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March 26, 2008

Jim Furyk


STEWART MOORE: We'd like to welcome Jim Furyk to the interview room here at the Zurich Classic after a little bit of a hiatus from the city of New Orleans. I believe this is the first time you've played since '96; is that correct?
JIM FURYK: I'd be surprised if it were that long, but it's been a while. My caddie that works for me now hasn't worked for me since April of '99, and we haven't been here, he said, so it was before that. So it's been a little while.
But it's nice to be back. Obviously a different venue, different golf course. A lot has happened in the city since, so it's nice to be back. And there are a lot of people commenting on that, it's been a while, and good to see you. So it's good to be playing in the event.
STEWART MOORE: You started off the year finished tied for 5th at the Mercedes and then by your standards didn't play as well as you wanted, then last week finished tied for second. Obviously your game is clicking. Talk about what happened at Doral and how that changed things.
JIM FURYK: Golf is a little finicky as it is. I haven't played awful, but I haven't played nearly as well as I would have liked. I haven't been in the hunt for a while. You know, I turned around, was able to get the ball in the hole a lot better last week. I felt like I had no real weaknesses, that I was striking the ball pretty solid, hit it in a lot of fairways, iron game was crisp.
But I think the big difference was I had streaks and spurts where I putted well last week, and my short game was better than it has been. I got the ball up-and-down when I needed to, for instance, on the last hole of the day, to give myself a chance maybe to get in a playoff.
I think my wedge game was better. One of the strengths and one of the best parts of my game I believe is like from 70 to 110 yards, laying it up on par-5s, short par-4s, and I haven't been extremely happy with that part of my game until say Bay Hill, and at Bay Hill I think my wedge game was good and last week at Doral. Being a short hitter I've got to give myself those opportunities.
I played the par-5s real well last week. A lot of that was hitting them in two, but also knocking some wedges in there tight and knocking in some putts.

Q. What was the decision to come back here? Why did you pick this?
JIM FURYK: I think a couple reasons. I haven't seen this golf course. The first year they played here I think it met some mixed reviews from what I had heard on the TOUR, and unfortunately the hurricane came through and it had done some damage to the golf course, and we had to go to English Turn.
Then when we came back last year, I believe, guys started talking a little bit more positive. They liked some of the changes that were made. I heard some good comments. I think if I had not been to a golf course and all I had heard was bad comments, which there are a couple events out there like that, you're usually not real excited to go.
When you start hearing the tide turn, you start hearing some positive comments and people start saying good things about the event, I wanted to see the new golf course. The hospitality here has always been in the very top of the TOUR. I remember talking to David Duval and players that have played and supported this event for a lot of years, and they always talk about the people and the hospitality, the food, but just the way the golf tournament is run. They just feel -- they feel like the people go -- well, everywhere we go, people go out of the way to make us feel like we have a good week, but this one used to stand out in a lot of people's minds.
Then you also look at the scheduling effect of our TOUR. New Orleans and Houston were two events that I historically didn't play, and those are the two events before The Masters this year. I didn't want to take two weeks off. Put all those together, I had to pick one, and I had heard a lot of positive things about New Orleans and decided to come here.

Q. Are you surprised there's not more guys in the Top 10 here or Top 20?
JIM FURYK: I'd be surprised to see a lot of people skip both events. I haven't looked at the -- as a player I rarely ever look at the field or try to figure out whether it's strong or weak or how it may be, so I'm not surprised because I haven't looked. But I'd be surprised -- I can pretty much guarantee Tiger is not going to play one of the next two events before The Masters, but he's a little bit of a unique individual in that way, and I figure you'd see most of the guys play here in New Orleans or next week in Houston. I think it would be very difficult to take two weeks off before a major championship.

Q. And a lot of guys will play that tournament before as sort of a tune-up? You might see more guys play here than Houston?
JIM FURYK: Not necessarily. A lot of guys don't want to play the week before a major. They have their own way to prepare. I don't think you see Tiger ever hardly play the week before a major championship. They have their own way to prepare.
I've always done it at the U.S. Open; it used to be Westchester before the U.S. Open; I loved Westchester so I'd go play. It used to be Buick Flint was before the PGA; I loved that golf course so I'd always go play. Congressional the week before the U.S. Open; I loved that golf course so I'd play Congressional.
It all depended on the course and the site, how it suited my game. If I didn't feel it suited it well or wasn't good preparation for the tournament then I'd stay home and do my preparation there. If I felt like it was a course I wanted to play and it'd help, then I'd go play. It's hit-or-miss how guys feel.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about how the course played today, and how is it playing?
JIM FURYK: It's in very good shape. I think yesterday obviously you noticed the greens are very, very firm and quick. They're in great shape. Yesterday I felt that the fairways were maybe just a touch slower than I expected coming out of Miami, but that seemed to change today. It seemed like they were mowed a little tighter, seemed like they dried out a little bit, and the golf course was playing pretty firm and fast.
It's overseeded, so you're not going to get -- it's not going to be lightning in the fairways. Overseed has a tendency to be sticky, but it's quite firm out there and the greens are firm and fast, and that's usually what the golf professionals are asking for. They want a firm, quick golf course because it puts a premium on striking the ball well, and I think it separates the field real well.

Q. After one trip around, how does this course suit your game? And then secondly, how does it get you ready for The Masters in a couple weeks? What will you take from it with you?
JIM FURYK: Well, I have played it twice. I ran around it quick yesterday for 18 holes, and just knowing the architect, Pete Dye, I knew it would be a place you'd want to see at least twice. He has a -- his golf courses are visually difficult, if that makes sense. He makes shots look difficult. It's hard to pick lines the first time you play. I wanted to make sure I got a couple rounds on it.
I wouldn't pick it as either a place that I loved or disliked for my game. It's not one of those top ten events where I'm licking my chops saying this is right down my alley, but I don't dislike it or think it hinders my game or hurts me versus other players.
And as far as the preparation for Augusta, I like the idea of the very firm, fast greens. That will help. I have a hard time emulating that at home at times, and I like the chipping areas around the greens. There's a lot of collection areas. You get some tight lies around the greens, and you have to hit some shots that have a little spin or some bump-and-runs. The bump-and-runs have been a little tough because that overseed is still a little sticky, but you still have to hit some shots with some stuff on them. Pete has got a lot of movement in these greens so you miss the green you're in the collection area and you have to play over some mounds.

Q. When they moved this date two weeks before The Masters they thought they might have a chance at getting Tiger this year. He's one of the few that have not been here in the Top 15 players. Do you think he'll ever come, or do you think it's just an event that for some reason --
JIM FURYK: It would be impossible for me to answer, obviously. I think as --

Q. Do you think he should come?
JIM FURYK: I don't know what he's thinking. In what manner?

Q. Well, he generates money, obviously, for the tournament. Everybody does, but when he shows up even more people show up, and after Katrina with the way New Orleans is, he's the only one that really didn't come. You're here, Mickelson has been here, Vijay has been here. It seems like in terms of helping the city, he would be a bigger draw.
JIM FURYK: The issue that Tiger faces is being the No. 1 face in this game and being leaps and bounds the best player in the world with really no close second. He's our face and he's the one that generates the most revenue. But there's a huge responsibility on his shoulders.
Every tournament has a cause, or obviously New Orleans has been struck by Katrina much harder than other cities, but every golf tournament has that same opinion for him, and there's a good reason in every city, whether it's a children's charity, whether it's a children's hospital, Arnold Palmer's hospital at Bay Hill. Everyone has got a great cause, and everyone puts that responsibility on his shoulders, and we can't play every week.
Obviously he plays a little less than everyone else, but the more you play, the more attention you garner, it's more difficult for him to play 25 weeks a year than it is for me, than it is for a young player that's just coming out. They tend to skate under the radar, and he has a lot more obligations and attention put on him. So his weeks are more grueling and they're actually tougher.
There's a -- I'm trying to answer your question intelligently. There are 43 weeks on the PGA TOUR season; is that correct? That's a lot. Some may say too many. I'm just saying it's a lot. I play a lot of events. I plan to play 25 events this year, so that's a lot. I'm playing 25, I'm skipping 18.
The tournaments are in as much a competition as we are as players. Amongst each other, the tournaments are competing amongst each other. It's very difficult for us as players to say no, but I physically can't play any more events than I am. One, physically I can't do it; mentally I'm not happy and I have a responsibility to my family to be a father and a husband and be home.
There's so many events that I play, and it's no secret I'm going to pick the golf courses that I love the best. I'm going to pick out the fields that are strong, and it's -- there's no secret, good golf course, big purse, it's no secret, good field. Eventually if you have a very good golf course and a nice purse, there's going to be a lot of good players that show up at your event.
It's difficult -- we stand and answer those questions, and then there's the next statement, do you think that a player should go to every event once every four years or five years, and that opens a whole new can of worms. That's a huge debate on the TOUR. We always snicker and giggle when we say we're independent contractors because we kind of feel like we are and we aren't, but if we are, the players should be able to choose when and where they want to play.
But there's another side that says it would be very good for all the events if we had to show up once every four or five years at every event. It's an interesting way to look at it.

Q. Could you talk about how the phrase "Masters preparation" implies something different --
JIM FURYK: Masters preparation?

Q. Sort of like it's different from anything else. How do you prepare for The Masters? Is it different than say the Open or the PGA or different from any other tournament? What exactly do you do?
JIM FURYK: When you get to the major championships, the conditions are so severe they're hard to emulate. You can't emulate the tight lies at Augusta, you can't emulate the fast greens and the undulations at Augusta. I don't care where you're practicing. You could come close sometimes. You can't emulate the rough at the U.S. Open a lot of times. You just pick and choose different things for each course that you think will help in your game and preparation, shots that you have to hit a lot.
For me it's my short game at Augusta, real tight lies, into the grain. You have to hit shots with touch, you have to hit some bump-and-runs. I'm hoping it's really dry and doesn't rain next week. That way lies will be tighter; I can practice some of those bump-and-runs in my short game area, and if it rains a lot, I can't emulate it. It's not possible; I'll have to wait until I get to Augusta. But I can do my best and make sure my short game is sharp so I only have to get used to the conditions at Augusta.

Q. Do you have to go somewhere else to do this or can you do it at home where you normally practice?
JIM FURYK: Well, I have a putting green in my backyard. It's a synthetic green, so it'll be running next week because I can control how fast it is. It'll be running quick and smooth. I'll practice mostly at TPC at Sawgrass because that's where I usually practice, and try to emulate some of the shots.
There's places where all of us kind of congregate. You see Vijay doing the same stuff every year, and I have my way of prepping every year, and we all tend to congregate in similar areas and we're all working on similar things.

Q. On a lighter note, regarding Woody Austin, as a judge, as a swimming judge, how would you rate his fall into the water and --
JIM FURYK: Diving?

Q. Yeah, diving, and --
JIM FURYK: He's got no form, big splash.

Q. Do you think he'll ever outlive that?
JIM FURYK: Woody is such a good guy, and obviously he's very hard on himself, so he had a hard time outliving the putter-over-the-head incident. I think that even though he laughs and says, man, I'll never outlive this one, it sure is better because before everyone had a strange look on their face when he was wrapping the putter around his head. Now everyone is laughing, but we're more laughing with him than laughing at him. He played so well that week, he was such a big boost for our team, and he's a guy you want to pull for and root for. And to see him do so well in his first Presidents Cup was great and then having that incident behind him and being paired with Mickelson made it even better.

Q. Do you ever bring it up with him?
JIM FURYK: No, it's a little bit old hat now, but he won't outlive it. They'll be showing that tape for a long time. Every time he plays well they'll be showing that tape.

Q. You've got a couple guys this week, several guys this week, that pretty much have to win to get into The Masters, fixtures like Davis and DiMarco and guys like that. How much pressure, and you can't speak for them obviously, but just from a pressure standpoint, how much pressure is there to try -- you know everybody wants to be there obviously and you've got to win to get in, so you've got two weeks to do it. What's going through their heads?
JIM FURYK: That's impossible. I'm not sure how much pressure there is. I'm sure they're both obviously disappointed that they're in that position. I respect -- they're both friends of mine, and I think they're great people, and I also think they're very good players. I respect their games. Everyone goes through cycles where they're playing well and not playing as well as they would like.
I think the way to approach it is to not really put a lot of pressure on yourself. You've got nothing to lose at this point and everything to gain. Go out there, try to play well and get yourself in the hunt, and if you can pull it off, it's a bonus at this point. I think right now you get back to playing golf the way they both know how and the way they both want to, and they'll figure it out.

Q. You have to look at it, don't you, as kind of the odds are so much against you that --
JIM FURYK: If I go out there and play 25 events a year and I win once a year for my entire career, that's -- I'll say that's the greatest career ever, but it's a pretty darn good career. So 1 out of 25. They've got to do it just at the right time, and with the timing thing it's difficult. It's not the pressure that it is for those guys coming down the stretch to keep their card and have a job for the next year, I'll tell you that. That's a lot of pressure.

Q. What kind of feedback have you gotten from the fortune cookie commercial, and do your kids get a kick out of that when it runs?
JIM FURYK: I'm not sure they're they've seen it on TV to be honest. I've got to be honest, we don't have golf on at home so they've never seen it. They may have on a tape.
I've never seen it on TV. My wife has. She'll have the TV on, and if I'm playing well she'll have the TV on, or if I'm playing she'll want to see the score or see things every once in a while. Last week I was playing well and she had the kids, the TV was on in the room so she could watch the coverage. So she's seen it. I'm not sure if the kids have or not. They're not quite old enough where their friends would say, hey, I saw your dad on TV. Spiderman and Batman are still pretty cool. They're not really worried about golf. And I never put golf on TV because that's what I do for a living.

Q. Pro-Am partners, people in the street, they bring it up?
JIM FURYK: A lot of people mention it and it seems positive. Yeah, I think -- I've never heard anything negative about it. I'm sure some people are going to like it, some people aren't.

Q. The looks on your family's faces just staring at you, it's priceless.
JIM FURYK: Well, it's easy for my wife. She stares at me like that a lot, especially when I don't know (laughter). And for my kids, it was pretty easy because they had -- they called us in, we were going to be there for two hours, and they didn't put the kids in the chair for about an hour and a half. And to keep a four- and a five-year-old on a set and amused is difficult, so they pretty much already had the blank stare like, "Can we go? I'm ready to get back home and play with my toys."

Q. About your putting, have you tinkered with the belly putter? Did you use the belly putter --
JIM FURYK: I didn't use it.

Q. Practice round stuff?
JIM FURYK: I was messing around with it for a couple days at the Match Play, kind of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday before the Wednesday start, and Tuesday I went back and started putting with a short one.

Q. Just experimenting?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I felt like my posture -- I felt like my eyes had gotten out over the ball a little bit and it made me stand up a little taller, got my eyes over the ball or even inside the ball and changed my perspective on my aim a little bit. Had I been really comfortable or felt like I was putting well, I would have stuck with it. I understand why people go to it, I understand why it feels good to some people, but I wasn't as comfortable as I was with the short one.

Q. Have you used the claw at all?
JIM FURYK: No, it's tough with a cross-handed putter -- I don't know where to put things. I've always putted cross-hand. With my left hand being lower than my right, I don't know where things would go. I have not.

Q. There doesn't seem to be any limits on -- seems like anything goes in putting these days.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, there's only a couple variables. You want to be able to -- one, I think you have to have a putter that you can aim; two, you need to be able to hit the ball on the line you want and on the speed you want. Hopefully you can read some putts. If you can aim it, you can hit it down the line you want pretty consistently, and you can do some drills to work on your speed, you should be able to putt pretty well. Some weeks they go in, some weeks they don't.
I think I was a little disappointed because I was hitting some poor putts on the West Coast and wasn't real happy with the way I was striking it. I think it boiled down to I was aiming poorly and having to make some corrections. I kind of got my aim straightened away a little bit. Some of that was my posture I think that was causing the poor aim.
It's a puzzle you're always trying to figure out and get the pieces together. Now I feel pretty good with my putting, but it kind of comes and goes, like everyone. But all in all, if you feel like you're hitting good putts and they're not just going in, then just be patient, bide your time, your week will come.
But I get upset or I think we as professionals get upset when you're striking poor putts, and I wasn't real happy with the quality of putts that I was hitting.

Q. How big a boost was last week, and also how big a boost in general was it going into Augusta that maybe it's not going to be all Tiger all the time? Four or five other top guys who have had dry spells or quiet spells for a period have all played well, and Tiger has kind of dominated the attention in everything else. It seems like some of you guys are getting back in form and making it more interesting going in.
JIM FURYK: I don't really -- he deserves all the accolades. He deserves the attention he gets. The rest of us -- he can have it actually (laughter). It's nice to go to the range and not have to worry about it.

Q. How was it for you just to be in the thick of things?
JIM FURYK: It was good to get back in the hunt. I did hit some good shots down the stretch. It's no fun teeing it up on Sunday when you're way back and have no opportunity to win. It doesn't really matter whether you shoot 68 or 72. That's not a good place to be. I haven't been that far down the list. I've been finishing in the 25th range, a 50th here and a 30th, kind of floating along, not playing terrible but not what I wanted to. I woke up for a couple mornings basically feeling like I have a chance to win and getting out there, and I did hit some quality shots, and I hit some good putts. That last day I hit a couple good putts that didn't go in, and I hit some good ones that did. I just came up one short.
STEWART MOORE: Jim, thanks so much for coming in. Good luck this week.

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