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May 10, 2006

Jim Furyk


TODD BUDNICK: We thank Jim Furyk for joining us at the 2006 EDS Byron Nelson Championship. Jim, coming off your victory at the Wachovia Championship last week. One of the biggest things about your career so far, Jim, ten wins you've had at least one win in 10 of the last 12 seasons, and I think that says a lot here about your game, your stature on the Tour these days.

JIM FURYK: Well, thanks, I appreciate it. I didn't win my rookie year, in '94, and then '97 I had a pretty good year without a win. I think I finished in the Top 5 on the Money List, maybe Top 3 or 4 on the Money List without a win. And then the injury in '04.

Yeah, I'm proud of that, and I stayed consistent. Like I said, I won once in a lot of years, only twice once, which is '03. We'll try to get more wins in the column this year and see if we can get a streak like that going.

TODD BUDNICK: I know the excitement shown by you from the fist pump when the putt went in, you had a couple close calls in the last year. That had to be special to get that win you've been waiting for.

JIM FURYK: Yeah, I think last year I had some close calls, and it was nice to get the win at the Western. It was the first win after my surgery, after being hurt, and I guess it's been about ten months now.

I had a close call at Las Vegas last year, lost in a playoff, had a close call at Hilton Head a few weeks back, and I had last lost year in that same playoff at Wachovia.

It's kind of interesting, in the past I've been accused of not showing enough emotion, and I hear a lot of people tell me I don't smile when I play, it doesn't look like I'm having fun, and then I gave I guess a pretty hearty fist pump in the playoff, and in the pressroom they asked me if I was a little extra happy, if there was anything extra about my emotions. I got a kick out of that. I always like to win and it's fun.

I don't show a lot of emotion on the golf course and I probably let it get pent up a little bit, and when something happens or I go out there and actually finish it off, I think that's where that emotion kind of bursts out. It's fun to be in that position and fun to get the job done, and I think having those close calls, you appreciate that moment just a little bit more.

Q. Is there any validation in the No. 5 ranking? How do you view that when you get into the Big Five in the World Rankings?

JIM FURYK: Well, I think the Big Five was created for the five individuals that were there at the time, with Tiger and Phil, Davis, Vijay and Ernie. Who was going to step up and challenge Tiger? The question I always got was are you tired of hearing about the Big Five and are you tired about when I first came on Tour, the whole deal was there was no one guy that was dominating, and we needed someone to step up and carry golf, and then Tiger stepped out and started dominating. Oh, my goodness, this is not good for golf. We need someone to challenge him.

What it really boils down to is I think they're all valid points, they're all good stories, and as long as we're talking about golf as long as you're talking about the Big Five, it's a good thing. It's a good thing for our sport.

I won't be hypocritical. I'm happy to be it's a nice thing to be in the Top 5, but I've never really put a lot of emphasis on World Rankings. I was in the Top 5 back in '03 for a while. I think I might have even been 4 for a little bit after winning the U.S. Open. Quite honestly, it's not important to me. I'd rather win five tournaments and be ranked 8th than win one tournament and be ranked 2nd. I don't care if I'm ranked 5th or 7th or 12th or 14th. As long as you're in the top so many and you get in all the golf tournaments you want, that's all that really matters.

Maybe as a side note, I think for a guy like in the past, other than Tiger and maybe Greg Norman dominated for a while and Vijay got to No. 1, but Tom Lehman was No. 1 for a while, David Duval was No. 1 for a while. I think it would be cool to have a No. 1 behind your time for at least a little bit. I'm nowhere near that.

That being the case, No. 5 is nice, but that's not important. What's important is trying to win golf tournaments and trying to get better in this game.

Q. How much do you feel like your day is coming here at the Nelson? You've always played well here, and I think I read you're fifth all time scoring average. Do you feel like your day is coming here at the Nelson someday soon?

JIM FURYK: I'm comfortable here. It's a unique golf course. It's got a lot of interesting drives. It's an interesting there's a couple awkward drives, even like the 14th tee, which I think is a good hole, but it's kind of set in an awkward setting. That being said, playing here over all these years, I think I've seen a lot of different wind conditions and I'm comfortable here. It's not a course when I get here I really say this is really down my alley as far as this course really suits my style of game, but I've played well here a lot of years, I haven't had a lot of opportunities to per se to win this golf tournament, but I've been consistent.

Yeah, I'm comfortable coming here, and one of the major reasons obviously is Mr. Nelson's name is on this tournament, and that's the main reason I'm here. And the second reason would be I've had some success here and I'm comfortable on the golf course.

Q. How would you describe your grip, and what are some of the ways you've heard people describe your swing?

JIM FURYK: My full swing?

Q. No, the grip.

JIM FURYK: Oh, my full swing, if I'm hitting a driver?

Q. Right.

JIM FURYK: It's different. You're usually an interlock or overlap type player. I have two fingers overlapping. I don't have unusually big hands or anything like that, but I have long hands from the base of my palm to my fingers, so I think I'm able to get away with that a little bit because my palms are kind of long and I have a hard time getting golf clubs to fit. Because of that, I'm able to do it.

My father was my teacher, and I don't know if it started out as a drill or I was hitting the ball poorly like a lot of young players. My second year on Tour I was always trying early in my career to get the movement in the top of the swing out, where when you looked at the time Nick Price was killing everyone; when you watched Nick Price swing, even though he has a quick tempo like a Lanny Wadkins, when he gets the club to the top you don't see a lot of waving of the club.

You see a lot of young players in high school and college, you see kind of like a buggy whip type action, which can generate power sometimes and also generate some crooked shots. I was trying to tone that down a little bit in my swing, and I had a little bit of that going on, and my dad asked me to hit some balls over the phone, hit a bucket or two of balls with overlapping two fingers and come back and tell me how it feels.

I was laughing when I first went out because it was like, God, that's awkward. What he was trying to do was take that right side out, firm up my swing. I took to it very quickly. I hit those two buckets of balls and I hit the ball a lot better.

I played terrible in the first round of the tournament, I was going to miss the cut. I shot an 81 or 80 or 79, scores were low, I wasn't going to make the cut. He told me, go out tomorrow and play like that. I'm laughing, went out and shot 68, didn't putt very well, hit the ball pretty good. So I'm thinking, all right, I just kind of kept up with it and started playing really well.

It was towards the end of my rookie year, and a couple weeks later I broke the course record in Flint, another week or two later I went onto the PGA and finished 13th. It was my second year on Tour, in '95. Later on that year I actually won Las Vegas. Not saying that's the reason, but it definitely helped make my swing a little bit more solid and I hit the ball a little better, and I just stuck with it.

I never tell people to do that or emulate. I putt cross handed, my grip is a little different, my swing. I actually have a little different unconventional unorthodox swing where it looks different, but what I would stress to people is to someone who was looking at my swing, my mechanics and my fundamentals are still relatively similar to everyone else's on Tour. I still get the same positions at impact.

I get there maybe a little bit different way, and I wouldn't tell people to try to copy that, but I would stress that the fundamentals of the golf swing are pretty much the same for everyone. I was lucky that my dad realized that I wasn't really a mechanically oriented person and he let me do things more by feel and let me go about it my own way.

Q. Top players so often are trying to gear their seasons around the major championships and be at their best, and I'm wondering how much art is there to that? How much of that is sort of a luck factor in terms of being able to have your game at the best at those times that you're on demand? What's your approach to it?

JIM FURYK: Well, if it was all luck factor, that would make Jack Nicklaus one of the luckiest people alive. And since that's probably not true, since he's probably the best to ever play, it's not luck. I think there's times throughout the year that even if you're in your best year ever my best year to date is probably '03. I had a lot of weeks where I played very well. I had some good solid weeks and I had very few weeks where I played poorly, but you're always going to go through times where you're not playing very well.

I think you try to gear your schedule, you try to gear your practice time, you try to basically for me, it's not a there's no set formula where I know that I'm going to be perfect and get myself in good shape for this tournament by doing one, two, three, four. But I want to play enough golf that I'm very comfortable with my game and that I feel like I'm in good playing shape. I'm trying to simplify this.

I tend to not take two weeks off and come out and play great like I did last week. I tend to play my way into shape and kind of get better as I go, and by that second, third, fourth week I'm starting to play better, and then I usually tend to challenge and have a shot at winning golf tournaments. When I go into major championships, I usually don't want to take a bunch of time off and then hop in.

But I also don't want to play so much golf that I'm tired, that mentally I'm worn down because I'm going to need to be refreshed to get out there and actually keep my wits about me for 72 holes in major championship conditions. I would like to have played enough golf that I feel sharp but not so much that I'm tired, kind of get that nice, middle ground, and sometimes that's difficult.

I would have thought coming into the Byron Nelson that I would have been rearing to go, two weeks off, last week would have been a great time to get my game in shape, and I would be hitting Byron Nelson and Colonial ready to go. The fact that I won the golf tournament last week, I'm a little tired. I'm emotionally drained a little bit from really going through all that. Physically my game is in great shape, and mentally I'm a touch tired but I'll get a little sleep and a little rest and be ready to go.

You never know like when you're playing your schedule ahead six months in advance or four months in advance, you never know how your body is going to feel. You never know if you're going to have aches or injuries or how you're going to react. It's still a little bit of a guess for me, but you have a lot of years of experience. I have 13 years of experience to go on and I can kind of figure out when in tournaments I've played well, when I haven't, what I need to do to try to get my game ready, and hopefully put some stuff together and play well at the right times. I always get better at it, though.

Q. What was your all time best non golf athletic moment, high school or junior high, basket or touchdown or home run or anything, number one highlight?

JIM FURYK: I played a lot I loved sports as a kid, played football, basketball and baseball. I loved football, but I quit to play golf, and I played basketball through high school. My best friends in high school were basically the guys I played basketball with on the basketball team. I still keep in touch with about four of those guys, keep in real close touch with four of those guys.

My junior year, I hit a pretty big shot for us in the last game of the year. I made a bucket with a couple seconds left to win by one, and we won the section title because of that game, and it was the first time our school had ever done that. We didn't have a real good basketball history, and then right behind us, the kids that were young in high school actually played really good. They went on to win league championships and district championships, a lot more than we accomplished. But that shot was probably a highlight outside of golf.

Q. Did you get mobbed on the floor or what happened afterwards? Was that a home game?

JIM FURYK: Actually I got taken out of the game right after that because there were still two seconds on the clock, and I guess I wasn't the defensive stopper they were looking for (laughter), and I got pulled. I got to watch the last two seconds from the bench. But then we jumped around. We actually cut the nets down.

We were playing Lebanon High. Kerry Collins was on that team, as a side note. He was a freshman starting on their varsity team as a freshman, and then he transferred to a football school that year, so he went one year to Lebanon High. He was the freshman, so being the defensive stopper I was, I had to guard him all game since he was the young guy on the team.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about, you mentioned earlier the difference between Jim Furyk 1995 and Jim Furyk 2006? I mean, there's so many young kids on the Tour now. How are you different? How is your game different?

JIM FURYK: I ache a lot more, that's for sure.

Q. No question about that, we know that.

JIM FURYK: Well, I think there's a I think my game is better in all aspects as far as I'm more well rounded, more consistent.

Q. Are you hitting it farther now?

JIM FURYK: Absolutely, without a doubt, just look at the stats. While I was hurt, my first ten years on Tour, I gained almost 30 yards to my average, which I think is that's a big jump. There were some years where it stayed stagnant or I gained a yard or two, and then there was a couple years where I made big jumps to my average, like eight or nine yards, which is giant. But yeah, we hit the ball farther. As far as where do I fit in amongst the field, the averages would say that I'm probably about the same. I feel like I hit the ball a little farther comparatively to the rest of the field than I used to, but if you look at stats they don't show that. My game, I hit the ball better. I'm a better driver of the ball than I was earlier in my career, I hit more fairways, I'm a better ball striker.

Q. Do you prepare the same as you did 12 years ago? Do you work as hard at the game?

JIM FURYK: Oh, yeah, but differently, more wisely. I probably spent more time at it when I was 25 and got less out of that time, and I spend a little less time now but get more out of it because I've learned kind of what we were talking about, you just learn what makes you go, what makes you tick.

When I was young on Tour, one of the things I liked to do my rookie year and my second year was I would try to play practice rounds with veteran players, and if I got lucky enough I got in a pairing one time with Tom Kite, Andy North and Bruce Lietzke and me as a rookie. I just kind of followed Tom Kite around for the day. He probably didn't know it, but I didn't worry too much about what I was doing, I watched what he was doing because I just admired his work ethic and the way he went about preparing for tournaments at the time.

I just followed him, and I couldn't figure out what in the heck he was doing half the time. He was writing stuff in his book and looking at slopes on greens or grain. A couple times I'd bother him and say what are you looking at and trying to figure things out. But I watched how other guys prepared and tried to learn from that to prepare better for golf tournaments.

I think you just mature, not only physically, but you just learn how to prepare more, learn how to play better as far as with the same tools I think I can get more out of my game and shoot a lower score than I could back then because I attack the golf course from a more intelligent position.

Q. Following up on that, is there anything from those observation sessions or something you did on your own that you do that's kind of unique now that stems from some of that early study in terms of preparation?

JIM FURYK: I don't know, it's just second nature. You don't really Azinger on TV one time made a quote when he played a practice round with me he always felt like he was getting outworked. I mean, I never noticed that. I don't feel that way, and I don't believe in the statement, but I think what he was trying to say was that when I was out there practicing, I wasn't just telling jokes and goofing around, I was trying to figure out how to attack the golf course.

He's a guy I admire and a friend, so it was a big compliment, I thought, coming from him. Those are the guys I like to play practice rounds with. I still want to go out there and have a good time and have fun, but I don't know if there's I've talked to Phil a few times in practice rounds and just learned some interesting he looks at things from a different perspective than I do. We have two different type of games and styles. When he might want to try to attack a pin is different than I do. I'd kind of ask him what he was writing down and what he was looking at. I remember the first time we played Valhalla and he was looking at the way the edges of the greens were sloped. He'd say when he would attack a pin, and I'd say, wow, I wouldn't attack that one. Neither one of us was right or wrong. It was probably right for him and right for me because our styles are different.

Every player has got to learn you can learn things from other players, but ultimately you can't copy them or do the same things they're doing. You have to learn what's best for you. When you step over a shot, you know whether it's the right shot or the correct shot or the smart shot to hit, and you have to pull the trigger and know what's best for you.

Q. Can you talk about the art of hitting out of a divot, how difficult can it be, and is it something you actually practice?

JIM FURYK: I've never practiced it, no. I think that I've never practiced hitting out of a divot. Really it's somewhat like a fairway bunker shot other than I think there your swing is a little bit more shallow, and depending on how deep the divot is, your swing is going to be a little bit more abrupt where you have to hit down on the ball a little bit harder. I like to choke up on the club, play the ball slightly farther back in my stance, and I want to make a swing because the ball is slightly farther back, I think that action makes your swing makes it kind of more vertical, makes it up and down and the ball move more abruptly.

A lot of people want to lean their weight on their left foot. I don't like to change the balance of my golf swing. I'll choke up, play the ball slightly farther back, and there's times if it's a really severe divot, I also play it tends to want to squirt right out of those lies, but if it's a severe divot, I might actually take one less club, like instead of an 8 iron I might take a 9 iron because I know I'm going to have that club hooded a little bit coming down on the ball steeply. So if it's severe, I'm going to make a pretty full swing and get the club on top. It's a little bit harder to control the line that way, but I want to make sure I get the club on the ball first so it's a little bit more steep.

Q. Do you think you should get relief from that situation, or is that just part of the game?

JIM FURYK: There's probably a lot of other rules I'd like to switch before that one. How's that?

Q. You've traditionally been a guy that's kind of doubled up with the back to back Dallas Fort Worth events. Next year when they split them up will you miss that convenience factor? Does it matter to you?

JIM FURYK: Only once or twice in my career have they been split up. I like having both of them. Any time we don't have to get on an airplane and go to the next event, it's a bonus.

These are two events I like a lot. Like I said, Byron Nelson is someone we all admire and look up to, and Colonial, it's definitely in my top three golf courses that we play all year. That's one of my favorite events. The fact that I can play two great events back to back and drive 45 minutes down the road is easy on me, it's easy on my family, and I like it.

The fact that they're breaking up, it's a bummer, but it happens. Maybe in the future they can turn around and be aligned again. How far apart are they, by the way?

Q. Four weeks. One is two weeks before Players and one is two weeks after Players.

JIM FURYK: So last week of April, last week of May?

Q. Essentially.

JIM FURYK: Is Colonial the second one?

Q. Colonial is the second one. Nelson is going to be in April.

JIM FURYK: Does it rain a lot here the end of April like it does in the middle of May?

Q. Do you notice young guys following you around the way you did with Kite, trying to observe you or pick your brain?

JIM FURYK: Not a lot. A little here and there. I think that I've played some practice rounds with some younger guys. Yeah, here and there a little bit but not a ton. I'm also a guy that usually only plays nine holes on Tuesday, and I usually play at the crack of dawn or late in the afternoon. I'll find a game real early, might go out by myself for nine, might go late in the afternoon and then the Pro Am is on Wednesday.

I like to come in Monday nights and either go out first thing Tuesday morning or late in the afternoon and avoid the three hour nine as much as I possibly can.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you very much for your time.

End of FastScripts.

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