Brett Wetterich and Zach. I've probably known J.J. and Zach the most because they have been on Tour the longest and I've played a lot of golf with Zach Johnson. I have a lot of respect for his game, he's consistent.

J.J. has been a guy that's been knocking on the door. It's surprising he has not won any events until this year. I remember the headlines on one of the major magazines was "Finally J.J. Gets His Day," and he's a guy that's been knocking on the door.

You know, I don't know Vaughn's game that well and I don't know Brett's game that well. I'm not sure I've ever played I know I haven't played with Brett and I'm not sure I've ever played with Vaughn. The way I look at it is in order to qualify, I mean, these are the guys that the Points List has been weighed so much this year, these are the guys that have been playing very, very well this year and they have a lot of confidence right now. They have a lot of momentum. I don't have any there's always going to be younger guys, there's always going to be rookies on that team, and I think they can step up and play great.

You know, and the way you described Chris DiMarco, everyone knew he was a tough, gritty player, a guy that likes to face a challenge, at least we knew that. We knew he was feisty, and he also had a lot of experience. I see guys like J.J. Henry and Zach Johnson, they have a lot of experience. That's not to say that Vaughn, who actually has been around for quite a while, and Brett, can't step up and play great. It's a matter of knowing what to expect.

I think when we go out, when you're in the lead for the first time or you sit on the lead the night before, go out on Sunday trying to win the tournament, you go out not knowing what to expect. A lot of times in those situations, you push too hard and do things you normally wouldn't. When you sit back at the end of the day, you think, that really wasn't I could have handled that; that's not any different than any other round of golf I've played or any other Sunday I've played in the past. I think it's just getting comfortable, and I think that's what a lot of the veteran players do at times.

You try to let those guys lean on you and make them comfortable and realise it's, you know anyone that's on that team has earned the right to be there. They don't owe anyone anything; they don't have to prove anything to anyone. Just go out there and play golf and have fun and play well. I think they will be fine. They can handle it.

Q. Two questions a little bit off from what you would normally talk about up here. One would be how much do you know about Billy Mayfair's battle with cancer, have you followed it, I know he was still trying to play here. How much do you know about what he's going through?

JIM FURYK: Hardly anything. Hardly anything to answer your question. How long has he been battling? Just recently?

Q. He just recently had surgery and he's probably not going to make it here.

JIM FURYK: And when was the diagnosis?

Q. That I don't know. I just know he's been battling it.

JIM FURYK: I was just saying, I was starting to feel bad because I really like Billy. I did not hear that at Flint, and I haven't picked up a newspaper or anything for eight days before getting here. I was at a wedding over the weekend and I was not aware of that.

I'm sad to hear that, and obviously, I really wish him well. I didn't know that and I'm kind of caught off guard by it, but I know nothing about it.

Q. I didn't mean to put you on the spot.

JIM FURYK: Not at all. Obviously I really wish the Mayfair family well, and we'll all be thinking about Billy, that's for sure.

Q. Let me ask one other question. On a separate topic, you're probably more familiar, everyone talks about how Tiger changed the game. Mind wise, how has he changed the game in terms of purses and how much money is out there since he's come?

JIM FURYK: I think if you look at the purses and the way they have increased since he's joined the Tour, you know, you definitely have to think that he's a large part of that reason. I wouldn't say the only reason hopefully, but obviously he kind of injected a lot of excitement into our game, bringing a lot of fans, a lot of notoriety, just a lot of attention to our Tour. And he's in my mind definitely a reason and a large part of the reason why we've been able to grow as quickly and as rapidly as we have maybe in the last ten years. Does that answer your question? Thanks.

KELLY ELBIN: For the record, Billy Mayfair recently underwent successful cancer surgery and is scheduled to play this week in the PGA Championship.

Q. On a similar note to what he was just saying, what impact have you even just outside of finances that Tiger has brought? Have you seen an increase in the way players prepare themselves physically and mentally and with their games, as well?

JIM FURYK: I don't know about mentally. I don't know if more players have hired a sports psychologist. I'm not even sure Tiger talks to a sports psychologist. I'm not sure how they have improved better mentally.

There has been a bigger jump in physical fitness in the last ten years, and I would say specifically in the last four or five years, and it seems increasing. We now have a physical fitness trailer, an 18 wheeler that follows us on Tour that's been out there for, I want to say, six to seven years, and it's been a lot more crowded in the last two or three years than it was. I know that from hearsay. I'm not one of those guys that have probably added to the crowd in there.

Yeah, you always the way to get better in this game is, if any of you, if anyone sitting in those chairs, if you're the best player in your regular foursome, you're probably not getting any better because you're probably not learning from the people you're playing with. The way to get better is to look at the people that are better than you that can do things on the golf course that you can't and try to incorporate some of that into your game and figure out how you can get better. I'm not saying that you have to copy them or that you have to emulate them, but you have to figure out why you're better than you, and what can I do in my game to step up to the next level. But you get those ideas from people that are better than you.

And having Tiger go out there and excel and be the best player in the world for so long, I think a lot of people have then looked at him and tried to incorporate some of those things in their games and try to make themselves better because of it.

I'm not buying the whole raise the bar, you know, throw all those sayings out there you want. Before Tiger came along, I worked just as hard as I work now. I think maybe you look and try to find different things that you can work on in your game by looking at other people, but I've always worked hard. Just because he's come out hasn't make me work any harder if that makes sense.

Q. Of the three American majors we've been at this year, which course felt like it was the longest to you and why?

JIM FURYK: Actually, three American majors, you're including this one?

Q. Yes.

JIM FURYK: Okay. It's hard to say until we finish this golf tournament to put this in there. But I would probably not include would I probably say Augusta feels longer than Winged Foot, but that might just be because Winged Foot was playing so firm and so fast and the ball chased tremendously. But Augusta probably over Winged Foot. I don't know. That's a good question. Augusta probably forces more carries on the greens and such and forces the ball in the air more, so it probably feels longer because of that; where at a place like Winged Foot, you have the opportunity to bring the ball in a little lower and on the front of the green and let it chase to where you want it to go. You just can't do that at Augusta. That ball has to be played in the air in certain situations.

I think you can play a golf course that's 7,300 that can feel long, and you can play a golf course that plays at 7,400, 7,500 that doesn't feel long at all, just on the situations, what shots you are trying to play; can you hit driver off the tee, there's a lot of times where you're forced to lay back on a tee shot and hit 5 iron into a green, where if you could have hit driver, you could have hit 8 iron in. So it might not look that long on the card but it forces to you hit a longer iron and makes it feel longer. Rain can do that. Firm and fast conditions, I think the firmer the greens are, obviously you want to get the scores up and make the fairways soft, you make the greens hard. It makes the golf course feel longer because you're always trying to get the ball up in the air and land it soft on the green.

Yeah, it's the number on the card, but I would be shocked if any of y'all decided by the end of the week, decided that 7,561 was short. It's still long. I'll wait and see how long the golf course plays during the golf tournament. It's not short. It's not even average. It's long, but we hit the ball a lot further than we used to, and it's manageable.

Q. For the guys on the fringe of the Top 10 in the Cup standings going into this week, how difficult is it for them to focus on the last major of the year and also to keep an eye on the Ryder Cup?

JIM FURYK: The only way, and it's tough, and the main reason it is tough there's two reasons.

One, all of those guys on the fringe would love to be on the team. So they are focusing obviously it's always in the back of their head that they need to finish in the Top 10 this week, which is a tough thing to be thinking about, and instead of thinking about the finishing product, thinking about what's going to get you there.

The other reason is because the last time I was close, I went to Flint in 2001, 17th on the points. And I can't tell you how many interviews I did for that week and for the week of the PGA being right there on the bubble and guys wanting to talk about it. And every interview started with, how much do you think about it, and well, you know, about 12 times today because it's the 12th interview.

So I think because those questions, you know, everyone is going to seek out John Rollins and Jerry Kelly and Stewart Cink and Davis Love and talk to them about being on the fringe, so it's impossible to not think about it. But you have to focus on what you need to work on and how you need to prepare to get you to the end. I was fortunate, I went and finished 2nd at Flint and earned a bunch of points and kind of got myself into 7th or 8th position at the PGA where it was going to be difficult to fall out where I could breathe a sigh of relief and go play the PGA. It makes it tough.

I think it's also that much more impressive when a guy comes back and does play well and earns a spot, because it's kind of a do or die situation. It's tough to do it when you have to.

Q. When it comes to preparing for a major, what do you like to do as far as getting there early or anything specific for this tournament, and have your plans changed as far as preparation over the last few years?

JIM FURYK: I don't know if there's any set formula as far as I want to do this, this, this and this, and I'm going to be 100% prepared for a major championship. If I like the tournament before a major, I play. If I don't like the tournament before a major, I don't.

You know, I'd probably rather play my way into shape and play the week before, but also, I want to choose the places that I play well at and that, you know, if I go to a place where I don't like the golf course or never had success at the tournament, just to go there and play mediocre, I don't know if that's the best preparation either.

I tend to try and prepare for major championships the same way I would for an event on Tour, other than I get here a day earlier, because usually I need to do more work on the golf course to figure it out.

For instance, a place like Flint, Michigan, I would feel pretty comfortable about going out there on a Thursday morning and teeing it up and playing because I've played the golf course so many times. It's nice to get in Wednesday, play the Pro Am, see if it's firm, soft, slow, how is it playing, but I know the golf course so it's not an issue. So I'll come earlier.

I like to try to, you know, work on some things the week previous that I know you'll need at that tournament site. You know, for instance, flighting the ball down at the British Open. You know, in the old days you go into Augusta, you work on drawing the ball because you hit so many right to left tee shots. That's not the case anymore. Hitting the ball softer, I work on some really tight lies with my wedges before going to Augusta. The U.S. Open, I'm probably going to hit a few extra drivers on the range at home and work on hitting the ball really straight and trying to concentrate on working it both ways and putting the ball in the fairway.

But I also want to basically focus on my weaknesses. Whatever I feel like I need to improve on at that time, that's going to make me better for the next week, that's what I intend to work on. It's not really a set formula. I'll sit down every day, I'll go home tonight, my dad was out with me today, on the ride home I'll talk with him, after what you saw today what do we need to improve on going into tomorrow, I wasn't happy with that and this.

He'll say, you know what, when I saw you make a few loose swings today, this is what I saw, you might want to work on that tomorrow. I'll pick two, three, four things I want to work on tomorrow and I'll come out with that in the back of my head and try to accomplish those things tomorrow and go home and figure out another plan and use Wednesday as my last day of preparation.

KELLY ELBIN: Jim Furyk, thank you very much.

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