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September 27, 2006

Jim Furyk


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Jim Furyk, thanks for joining us here at the WGC American Express Championship. You've been here for a day or so, had a chance to play the course yesterday. Maybe some thoughts on The Grove.

JIM FURYK: I did. I played 18 yesterday. I knew the weather forecast was supposed to be bad today, so I wanted to get the holes in. I'll probably just relax and practise some today.

You know, not the golf course I think you would expect coming to England or coming to London. It had a very new style of architecture to it with the green complexes, falloffs, collection areas off the edge of the greens, not something I was anticipating before I got here.

But it's definitely a golf course that looks like it's been built in the last 10 to 15 years. I'm not sure when it was built, but it has a very new feel to it.

I came over here a couple weeks ago, playing Wentworth. Even though it had undergone a facelift with Ernie it has a very traditional feel to it, old style, and I didn't know what to expect coming to The Grove. But when we all think of coming to London, we don't think of anything really all that new, because they're kind of old and classic, at least I do.

So it has a little different feel to it than I expected. But the golf course is in very good shape. The turf is fantastic on the greens. The fairway and rough in areas is extremely thick and penal. It's got some very difficult holes on it, 8 and 9 come to mind right off the bat, long par 4s with pretty tight fairways, difficult green complexes on both of those. So it'll be I think it'll be a decent test.

Yesterday the greens were quite soft and rolling very well, which always yields pretty good scores.

The course I think could play pretty tough right now. It seems like the setup is going to field some decent scores.

Q. Do you actually prefer when you come to London, do you feel almost cheated if you don't get the classic?

JIM FURYK: No, I don't feel cheated. I think I prefer a classic golf courses in the States or whatever. It's not a secret I'm not a real big fan of modern architecture for the most part, but the golf course is fine. A lot of the golf courses that we play on in the States are of a modern architecture, and I tend to pick the ones we play on our Tour. Most of the courses that I really like were probably built pre 1960 and are a little bit more traditional, and I grew up on courses built in the early 1900s at home when I grew up playing the game. It might not be old for here, but it's old for home. Stuff that I enjoy playing.

I think had I grown up in Florida or had I grown up in an area where modern architecture was a little bit more popular, that probably would be the way I would be swayed because it looks good to your eye what you grew up on.

But the golf course is fine, I don't feel cheated at all. The complex is nice, the hotel, the whole facility is wonderful. I completely understand why we're here, and I think it was a good decision.

Q. It's two or three weeks that you've spent in the British Isles playing on American golf courses.

JIM FURYK: Yeah, but I think that part is overplayed a lot, calling The K Club American. I would have to say 95 per cent of the golf courses over here are so called American. I don't know if they're American, that's just the way people classify them.

The European Tour plays, what, two, maybe three events on a links course all year, and the rest of the golf courses are what people would call parkland, and they resemble, somewhat, at least layout wise maybe the conditions are a little different, but the golf courses resemble what we play on, also. I think golf is golf.

Q. Tiger was saying that he can't wait to get back for the sun. What have you been missing and what have you enjoyed and what are you looking forward to when you get back?

JIM FURYK: Well, I enjoyed Wentworth a lot. I enjoyed the golf course and playing, and I did miss the sun. I enjoyed the Ryder Cup. Obviously I didn't enjoy the finish. But I enjoyed the camaraderie, I enjoyed being with my team rates.

Right now what I miss the most is my kids, to be honest with you. It's not like I'm saying I want to go hop on a plane and leave, but three weeks away, I'm slightly miserable, to say the least (laughter). I've never left my kids for three weeks. Two has been our max and kind of always been a rule in our family, I wouldn't go for more than two, and we made an exception to come over here for Wentworth.

I'm not saying I regret it, but I miss being home.

Q. You do seem less chirpy than when you arrived at Wentworth.

JIM FURYK: I'm tired.

Q. Is that just because of the way the tournaments have gone for you?

JIM FURYK: No, I'm tired. You know, the way I play actually I didn't play real bad at Wentworth and I didn't play bad last week. I played decent at both events. The way I played would be less a reflection on my attitude than other factors. When I play poorly, I think I'm in a bad mood for a good 15 minutes, and then it's kind of behind you and you move on. And when you see guys in bad moods out there, it's usually not has something to do with other factors. So chirpy, I'm just tired. I woke up about 30 minutes ago or an hour so ago, so I'm still trying to stay away.

Q. So you're tired, you're a bit miserable, you're missing your kids, you don't like the courses. This is a great tournament for you (laughter).

JIM FURYK: Well, you can turn those facts around, too. I said a lot of positives in there, too, you just chose to take the negatives and lumped them all together (laughter). I said the golf course was fine. I said it was in great shape. I understand why they're here. It's a wonderful complex, it's not a good practise facility. The golf course, the greens, the turf is fantastic.

As far as being chirpy, I'm tired. I can kind of lay down on the table and fall asleep. I've slept so much in the last two days, I've gone the other way. I might be overrested at the moment.

I'll be just fine and dandy and chirpy tomorrow.

Q. You've had a couple of days to reflect on the Ryder Cup. Looking back, is there anything more the Americans either individually or collectively could have done more at The K Club or the event?

JIM FURYK: Everyone wants to ask the question immediately after the event, "what can you do." And still, you just got slapped in the face and it's hard to come up with an answer right off the bat. I think it'll be a good time for reflection. You can run with it probably a million different ways.

Being on the inside of the team, I thought you know, I'm impressed with Tom and Melissa and how they handled the team. I'm impressed with the way the guys pulled together. We hung out more. I've always felt like we got along, but we seemed to my biggest point before was we seemed to get tight by the weekend, and the guys I thought everyone did a pretty good job.

We obviously got outplayed in all aspects, and we've done just a horrendous job in the five Ryder Cups I've played in, four of them we've done just a horrendous job on Friday and Saturday in team play.

I guess if we all had answers that were that simple, the results would probably be a little bit better for us. So it's something we're going to have to work on on the American side and try to focus on it, think about it.

I've spent some time obviously thinking about it because you hate being on that losing side again, and it's not it's obviously not the result we were all hoping for, so I've spent some time trying to reflect and I've got a couple ideas, but I still probably need to put more thought into it and figure it out more.

Q. The fact that it's in September, some guys turned up at that event not playing for a month. Do you think that's something that's got to change in the future?

JIM FURYK: That we have guys who haven't played for a month?

Q. Pretty close, since the US PGA, three weeks or so.

JIM FURYK: I don't know, it might just be Phil. Everyone I played practise rounds with him, and he seemed like his game was in pretty good shape. He hit a lot of fairways. He seemed to play pretty well. In fact, Tiger and I had a match against him and DiMarco one day, and Phil played great.

You know, it's unique because every guy is an individual of the team and they need to go about preparing for that event in their own way, but they need the team format. I thought everyone did that well. Obviously I think we had some guys that actually played quite well. They had some guys that did some fantastic things, and I have no explanation for that.

My hat's off to them, though. I want to congratulate them because they played super. I've had some friends that watched highlight shows, and they said it's phenomenal watching the ball go in the hole over and over again and they did a tremendous job.

Q. Do you think getting the ball in the hole is a physical or a mental thing? Where is the balance?

JIM FURYK: Well, it's a little of both. What, you mean at the Ryder Cup, are we talking about?

Q. If you want, but you just spoke about how the highlights show, European balls going in the hole all the time and that's obviously how we win. How much of that is a physical technique thing and how much of it can be mental and then it goes wrong?

JIM FURYK: I'm not sure I know how to answer that question. Obviously Yogi Berra says it's 80 per cent mental and 50 per cent physical (laughter). Do you know who Yogi Berra is?

Q. He invented television (laughter).

JIM FURYK: Gotcha.

You know, I think it's a little of both. Obviously it's hard to put your thumb on it, but obviously you have to be quite talented to knock the ball in the hole a lot and do the things they did. You know, there is a certain mental outlook on the game that if you go out there with a poor attitude or thinking about the wrong things, it's going to be difficult to play well.

So it's a combination of both, and getting that mix, you know, there's sports psychologists that make a living trying to find the right mix there, and that mix may be different for every individual or single person. We all need to go out there and find the right combination of mental and physical performance that can add up to a good number for us.

Q. Just listening to you talk and being out for a bit, it almost reminds me of Hilton Head, not the scenery, but the buildup to the Masters and then the next week, a breather. Do you get any type of that sense at all from an atmosphere?

JIM FURYK: Here you mean?

Q. Yeah. It was a big buildup last week.

JIM FURYK: I must look like I'm really pissed off today (laughter). It's still a World Golf Championship

Q. No different than usual (laughter).

JIM FURYK: I'm tired and I slightly have a cold, and I just woke up, and I guess maybe I have to smile a little bit more (laughter).

Q. No, no, I don't mean it's directed at you. I'm just saying the whole week seems like similar to what you'd find at Hilton Head.

JIM FURYK: Yeah, but the difference is at The Masters you had 80 or 90 guys in the field, and here you had 24 that played last week in the Ryder Cup. Most of those 24 are here, but still, that's only a third of the field.

Q. True.

JIM FURYK: You still have 40 guys that obviously cared about the outcome. Actually there's some that didn't because they're international players and they couldn't care less. So it doesn't matter to them.

But you had some Europeans and Americans that were obviously pulling for their side, but they weren't involved. This is a big event and they're excited about it. I think the guys that it's a tough week to if I had my druthers, if I had it my way and I were making the schedule, I would never play the week after a Presidents Cup or a Ryder Cup, ever. But obviously the importance of this event weighs heavily on that and I wanted to be here.

But at home the week after a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup, I never play an event on the Tour the following week because it's an emotional high or letdown either way. If you play well and the team wins and you have a great time, it's tough to get your thoughts back in it. If you play poorly, it's the same thing. If the team loses, you're in a grouchy mood and you don't want to turn around and think about, what am I going to work on tomorrow and how am I going to get ready for this tournament.

So this is a unique instance. They obviously lumped it in with the Ryder Cup because you had players that were here close by. It's an hour flight, and it made travel easier instead of going home and coming back.

Q. And if it's a tie, you go to Sun City.

JIM FURYK: If it's a tie, you go to Sun

City ...

Q. Presidents Cup, 2003.

JIM FURYK: I didn't play Sun City that year, and I'm a guy that's supported that event better than any American we have. I've been there six times. I didn't go to Sun City that year, and for that reason. I knew I wouldn't want to play after The Presidents Cup.

Q. So would you say that the non Ryder Cup players have got a pretty good advantage this week, the guys that didn't play in the Ryder Cup have got a pretty good advantage this week?

JIM FURYK: That would be an excuse. You know, I guess the advantage what I like about playing last week is my game was put to the ultimate test. I pretty much know my strengths and my weaknesses right now. I've got my game in pretty good shape, so physically my game is in good shape.

Mentally I need to put last week behind me, I need to move on, I need to kind of refuel the fire and recharge the batteries for this week. And for some guys, that's going to be tough.

Some of the Ryder Cup players are going to play well, and some aren't. Probably the ones that don't are going to be, like, I'm spent; I used it up last week. Other guys are going to carry some of that momentum and carry the way they played last week and carry it into this week and next weak they'll be in La La Land.

But yeah, I think there's plusses and minuses on both ends. But there will be guys from the Ryder Cup that play well, no doubt about it. Other guys are dealing with jetlag and such. American players are dealing with jetlag, getting here Monday and Tuesday and feeling awful for a couple days. There's factors everywhere.

Q. The luck of major winners on the European side, is that about to change do you think?

JIM FURYK: That's an impossible question to answer. Obviously they have a lot of guys that have the ability and the talent to win major championships. You know, there's a lot of guys on that team it's hard to imagine a guy like Colin Montgomerie not winning a major championship with the dominance he had over here and the style of golf that he plays and the control he has over the golf ball, but it's something that didn't happen. I can't answer that question, but it's obvious they have plenty of guys over there that have the ability and the game to win a major.

Q. Is there a difference in motivating yourself for the Ryder Cup and for a major?

JIM FURYK: I'm not sure I understand.

Q. If you're going into a major tournament on your own individually, is it completely different to motivating yourself when you're with the Ryder Cup Team? Do you find it harder?

JIM FURYK: To motivate for a Ryder Cup?

Q. Yeah.

JIM FURYK: No. I'm trying not to get a raise because I had a lot of writers Sunday night of the Ryder Cup trying to I find the question very offensive, put it that way. It's almost like going back to the question that the Americans don't care.

Q. I meant the Europeans, they're not winning majors, but they do very well in the Ryder Cup.

JIM FURYK: I think they would find that question very offensive because now you're taking a shot at them in the major championships. You're offending someone, I'm not sure exactly who it is (laughter).

I don't mean it that way, but as an American player in the Ryder Cup, I had a writer, actually very well respected writer from the U.S., a guy that everyone in this room would know, ask me point blank to my face whether it was all over on Sunday whether in the whole big scheme of things whether it actually mattered to me. Now, without wanting to reach out and just strangle him or send a few F bombs his way, I just bit my tongue, said yes, told him he offended me and walked away. There's not much else I can do. It's an offensive question.

Nothing towards you, but when you all write stuff about us about how bad we played, if someone writes last week that I played awful, I had no game, I didn't show up, you know what, I can accept anything physical. But when someone questions what's inside me or my teammates, that's kind of like the offensive part. That's where I think guys get upset.

I'm not upset with you or anything like that. I understand the questions. But for everyone that knows me inside, they know how important the Ryder Cup is. And if you can't get up for the Ryder Cup, you don't have a pulse. It is the premium event. I get more jacked up for that than I could imagine ever getting jacked up for an event individually, maybe to a fault at times, but it's exciting. You could not step on the first tee last week and listen to everyone pound their feet in the stands and listen to the place going nuts and singing and thinking, how cool is this.

The fans last week were phenomenal. They were probably the best I've ever seen. My hat's off to them, too. The Irish fans were incredible.

Q. Just between you and me, who was that writer (laughter). Last night I think there were five Americans in the top 20 of the world golf rankings, and as of a couple, two, three weeks ago, it was you, Tiger, Phil, 1, 2, 3, and then DiMarco at 14, and then David Toms. And I believe as of two or three weeks ago there were no Americans under the age of 30 in the top 50. Do you have any idea why that is? Is the rest of the world simply getting better or are Americans not getting better? What's going on?

JIM FURYK: Well, I think that "the rest of the world getting better," so it would be comparing it to say 10 or 20 years ago where you probably had more Americans?

Q. Right.

JIM FURYK: I guess I'll always say rankings really aren't that important to me and never have been. I said that a Wentworth a lot when I moved to No. 2.

But if we're going to I think the rankings have become more fair over the years, and they've probably 20 years ago, they were garbage 20 years ago. They were a marketing ploy 20 years ago. Now they're used Tony, are you upset with me?

Q. I don't quite agree obviously.

JIM FURYK: I don't mean to be offensive, so I apologise, but they've gotten better and you have to agree with that over the years.

I think the fact that there's no Americans I guess without offending Tony, because I didn't mean to do that. I kind of forgot you were in the room to be honest with you (laughter). I think they've become more fair for other Tours around the world. But when you talk to the European players, they think they're getting a bad rap. And if you talk to Japanese players, they think they're getting a bad rap. And if you talk to the Australasian players, they think they're getting a bad rap.

If you talk to the American players, I don't know because it's something I can't control. The powers that be, the heads get together and they make the decision, and that's fine. And the World Rankings have gotten a lot more fair and a lot closer. But it's still difficult to rank me versus some guy that plays in Japan and we never play in the same events.

Q. In a way that's even more worrisome if they are more fair now and there are no Americans in the top 50 under the age of 30.

JIM FURYK: It's cyclical, though. This is the same story two years ago, it was the young guns. It's like every odd year we have the young guns story and there's these five guys that come out and win a tournament, and all of a sudden, look out Tiger and Phil because these guys are going to be kicking for the next three years, and the stories go that way.

Then all of a sudden two years later there's not a guy in the top 50 under 30 and the world is coming to an end. Scott Verplank made a comment at dinner last night that was a good one. He said, you know, things are never it describes his personality. There's no reason to really get too, too upset or too excited about things because things aren't usually as good as they seem and they're never as bad as they seem, also. Just kind of sit back and relax and think the whole subject over. I think we have quite a few very good young players in the U.S.

You know, I'm trying to think, how many guys from England in the top 50 under 30? Is Paul Casey under 30.

Q. Luke Donald, Paul Casey, Sergio

JIM FURYK: But England, I'm talking. How about Justin Rose?

Q. Poulter is in the top 50.

JIM FURYK: Poulter is under 30? Howell is 31. I think it all runs in cycles at times. And maybe I'm pulling from Tom's quote a little bit at the Ryder Cup, but I'd be willing to bet that I'm trying to think back when I was under 30 and how many guys would have been ranked in the top 50. Obviously Mickelson, maybe Justin Leonard, myself, David Duval.

Q. Tiger when you were 29.

JIM FURYK: Tiger when I was 29. I don't think it's a lot of room for alarm or anything like that. There's always going to be what's amazing is I think that on a positive note there's more 23 year olds that are American right now that were better there's a bigger talent pool at 23 then we had at the age of 23. The young guys are ready earlier. Their games are more prepared earlier and their games are more mature at an earlier age than ours were.

We had Mickelson and Leonard at 23 who just walked right out of college and hopped right on the Tour and all of a sudden were pretty darn good. Mickelson was incredible. Justin kept his card in seven events. That's very difficult to do.

But the talent pool was very small. Now you have a lot more guys hopping from college that are ready for Tour golf. Now, why that hasn't in the last few years maybe transformed into guys becoming very good, dominant players, I'm not sure. But that will just flip back and forth, I believe. Hopefully that helps. I rambled a lot there. Hopefully that helps.

Q. The PGA TOUR now has 23 Australians at one point half the events at the start of the season have been won by Australians, 7 out of 14; you've got South Africans, British players. Do you feel that the influx of foreign players, overseas players into the PGA TOUR could be holding back younger players coming through?

JIM FURYK: Probably the fact that we have so many foreign players on our Tour probably keeps some Americans off our Tour and maybe helps them grow quicker, but the whole point of our Tour from day one has been to get the absolute best talent level we possibly could on our Tour.

I mean, we want our Tour to hopefully be the best in the world, and in order to do that, we need the best players from all over the world to be members, to play it. Our commissioner has made a huge, huge boost since he's taken over to try to help more foreign players play our Tour, just by our bylaws, by the way we set it up, just by the way you can qualify for our Tour. We've made it a little easier than it was in the past for foreign players to come over and play our Tour.

Q. Is there any sense of resentment of some American players?

JIM FURYK: I don't think the resentment is going to be from Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods or Chris DiMarco, I think the resentment is going to be from a guy that maybe is a borderline player that might not have a job now because of that influx. I guess there's always an old saying, Jim Cobra had it, when you're worried about something in the world of golf, the one answer that always is, is just play better and it tends to take care of all those other problems. He used to upset a lot of people by making that statement, but it's pretty Tour. If you play better, it seems to take care of most of the problems you have.

We've always wanted to have the best talent on our Tour. I think we've done a few things that are I was never in favour of giving Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup players a two year exemption on the PGA TOUR. I thought that was I disagreed tremendously with that, and I supported the guys on Tour that didn't like that, which was about 99 to 100 per cent of them. We've always had a two year exemption for wins on Tour. I don't think making a Ryder Cup team or making a Presidents Cup team should be valued as a win because two of those guys are captain's picks, and it actually affected one American lost his card and got it back because of that rule. It was obviously targeted more towards foreign players.

But the way I always looked at it is if he want the best talent in foreign players, and a guy can get seven exemptions and he can play in four major championships and THE PLAYERS Championship. By the time you're done with it, he can get in at least 12 events on our Tour. The superstars, the guys we want, if you give Darren Clarke 12 events on our Tour, is he going to keep his card? He's probably going to get in the Top 30.

So that meant a lot of resentment and a lot of change, and obviously that rule was changed, also, on our Tour, and I think for good. I'm all for I want the best players playing on our Tour. And I think that one of the reasons that my job is so much better than it was ten years ago, one is Tiger Woods, but two, a lot of it has to do with those foreign players. If we can get all the best talent from all over the world coming over to the United States, that drives our sponsor packages, it drives our purses up, it helps our Tour become bigger and better, and I'm all for it.

Q. Shifting gears here in a major way, what's your favourite Byron Nelson story, and what lessons from Byron still apply today, do you think? Or do you have a favourite story from Byron?

JIM FURYK: Well, I had dinner at his house at the Byron Nelson this year with Tom Lehman, and that was very special. You know, it's a sad day in golf, that's all I have to say.

I think the lesson his legacy in golf as far as playing is phenomenal. A lot of feats to be matched with 11 wins in a row, 18 in a row, his year in 1945, is that correct, was just phenomenal, and his playing record was phenomenal.

He retired early, accomplished everything he wanted to. But I think he's so special because he went out of his way to do the very most he could to help other people. You know, that's what I think, why we should all learn so much from him. He'd be a really tough role model to follow because he was so wonderful.

Q. It's kind of related to Byron, but a lot of people will come and watch you play this week, and practise, and you made a joke last week about how Tiger obviously likes watching your swing. What do you think they can learn from following you around this week and standing behind you on the range, just in your game?

JIM FURYK: Well, strange, I don't talk about my swing anymore. It used to be all I talked about (laughter). I'm off guard. I used to be able to just push play and the words would just come back. I could zone out for about ten minutes in an interview, but I've lost that knack (laughter).

I'm fortunate that I used my dad as my teacher for most of my career, and he might not be the best teacher in the world, he might not be the most intelligent person in the world, but he recognised early that I wasn't very mechanically oriented in anything. What worked for me the best was teaching and playing by feel. And so he had to teach me in a little bit of a unique way, and I think people need to learn that most people recognise the fact that my swing looks different, obviously. Some people don't recognise that I'm pretty much in the same positions as everyone else; I just get there a different way.

Now, my swing to me feels conventional. I don't feel the loop. I feel straight back and straight through. I know where I'm at in my swing by feel, and it feels like everyone else's.

I always liken it to a great teacher would be a man like Harvey Penick, who's someone I never met, but he taught both Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite to play. What's amazing is those two people, even though they're close friends, could not be farther in the spectrum between playing by feel and playing mechanically in their swing. Yet he was able to teach both of those players in their own way.

I think the lesson is probably to find someone that you're comfortable with as a teacher that you can relate to and that you can understand and they can teach you and help you out. In my opinion, a good teacher doesn't take everyone and try to make them do the same thing. They can relate and they can change and they can adapt to different pupils and teach each pupil in a different way. Harvey Penick was able to do that even though I never had a lesson or never met the man. But I always find it a lesson what he was able to accomplish with those two players that were so different.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Jim Furyk, thank you.

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