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April 3, 2007

Jim Furyk


JIM BLANCHARD: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We're delighted to have Jim Furyk here for the next interview. Jim is the winner of the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields. In 2006 he won the Wachovia Championship and the Canadian Open. He captured the Vardon Trophy for low-stroke average at 68.86; ended the year second on the Money List; tied for second at the U.S. Open, and fourth at the British Open.
He has finished in the Top 15 five times at Augusta National, including fourth in 1998 and 2003, and he has a total of 12 PGA TOUR titles and three international wins.
Happy to welcome Jim, and would you like to make a few brief comments and then we'll open the floor for questions.
JIM FURYK: Well, I think as everyone else, it's always exciting to be here back at Augusta. The golf course is in great shape. I'm sure you've all heard that a lot. Not that Augusta is ever in poor condition, but it's in exceptionally nice condition for even here. And I have a lot of ground covered. Overseed came in nicely, and I expect the growing conditions were very good over the winter and must have had a very mild winter.
Hopefully we get no rain for the rest of the week, but I think that's in tomorrow's forecast. I think we would all like to see the golf course play firm and fast, and I think it's a lot more fun that way and also a lot more challenging.

Q. There's a theory out there that there are like maybe five to ten power players, top players who have a chance of winning this tournament, and everybody else is not really a contender. What do you think of that theory?
JIM FURYK: I think that this golf course has always been one that probably favored power hitters. You've had your players along the way that, the Ben Crenshaws, the Gary Players, the Nick Faldos, guys that were able to contend and play and win here. And with the addition of all of the length in the last few years, I think it's refocused on power, and probably favors the long hitters a little bit more since the addition of all that length.
You know, there's always a -- there's always a chance for a good player that's not long to win a golf tournament. For a guy like me, I'm obviously rooting for firm, fast conditions. If I can get 7-irons in my hands instead of 4- or 5-irons into some of the holes, it's a big bonus for me. Even if the fairways, if it's wet and it rains, the fairways play soft, the ball doesn't roll off the tee; it leaves longer irons into the greens which usually wouldn't be a big deal because the greens usually stay soft.
But here at Augusta, they tend to drain very, very well, and the greens get firmer before the fairways do and it makes it tough for an average-length hitter.
I don't think it's impossible. You know, Mike Weir comes to mind, not a guy you would think of as a bomber, winning in 2003, the first addition. '02, Vijay might have won the first time, real wet. The addition of the length the first time, I think Vijay won that first event and it was real wet out and it definitely favored a power hitter. The next year Mike won on real firm, fast conditions on the weekend.
So, you know, I'd say the odds are favored for the power hitters, but you know, it's always happened, other guys have figured out ways in history that were not long hitters to win here and I think it can be done.

Q. It's the ten-year's anniversary of Tiger's first major.
JIM FURYK: I bought him a present. (Laughter).

Q. So much has changed in those ten years, on the course, often course, everything; would you reflect back when you first came on the Tour what it was like, and could you ever have envisioned that one person could cause all of that change?
JIM FURYK: I think when I first came on Tour, yeah, there was -- a couple -- I'll make a couple interesting comments, hopefully.
First of all when I first got on Tour, and I've said this in the past, I read a lot of articles about how we needed a dominant player. Golf was boring. No one took command. No one went out there and dominated like the Jack Nicklaus's and Arnold Palmers. Golf needed a face. They needed someone to carry the torch. And along came Tiger. He dominated here in '97 with his first major. He's pretty much dominated golf since.
And immediately thereafter, I read the same article saying, "Golf is boring, Tiger is kicking everyone's butt, no one is stepping up to challenge him." It was probably a lot of the same writers. You all obviously need something to write about, too, so I understand.
It was just a dead-flip, dead-reverse. I probably didn't imagine him or anyone else coming out and dominating golf like they have and being for the most part, being the No. 1 player in the world for the last eight or nine years hands-down.
That being said, can you ever envision someone changing golf that way? I can, because I think Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus did it. Maybe it was twofold then. But they made such a great impact on our sport and our profession back then, and Tiger's done exactly what they have done. He's taken it to another level in his era.
So I think it's -- it was probably difficult to envision, but it had been done before.

Q. You talked about the power hitters being favorites --
JIM FURYK: Can you please speak up? I'm sorry.

Q. You talked about the power hitters being favorites and you talked about the other guys finding ways and means of playing Augusta, but do you and your father discuss what you should be doing?
JIM FURYK: As far as attacking the golf course?

Q. Yes, course management.
JIM FURYK: I think my father and I talk probably mostly about trying to prepare my game as far as what I think I need to work on, what do I need to improve on to play well at this golf course. For me I want to work on trying to hit the ball a little softer, get a little softer flight on my iron shots to stop them quicker on the firm greens here.
In years past it was trying to turn the driver over, that's not one of my strengths, but that's not really needed much anymore. But trying to get the speed and just envisioning putts breaking a lot more than we're used to and trying to have him help me out with where I'm lined up. Just everything that goes into trying to win this golf tournament, trying to prepare my game for that is what we work on.
As far as course management, we talk about it a little bit. But ultimately I'm the guy that's out there pulling the trigger and hitting the shots. I've got to try to figure out what's best for my game. He also isn't inside the ropes with me at a practice round like he would be at some other event. We talk a little bit more about technical and technique than we do really about management.

Q. How important is it out here to be able to bounce back is that in the big picture to have resiliency, Phil talked about the Open last year; is that what sets a player apart to be able to come back from that kind of adversity?
JIM FURYK: In this sport, you're never going to be on top of the world for long, long periods of time. You kind of borough it for a while, and you're going to have a lot of defeat.
For instance, 25 weeks a year, if I could go out there and win two tournaments a year for ten years in a row, you'd be a superstar, but you have to lose an awful lot and you're going to have a lot of near misses. For every win of Jack Nicklaus's, he had more second places. It's a humbling game, and you learn a lot of lessons. I think you learn a lot about yourself along the way, and you have to have those defeats. I think they also make the victories that much more special.
The best players in history have always bounced back. I guess it bothers them, but they haven't let it bother their performance in the future. I think they have let it fuel them to perform better.

Q. At one of his news conferences at Doral, Tiger was talking about how much he admires your game. He says that he thought it's a lot like his game only maybe he hits it a little farther.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, just a little.

Q. What do you think about that, what he said about your game?
JIM FURYK: It's a nice compliment.
He's a friends and he I enjoy playing alongside him, especially in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup as partners. I've enjoyed playing a lot with him in the last five to eight years, and I respect really the way he plays the game, the way he thinks around the golf course, his nerves, his ability to hit shots under pressure that a lot of guys don't.
To hear him say something like that is a compliment and I appreciate it.
I think we have -- I think we get along well and I think we make good partners because, you know, we have similar attitudes and we are both really serious about what we do. We both like to have a good time, but we don't like to show that off and on the golf course. We have a good time and wanter and poke a lot of fun at each other and telling some jokes, but we also are very serious on the golf course and have fun.
So to hear that from him is nice, and you know, he said he hits it just a little bit farther. I'd like to borrow maybe just about ten to 15 yards; I don't need the whole 40. Just ten or 15 would be good.

Q. You know, when Phil was -- when Vijay was No. 2 and even No. 1 for a while, there was a lot of, you know, this is going to be the two-man battle and then Phil is No. 2, and Tiger is 1 and there's a lot made of that two-man battle. You're No. 2, and nobody's really proclaimed you as the next biggest rival to Tiger. Are you okay with that, or do you like being under the radar that way, or would you kind of like to get maybe a little bit more due than other guys have when they have been in that position?
JIM FURYK: Well, at the time when Vijay over took his No. 1, for one, the points were probably a lot closer in the World Rankings. Right now I don't know the exact numbers but I want to say he has twice as many points as I do, more than twice as many. So if my number is eight-point-something or other, his is 16, well over 16. So the gap is giant.
As far as who anyone would pick to be the next guy to challenge Tiger, I would willingly beg you to pick someone else and please leave me alone, let me go do what I want to. (Laughter).
I don't mind the attention, but I also -- I'm just fine and dandy going to a restaurant with my family and sitting down to a nice quiet dinner and enjoying it just as well. I think I get plenty of credit. I think that I'm not jealous of any of the due that anyone else in the golf world gets.
And if for some reason, what you're saying is you felt like I was a little underrated or if I -- I don't really -- it doesn't bother me. I'm comfortable with who I am, and where I stand and what I'm trying to accomplish, and I don't really worry about the rest of it. That's as sincere as I could be. It just doesn't matter.

Q. Earlier Padraig Harrington was in here talking about the eight-year drought of European players winning a major.
JIM FURYK: I'm sure he brought it up. It was the first thing on his mind. (Laughter).

Q. We might have helped him along.
JIM FURYK: Probably. Sure. Want to talk about the Ryder Cup while we're here? (Laughter).

Q. But he had said that he thinks the guy that's going to break the drought is going to be someone who has been there a bunch and kind of suffered the tough defeat, not a young guy like a Henrik Stenson or someone like that. What do you think, there's so many players that you're now familiar with from playing in the Ryder Cup, do you think it's going to be someone who is younger and has not tasted all of the defeats, or someone else that's been there?
JIM FURYK: I think if you looked at history, you would pick the guys that had some seasoning, the guys that had -- just veterans, the guys that have been there in the heat of the battle and had some experiences to pick from.
That being said, you still have your -- a guy like Rich Beem who came out and won a PGA and won it convincingly; a guy like Ben Curtis who won the British Open. You just never know in the world of golf.
Yeah, I don't think it's -- if I had $1,000 and to place it one way or another, I'd pick the veteran, but just never know. Stenson, he's got a lot of game. I respect his chances.

Q. Is there any explanation that you can think of, because Paddy feels that once one guy does it, a lot of guys will look and say, see, a European guy can do it and the flood gates will open and they will win a whole bunch, which seems kind of odd.
JIM FURYK: I don't know. My opinion would be everything's cyclical. There are so many good players from Europe who could win a major championship. It just hasn't happened, and it will. If that's going to open the flood gates, I honestly believe that the Paddy Harringtons; and you go down the list, all of the best European players, I think in their hearts they believe they have the talent and ability to win a major championship. I don't really know about the whole flood gate or this or that.
I'm not a guy that -- I'm not going to pile it on, basically or kick them while their down. There's a lot of very good players over there and doing quite well. Hence, I don't think as an American Ryder Cup player that we are a lot of cause, either. Everything happens in cycles. You know, I don't know about the whole flood gate theory there, but there's a lot of talented players and they will win their major championships here coming up.

Q. Just rate your own chances this week, how are you playing?
JIM FURYK: I'm playing okay actually. I wasn't real happy with my performance at Doral or Honda, the two previous weeks that I've played. I would have liked to play Bay Hill just to get an extra week in of preparation, especially with the firm, fast greens there. I was playing very average on my way in and I think I've improved a lot each day. I like the way my game is moving right now, and I would like to keep getting better. I have one more day of preparation, and kind of just keep building as the week goes. If I can do that, I'll be in good shape.
You know, I have a positive outlook on the week. If I was playing my best golf, I probably wouldn't jump up and down and tell you my chances are great. And if I was playing terrible golf, I would know better than to be down on myself. I've had weeks where on Wednesday I felt like I was playing good enough to win and I missed the cut, and I've had days on Wednesday where I felt like a 10-handicap and won by two that week.

Q. Don't be dissing the 10-handicaps.
JIM FURYK: I don't think you're a 10, I really don't. (Laughter).

Q. What makes these greens so tough that you cannot simulate them anywhere?
JIM FURYK: Even if you could simulate them, they would be very difficult, but that's a start. There's nowhere to prepare and nowhere to practice that I know of.
That being the case, we still have three or four days on the grounds, if you want to come and hit putts. The putting green is done very well in that you can simulate putts on the golf course and get some different angles.
We should be prepared. The fact is, they are just hard. They are difficult. It takes a lot of skill and a lot of good technique to hit good putts on greens this fast and this week and severe, but it just takes a lot of imagination, a lot of feel.
And on top of that, it also takes some pretty darned good iron shots, because you can put the ball in positions where you're just stuck where no matter what you do, can't really get the ball inside five, six, ten feet. If you're putting the ball in good spots on the greens, which again is hard to do, you can be relatively aggressive and have the opportunity to make some putts. But with 3-iron or 5-iron in your hand on some of these greens that are so tiny, it's difficult to put the ball in the right place and it can be very difficult to putt.
Even if I had that putting green in my backyard for the next ten years, it still wouldn't make the Masters that much more easier come Thursday. They are tough to putt.
JIM BLANCHARD: A lot of Jim Furyk fans here at Augusta, we wish you well this week. Thank you for being with us.

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