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June 15, 2006

Jim Furyk


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome the 2003 United States Open Champion Jim Furyk. Jim with an even par round of 70 this morning at Winged Foot. Maybe you could start us off with some general comments about the playing conditions out there this morning.

JIM FURYK: Actually quite tough I thought. The wind I think blew a little bit more than I expected, for sure, but it kind of picked up steam as the day went on. I felt like it made it that much more difficult to get the ball in the fairway off the tee, which is really the key here. It's difficult to do as it is, but the wind made it even tougher, and I thought it was a tough day for scoring.

There's wasn't a lot of red numbers on that board for a lot of the day. There was three guys or less for even small parts of it, and there was no one with red numbers while I was playing. Scores are tough today, and I'm happy to finish at even par.

RAND JERRIS: Nine one putts on your round today, 27 putts. Talk about your short game and your putting this morning.

JIM FURYK: Actually it wasn't it was solid. I don't think it was anything fantastic. I only hit ten greens. If I didn't have 27 putts, it would have been a rough day.

I had quite a bit actually didn't have that much one of the keys here is getting the ball in the fairway. The other is putting the ball on the greens with relatively uphill putts. You can get some 60 or 70 footers out here breaking three ways and going over a bunch of humps. One reason for the number of putts I had, I tended to hit some solid iron shots where I put the ball on the green where I had makeable putts, and when I hit the fairway I could hit a wedge relatively close to the pin or hit out of a greenside bunker relatively close to the pin. I didn't putt from real long distances today, and that was one of the keys.

Q. How was the back? I mean, you haven't played, I guess, in a little bit, and was that a concern coming in, or no problem?

JIM FURYK: No problem. I started to feel a little better over the weekend, and by Monday of this week it wasn't an issue. I just had some muscles that were in spasm, and it made it I couldn't have played last week and didn't really start getting a club in my hand until the weekend. Come the weekend, by Monday for sure, I felt really good and knew it wouldn't be an issue. It was just a matter of trying to prepare.

I wasn't tremendously thrilled with the way I played at Memorial. I finished okay but had some stuff to work on on my game and was really looking forward to kind of getting to work last week and trying to prepare for this event, and I wasn't able to, so I was disappointed in that.

I think the health wasn't an issue, it was just trying to get my game in shape.

Q. Someone who plays here often told me that he thought 16, 17 and 18 were going to be the most challenging holes come Sunday. Do you have an opinion?

JIM FURYK: Well, I think depending on the wind today, I would say that the score card is not going to show that because 16, 17 and 18 are playing downwind. A hole like 16 I'm hitting 3 wood off the tee today, 3 wood, 5 iron. You don't expect that with the length of the hole.

17 was I hit driver, and you're going to see guys hit drivers and wedges into that hole.

18, you're seeing a lot of 3 woods off the tee and some short irons. Because of the wind conditions and how hard it's blowing, those holes being downwind, they won't be the toughest holes. If they were to turn around, he's absolutely right, and it's also a pretty tough finish without any wind out there.

Q. Are you going in tomorrow with a number in mind or some strategy? The second part of that question, if the conditions stay pretty much the same way, no wind and so on, what's the number going to be for Sunday do you think?

JIM FURYK: Well, I don't really go into days looking for certain numbers. I'll check the weather tonight and try to get an idea of which way the wind is going to be coming from, how hard it's going to blow. It'll give me an idea of how I feel the golf course will play.

But I'll just try to take what the day gives me and kind of get a feel for how the course is playing early on. Tomorrow I'm playing in the afternoon, so I'll get an idea what the scores are like in the morning, too, see how the golf course is playing.

As far as the winning score, I know that if this place firms up and the greens keep getting firmer and faster, pretty much that's going to be controlled with the setup, not really the golf course. The scores we shoot, this is already a very difficult golf course, but our finishing score is not dictated by the golf course itself, it's dictated by the setup of the golf course, where they're going to put the pins, how firm and fast the greens are.

This is a golf course that's difficult enough that they have to they're not worried about us going out there and shooting too low of numbers; they're worried about this golf course probably being too difficult in spots. If they wanted 7 or 8 over to win, they've proven they can do that. They did it a long time ago, and if they want 5 , 6 , 7 under par to win, it would all be in the setup. It's pretty common that even par or a couple under wins a lot of U.S. Opens.

Q. On some golf courses wind conditions can tell you right away how the various holes are going to play, and on some golf courses it fools you on a hole to hole basis. Which is a truer statement about this golf course?

JIM FURYK: Well, I think with the wind condition we have now, it's the way it's been blowing all week, even when it was blowing hard at Westchester. I wasn't playing, but I think it was actually coming from the same direction. To get up and know that the wind is coming from the north or from the northwest, if that's where it's been coming from all week, you know how the holes are going to play because that's how we've practiced everything.

If the wind were to turn and blow from the opposite direction I think it would throw guys for a loop a little bit because the golf holes would flip. Everything that was a driver and a 3 iron now is now a 3 wood and a 7 iron, and vice versa. Sometimes it's tough to adjust in that situation.

Q. It doesn't swirl in the trees?

JIM FURYK: I think you see that mostly in pine trees. When it's blowing as hard as it is out there today, I don't think there's a lot of there's not a lot of trickery. It was coming pretty good out there and it was easy to tell from what direction. You get into some goofy spots you know where it's coming from for the most part at Augusta, you just have a couple of spots where it's difficult to tell, how there in Amen Corner especially. But for the most part in our yardage books, there's compasses in the fairway and on the green, and if it's north wind you have a pretty much idea where it's coming from. You can throw up some grass and do something else, but nine times out of ten if you look at the clouds and look at the trees, it's kind of coming from the direction you expect it to be.

Q. Can you run through what happened with the freak injury and when it happened, and was there any anxiety on your part about doing that the week before the U.S. Open?

JIM FURYK: Monday I was in Philadelphia for the Exelon Invitational, it's a tournament that I host. Exelon is my sponsor. We had Adam Scott, John Daly and Sean O'Hair in for a skins game.

I was hunched over a sink after brushing my teeth. I went to take basically Aleve in the morning, and I was kind of in bad posture, kind of hunched over the sink and I kind of tossed my head back in a quick motion, and it seems that I probably pinched a disk or pinched something in my lower neck, upper back area, and when I had done that I kind of felt all the muscles on the left side of my upper back just tense up and tighten it, and it made it real difficult for me to turn head to the left.

I was a little apprehensive at first and I was disappointed, like I said. I wanted to use Westchester I really needed that event because there was some stuff I wanted to work on at Memorial and I felt I needed that event to really prepare here.

And on the second note, that's one of my favorite tournaments of the year. I put it in my top five, courses I've played well on. I've had a few really good opportunities to win there, so I was disappointed. But yeah, I think I had I was disappointed in the timing of it, it hurt my preparation, took me out of one of my favorite events, but I think you get over that after a day or two and realize that that's the hand you're dealt and you try to figure out a game plan of how to get ready.

I got a lot of treatment on Tuesday and Wednesday when that event was over, started to feel somewhat better, and then by the weekend I was feeling pretty darn good and had confidence I would play.

By Sunday and Monday I felt great and it wasn't an issue, just a matter of preparing and getting my game in shape.

Q. Players always talk about how the U.S. Open is not fun and it's hard to feel comfortable obviously with these setups, but you obviously have done well on having won this once. Have you reached a point where you're more comfortable, or what about your game or mentality seems to fit this setup each year?

JIM FURYK: Well, I think when I'm playing well, my strengths are getting the ball in play, being able to work the ball both ways off the tee and into the greens. I think basically driving the ball in play, and from 100 yards and in are probably my strengths, and those are all things that are very, very important at the U.S. Open.

A lot of times, with a couple of events being the exception, a lot of times power is negated and you really have to work the ball around these golf courses. Bethpage was definitely one that that wasn't true; I think power was very important. But for the most part, U.S. Open is not set up a U.S. Open is set up to get the ball in play.

Playing well, I think a tough setup lends itself to my game, but if I'm not playing my best, then it's going to eat me up like it would anyone else.

Q. The USGA mentioned that these are poa annua greens. How common is that surface on Tour? Is there anything different or special about how you read these or putt on them? Undulations aside, just the grass itself?

JIM FURYK: The grass is real common. I think up here in the northeast you see a lot of it, and out on the west coast you see a lot of it. Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, the Olympic Club, even throughout the Midwest you see quite a bit of poa annua.

I grew up on it in Pennsylvania, and most of the golf courses in this area, unless they're brand new, are going to be poa annua.

As far as preparing, it can be the worst or the best surface. If it's dry and firm, it can be very good. If it's wet and soft, it can be pretty much awful to putt on. When it's wet, it gets spongy. When we step on the green you can see pretty much your entire footprint. It gets bumpy and waffleboard like when it's soft.

I think back to the U.S. Open at Oakmont in '94, probably the best surface I ever putted on in my entire career, and they're poa annua greens. It's firm and fast and they got them really smooth and don't spike up and they stay really nice. It kind of has it has a lot of different abilities.

Usually when we play out on the west coast we see a lot of poa annua greens. Riviera is another. If it's rained a lot, it's a tough surface because it's spongy and it footprints up. We're used to it. I'll bet you we play, I don't know, about 25 percent to 40 percent of our tournaments on the surface, so we see it a lot.

Q. Nine one putts today. Obviously it seems that players in contention make those five to ten footers for par, the momentum savers. Talk about how difficult those five to ten footers are out here versus other U.S. Open venues, if possible.

JIM FURYK: Well, I think it all depends on most of the U.S. Open courses are severe, and the greens have a lot of slope to them, undulation, are played on old classic golf courses. But Winged Foot is in the top of its class for severity and slope from back to front, a lot of big humps on different areas of the green. You can get a lot of five , six , seven footers that are breaking a foot or more. I think the issue is being able to put the ball in areas where you have more makeable putts. If you're above the hole seven feet and it's breaking downhill, it's a different story. But if it's beneath the hole, you can hit the ball a little more aggressively and try to knock the putt in and not worry about it going by, but if you're not careful from above it, you can end up with a four or five footers coming back.

I think a lot of it is having the ball in the right position and not getting a lot of times it's just not getting past the pin. You keep the ball short of the pin, even chipping, if you miss the green pin high or past, you're in trouble. If you miss the green short of pin high, you tend to maybe have a little bit of lag sometimes.

Q. How much did your win three years ago affect confidence, mindset, whatever, now when you play U.S. Opens since then?

JIM FURYK: Well, I think it's definitely a confidence builder. It was the difference between thinking I have the ability to win the tournament and knowing I have the ability. I've always had a lot of confidence in myself and my ability, but it definitely didn't hurt. It was a boost.

Q. Joe Torre said yesterday that he wants you to win. Can you just describe your relationship with him?

JIM FURYK: That was nice of him. We have some property close by at Kapalua. I've played with him over there in the Pro Am. I usually try to get some of the golfers and some of the people affiliated with the tournament over to the house when we're there after the event. I invited Joe to come over, and he's graciously done so, even though everyone wants to talk baseball and it probably drives him crazy.

He seems to be a very, very friendly, very nice guy. I know everyone in that area thinks of world of him. He's a guy to root for. I was a Pirate fan growing up and I followed Pittsburgh sports along the way, but I've kind of I won't say adopted the Yankees, but when they get some tough match ups, and I won't mention them, I tend to pull for the Yankees, which is rare for most people outside of New York, because of meeting him.

RAND JERRIS: Congratulations on your fine play. Thanks for your time.

End of FastScripts.

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