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August 5, 2008

Jim Furyk


KELLY ELBIN: Jim Furyk, ladies and gentlemen, here at the 90th PGA Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club, 2003 U.S. Open Champion.
This will be Jim's 14th PGA Championship. His best finish was a tie for sixth at Winged Foot in 1997. Jim also tied for fifth at The Open Championship a few weeks ago.
Jim, some thoughts on your game in general, and also the golf course that you've practiced the last day or so.
JIM FURYK: I feel all right about my game. I played real well heading over to the British Open at the AT&T, played well at The Open Championship, and felt like last couple weeks I played okay, but lost my rhythm a little bit from the British Open.
I'm just starting to feel comfortable again with my ball position and alignment and feel like I got crossed up a little bit playing in that much wind at The Open Championship. But no, I managed to finish I think 14th at Canada, and last week not so strong on the weekend, somewhere in the mid 20s.
My game's in decent shape, though, and this week's going to be a very difficult test. The good news right now is the golf course the greens are relatively receptive. They're not extremely fast, I think because of all the slope on the greens.
But the golf course definitely has been made a lot tougher. It's been lengthened out quite a bit. A lot of notable holes. Some are 20 and 30 yards longer. The par-3s, 9 and 17 come to mind immediately. It's going to be a very difficult test and the rough is very, very thick. I don't know if it's -- it's not extremely long, but it's very thick and tough to play out of.
So put a premium on hitting the ball in the fairway, I think some of the short hitters like myself would like to see the fairways maybe firm up a little bit, make it a little bit shorter. But right now the golf course is pretty soft and receptive and it's playable, but it's very difficult.
KELLY ELBIN: All right. Questions?

Q. The course changes here at Oakland Hills, you mentioned you hope the fairways are firmer for the short hitters. Does that make this even more of a big hitters' course than ever before, and somewhat less in accuracy because of the added distance?
JIM FURYK: I don't think in the past it really was a big hitter's golf course, to be honest with you. I was relatively short here in '96 and finished a couple shots off the lead, fifth place.
I thought it was more about working the ball, hitting some shots, get the ball in the fairways. When you start lengthening golf courses out, if the golf course is playing firm and fast, they really can't make a golf course too long for any of the guys on TOUR. When it's playing wet and soft, and obviously it gives the big hitters a big advantage because it will be easier to keep the ball in the fairways. And you'll be going in with a lot longer irons into the greens. But they will be receptive.

Q. The prototypical, no Tiger, what's the impact?
JIM FURYK: Not really my job to figure it all out, so I'm not sure. I don't really pay attention to that. I don't think the guys on TOUR really -- as a friend, I wish him well. I hope his recovery is good. I hope he's feeling strong. We need him out here. He obviously is the best player in the world. He builds a lot of excitement around events.
But whether he's here or not, I have a job to do and I don't really worry about the impact or -- y'all need something to write about, anyway, so it gives you something to talk about.

Q. A couple players have said that this is the toughest group of par-3s they ever remember playing in one course. Would you agree with that?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, you're looking at No. 3 being a 5-iron and No. 10, 11, 12, 13, being a 5-iron or whatever. Doesn't seem overly drastic. The greens are pretty tough, but 9 and 17 are very, very difficult. They were already tough holes when we had, say, a 4-iron in our hand or a 43iron in our hand, but now with 3-woods, they're very difficult.
KELLY ELBIN: Did you hit 3-wood on 9?
JIM FURYK: Today, it would have been a good 3-wood just to get it on the front of the green, I think. It was 245 to the front of the green into the breeze. So I think it was 257 to the pin into a relatively stiff wind. So got to figure that was playing in the wind was playing a good 267. That's a pretty good 3-wood.
KELLY ELBIN: How about your club on 17?
JIM FURYK: Yesterday it was playing into a pretty stiff wind when I got there. It was only -- oh, maybe it was -- I can't remember the yardage, but 230, 232, but up that hill and into a wind, it was playing again close to -- I hit a really good, hard 3-wood, and hit it right in the center of the green.
So it was about as good as I had.

Q. Do you make anything of the theory that there's another generation of 20-somethings sort of sweeping into the game this year and if they haven't already, are gong to make an impact at an event like this and in the Playoffs, going forward?
JIM FURYK: Sure. I think that I'm looking down our Ryder Cup points so I'm looking down Stewart Cink, Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry, myself; you've got Anthony Kim, obviously a great young talent. Justin Leonard, Boo Weekley, Steve Stricker, Woody Austin, Hunter Mahan. Got two guys in the 20s there I think with Hunter and Anthony Kim in the Top-10. D.J. Trahan right behind them, and Sean O'Hair is not too far down. Snedeker, J.B. Holmes, there's some guys down there, there's some guys making a move, and I think that's always the way it's been.
One year we have Kenny Perry's of the world in their mid-40s, Fred Funk, Jay Haas, keep going back and forth, Ray Floyd before them, guys who had a big impact in their 40s, and then it's an old man's game.
And then you get Anthony Kim's and Hunter Mahan's who look like our best young talents right now; Sean O'Hair. Our best young American talents. And Anthony's got -- he's really got some game. And the stories turn to the 20-somethings and how they're dominating the game.
Usually I get the question whether I'm getting too short or -- I think it was last year -- no, it was before. It was before the 2005 season, I had a national beat writer come up and ask me if I was afraid I was getting too short and the game was going to pass me by, and then I finished second on the Money List the next year. And he said, "I guess it's not."
Hasn't happened yet. It's going to happen some day. And younger players are going to replace the older players. It's going to happen some day. Let's just hope it's later than sooner.

Q. The talk in the locker room before the U.S. Open was that the setup was a little easier and more guys felt they had a chance. Oakland Hills is notorious for being exceptionally difficult; do you think it gives a player like you who is strong in so many facets of his game and a little bit unflappable when it comes to difficult courses; do you think it gives you a bit of an advantage over the other guys that might be scared, and do you sense that there's a little bit more apprehension amongst the other players about Oakland Hills than there was at Torrey?
JIM FURYK: I think the setup is were quite different. Torrey's a brute, and very, very long. And when we played it in February it's a bomber's paradise. When we played it in the setup of the U.S. Open with the graduated rough, firm fairways, I think it opened the doors to a lot of people to win the golf tournament. But I think it was set up exceptionally well. I'm not a big fan of going to Torrey in February because I'm not a bomber.
But I loved it. I thought it was a great U.S. Open venue, and I really give them credit for the setup. I thought it didn't really favor one style of player.
This golf course is set up different right now. We have had some rain; it's quite lush; it's quite green; the ball's not traveling a lot in the fairways. Could also be the fact that it's August and it's slightly humid out there, as we all know. And I think it's really keeping the moisture in.
So the golf course is set up a touch slower. The rough is really thick, but thick right off the edge of the fairway. Greens are very receptive. The golf courses probably aren't that much different in length, but this is playing much, much longer. It's quite different. So it just is a totally different setup. So I would never consider a Torrey setup easy, or it was an easy setup; it whipped me all week, I know that.
It's just that the golf courses right now maybe not were intended to be different, but weather patterns, different times of the year, I think you're afforded a luxury at Torrey in June that it's cool. You can do a lot with the golf course. Being as hot and humid as it is right now, it would be crazy to scalp it down, make it firm and fast if you could, because it's Tuesday.
You've got to make sure the golf course is playing well for Thursday through Sunday.

Q. Jim, you've had a history of playing well in majors. You've had a lot of Top-10 finishes. But can you put your finger on why maybe you don't have more Major Championships, and has that been a sense of frustration with you being so close so many times and just kind of coming up short?
JIM FURYK: I've had some opportunities. This is probably the one major that I've played the worst in -- and really I can't remember, I think back to a PGA that I really had a chance to win coming down the stretch.
But I had a couple chances at the Masters. I've had a couple good chances, one in particular in the British. I've had first and two seconds at the U.S. Open and other fourths and fifths, but I had three real good opportunities to win. I wouldn't really pinpoint a reason why I've only won one major.
And hopefully we'll have this discussion in about seven years and it will be about three or four of them. I had two real good chances at Winged Foot and Oakmont and didn't close the door when I had some opportunities. And when I think back and look back, it's disappointing, but it's not frustrating or a dark cloud. It's fun to be in the heat of the battle, fun to be nervous.
I was extremely disappointed after both events, but you move on, you get by it, and you look forward to the next opportunity to try to do it again.

Q. Over the next month and a half or so, there's a lot of big events coming up the major this week and then the FedExCup and then the Ryder Cup; how do you kind of go about, so when you get to the Ryder Cup, you're not flat or your game is in good order; and is it maybe better that there are so many good events?
JIM FURYK: Well, I think that now on our TOUR the way we have it, a lot of the players are saying that the issue and the problem is there's too many good events, and we're piling them into a short and condensed season. So a lot of my built-in weeks off aren't there anymore.
As far as being ready for the Ryder Cup, I think that had -- the best thing I can say is the TOUR switching the schedule around helped us immensely, just from the fact that right now, I'm in the middle of playing -- this is my fourth in a row: Playing the British, defending in Canada, last week, and here. Taking a week off and then trying to play five in a row would have been impossible. That would have been nine out of ten. I would have had to have taken a week off somewhere in my schedule.
So I think that for the TOUR to go ahead and build that week off, now I can have a week off, go play three in a row, take another week off, and have the Ryder Cup. I'll be fresh, and the good news is I'll be playing a lot of golf and a lot of nice courses. We've got Ridgewood, we go to up to Boston, we've got a great golf course in St. Louis; so two old, classic-style courses, there will be good preparation. I should be sharp, but also have a week off to get ready for the Ryder Cup.

Q. As a follow-up, Valhalla, they have made a lot of changes there, I know you've played there twice and a lot of guys have. Will you try to get there before at all with the schedule being so weird, and does that make a big difference that you haven't seen it?
JIM FURYK: Well, it's a long week, first of all; you've got Monday through Thursday to see it, because the Ryder Cup doesn't start until Friday. In fact the week's too long to be honest with you. That Friday start makes it just -- you can't wait for it to get there. I think the build-up and that is difficult. But I will -- I'm going to try -- I'm not going to promise, but I'm going to try to get there before the tournament week. And I don't think the changes are so significant that we won't recognize the golf course.
Kind of like here. The changes are different, but it's still the same layout. It's still the same golf holes. The greens look very similar; I think they're identical. They just lengthened some holes and deepened some bunkers, but for the most part it's the same golf course. I'm expecting something similar at Valhalla.

Q. When they make the par-3s so long that you're looking at 3-woods or 5-woods or whatever, does it take some shot-making and some skill out of it, and if so, is that somewhat of a frustration to you?
JIM FURYK: I don't think it takes any skill out. Definitely by lengthening the holes, there's pins that you don't have an opportunity to shoot at any more. The par-3s, yeah, I mean with a 3-wood in your hand, you're aiming for the middle of the green. If you can put the ball in the middle of the green on 9 and 17 each day, you should be able to make three, and you're going to have some good birdie putts.
So, is it frustrating? No; it's just the way it is. I mean, the way architecture is going and it's the chicken or the egg. My generation's accused of not being able to work the ball, not being able to hit shots; that we don't hit the shots that they did in the '40's and 50s, and it's absolutely true.
But the setup of our golf courses don't call for it any more. You don't have to hit those shots because of the conditions, because of our architecture today, it's more important to hit the ball high and hard and just go find it and hit it again. I think the good players adapt to the style of what's needed to be played.
And the fad right now in golf is to take a hole, add 20 or 30 yards, and all of a sudden it's a better hole. That's just part of golf. It's not frustrating. It hasn't hindered me from playing well on our TOUR; I've been doing it for the last ten years. The best players are always, will always find a way to excel and achieve what they want to, and it's just part of it.
And we hit the ball so darn far anymore, I mean, I'm 30 or 35 yards longer than I was when I was 22. I'm 16 years older and I've gained two yards a year, basically, every year of my career. You can't make a golf course too long; it's impossible, for Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson. But it seems like in this day and age that's the way they attack and try to make golf courses more difficult. And it does, it makes them more difficult.

Q. Just wondering what your reaction is to the ruling today on changing the grooves on the clubs from the R&A and it's going to make it harder to spin the ball out of the rough.
JIM FURYK: Repeat that again. You've hit me with a question I'm not really familiar with.

Q. The USGA announced today that there's going to be a change in the grooves on the clubs, and it's their intention to make it harder to spin the ball out of the rough, and I'm just wondering what your reaction was to the ruling.
JIM FURYK: May I ask when that year is?

Q. I don't know. I know they announced it today, I don't know when it takes affect. 2010.
JIM FURYK: So starting in 2010, they're going to reduce the grooves; basically the grooves can't be as aggressive.
Yeah, I think it's something we have expected for a couple of years that that was going to happen. And originally I thought it was going to happen in 2009 and obviously we are here at the end of 2008 so that's not the case.
So I assumed it would happen in 2010 or 2011. So I'm all for it, really. I think that they can't keep making golf courses longer. Because not every course has a $20 million budget to keep it going. And they can't keep us from hitting the ball far, because there's enough engineers and R&D and technology that keeps us from getting longer.
So I guess the way to attack it would be to, if you can limit the amount of spin on the ball and make the guy play from the fairway and hit a more crisp and a better golf shot, it's probably a good avenue. I think I would be for that and I think it's a positive move and we'll see.
I don't know what the proposed limit is on the grooves, but I've talked to Srixon, the company I represent for a couple years now, and it seems as though my irons will be fine. I won't have to switch anything. I think that I might have a couple wedges in my bag that might be borderline or over the proposed limit, so I would have to pull that back.
And what that will do is it will make guys want to play a softer golf ball, and it probably doesn't go quite as far anymore, because they will want to have more control over that ball around the greens and with their wedges, where they score.
So I think all in all, it's probably going to be positive.
But again, not knowing more than what you're telling me, not knowing the particulars, it's hard to be exactly sure. But it sounds like it was a good proposal.

Q. With the Olympics starting this week in Beijing, there's some good talk again about the possibility of golf being an Olympic sport at some time. If you could work out the scheduling, which would obviously be a nightmare, would that be something that you would like to see?
JIM FURYK: I would -- wow. I have some strong opinions, and a lot of people probably won't agree with me.
I would like to see golf in the Olympics, just because I think that it is a worldwide sport. I think the criticism is that not enough countries play it. But I think it's a -- I think it's played all around the world, and we have so many great players from around the world.
The issue I see with golf as an Olympic sport is, who is going to play? And I love the Olympics, I love watching them, but I love watching the sports where that is the pinnacle of their career; Michael Phelps in swimming. I like watching track and field, that's what they all -- you know you go back to Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson and the pinnacle of their careers in their sports came at the Olympics.
I don't think that happens in basketball anymore, and that was my favorite sport growing up; I played it through high school. Those guys want to win a NBA Championship more than they want to win a gold medal. There's no doubt in my mind that that's true.
And if we put in golf, I don't see where the Olympics is going to have to be more important, so you would have to ask them; but Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson would have to represent the United States right now and would it be more important for them to win the Olympic gold medal or more important to win the Masters, the PGA, the U.S. Open or the British Open. I can't forget the U.S. Open; it's the one I won.
So if it was for our amateur golfers, I think it would be great. For our professional golfers, I'm hesitant. But I still would like to see golf in the Olympics. But all the Olympic sports I want to watch, I want to watch the ones where basically professionals aren't playing. Although it's hard to call Michael Johnson and Carl Lewis an amateur.
So I want to watch the sports where that is the absolute pinnacle of their career and they had to wait four years for this one moment and they go out and they perform, they break a world record, win a gold medal and they were able to perform on that spot. I think that's a great athletic achievement. That's what I want to watch.

Q. Lots been said about the par-3s, the difficulty. Obviously the closing holes, is there a stretch on the golf course where or particulars holes where you can get to where there are birdies that you're looking at, hey, these are the holes I got to score on?
JIM FURYK: There's just not that many opportunities out there where I think you have a short iron in your hand. 1, you can get a short iron in your hand, and then you're hitting to a green that's got about four or five different levels on it, and it's tough to get a shot in there tight.
2's obviously an opportunity, because it's a reachable par-5.
The other par-5 on the back is not going to be reachable for me.
But, yeah, you've got a short hole at, I want to say it's at 6. Where they could have some fun and move the tee up.
But there's a lot of bruisers out there and a lot of long holes. 5 today was very, very long. 8 was very long. 9's long. 10's a good hole. You get a little breather at 11; it's a short hole but it's got -- again, all the short holes have the most severe greens on them. And the greens out here are very severe. But the short holes tend to have the toughest and worst greens for scoring.
And the back nine's got some bruisers, as well, and that finish 17, 18. I think 8 and 9 on the front, 17, 18 on the back, you've got to play some golf.
So there's no hole out here really that is a letdown or there's a three-hole stretch where I think you can make some birdies.
But there's a few holes where you can get some short irons in your hand, and I think it's going to be important to put the ball in the fairway and hopefully give your self some opportunities with the short irons on those holes.
KELLY ELBIN: Jim Furyk, that you very much.
JIM FURYK: Thank you. I appreciate it.

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