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April 9, 2009

Jim Furyk


ED HERLIHY: Good afternoon. We welcome Jim Furyk. Jim has played in 12 Masters and today he shot a 6-under 66 and is currently the leader in the clubhouse. We would like to open up to questions for Jim.

Q. After the first round at Doral, those last three rounds, and then at Bay Hill, what was going wrong, and how did you correct things, and what was going right today compared to that period?
JIM FURYK: You know, I felt really good about my game, obviously, at Doral, and the first round at Tampa. I putted very poorly for the second round of Tampa and just never really got my feet under me the rest of the weekend.
You know, Bay Hill just snowballed on me. I got off to a really bad start and just kind of fighting my way out of the hole I dug, for the rest of the week. Always felt like I had a chance to maybe get back to the cut line, but could never get it going, get the momentum going, and it's not a golf course that, to be honest with you, I've felt very comfortable on. I have not had a lot of success there. When I look at the shots and the course; I've never been comfortable at Bay Hill over the years, not like I have been at, say, Doral, or pick out a bunch of courses. I'm comfortable next week at Harbour Town. Just kind of digging myself out of a hole, not happy with a few things in my game. I did some work with my clubmaker last week from Srixon and corrected a few things that I felt like would really help me this week, and today, a lot of hard work from him and then from myself working on my game. I hit the ball very well today.
The key really was I hit a lot of really good iron shots and kept the ball in play with my driver. I made enough putts, but I hit a lot of really close shots on that back side. I had three birdie putts, I think, inside probably -- well, I had two birdie putts inside three feet and I knocked it pretty close on 16. I didn't have to knock in a bunch of bombs or anything to shoot the score I did. I just kept the ball in front of me very well.

Q. Paddy was in here and said this might be the most generous setup he's ever seen at Augusta National. What do you think of that assessment?
JIM FURYK: That will really make them mad. (Laughter).
I would say it always seems, there's guys out there that shot 1- or 2-over, and had a frustrating day and could not get the ball to go in the hole and probably felt like they fought it uphill all day, and then you get it going, start hitting some good shots, putts are going in, you shoot a good number and it all seems like things are more accessible.
I thought there was some accessible pins out there, places where you could get to the hole, and the greens were also somewhat receptive. For a guy like me that does not hit it that hard or high or spin the ball that hard, I'm never stopping the ball real easily, but I was able to -- like the front right today on 14, I hit a ball that probably cleared the front mounding by about 12 inches, and the ball rolled up there about three feet and I had a tap-in for birdie.
That's usually a very difficult shot for me; today, the green was receptive enough I could stop it, and it's allowed a combination of some pin placements being as accesible and the greens being a little bit softer than what we are going to see on the weekend, some guys are going to get aggressive.
Still, you have to be very, very patient. If you are firing at every pin and trying to make a bunch of birdies, it can bite you, as we know, very quickly. The difference, 14, the ball landed one foot over the tier instead of one foot short, you're struggling to make four. I definitely had some good momentum going today, and knocked in enough putts and hit enough good iron shots.

Q. You talked about being uncomfortable at Bay Hill and comfortable at Harbour Town. How about here? Is this a place of comfort for you?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I'm comfortable here. There's obviously conditions that -- there's different ways this golf course can play obviously whether it rains, how fast and firm it is, what direction the wind is going. There's been times, I've always felt relatively comfortable here, but when the conditions are right, I would love to actually see -- believe it or not, I like seeing the wind coming out of the west like it was today. I want to see 7 and 17, some of the longer 4s downwind, and therefore, also like seeing 13 and 15 into the wind, kind of neutralizing some of the power.
The wind was blowing that direction when Zach won. I think it was blowing a very similar direction last year. So it definitely makes the golf course, I'm more comfortable in those conditions. The firmer, the faster the golf course is; I remember back to when like Vijay won the Masters, it rained a lot. I was hitting 4-iron in 14. Wasn't feeling real great about that. Tough battle with a 4-iron in your hand on that hole.
But when the conditions are firm and fast and the ball is scooting and running, I think it becomes a very fun golf course to play, because there's a lot that can happen and a lot of different avenues and shots that you can hit out here.

Q. Sort of the question I was going to ask. I'll switch gears.

Q. You're off the hook. What did you feel like was your best year here, the one where you had the best shot? Vaguely in the cobwebs of my mind, you were in the mix --
JIM FURYK: '98 I had the best chance to win. I was playing with Duval, who had a good opportunity to win, and I was going down 15, probably one shot back would be my guess. I was in between like a 5-wood and a 3-wood and I decided I was going to cut the 3-wood in there and double-crossed, hit it over the back left, went in the water, made a 6.
Birdied 16, 17, climbed back in, hit it about 20 feet on 18, almost the same identical putt Mark made, rolled it over the edge, which at the time would be to tie the lead. Duval had the same putt to I believe take the lead, and it went over the edge; I can't remember who putted first, and then Mark O'Meara knocked that putt in and won. I ended up two back. But I had four holes to go and I'm thinking, oh, I'll win the golf tournament; if I had a chance to go back, I would hit that 5-wood now. (Laughter). But obviously don't have that. Thought I was making the right play. In hindsight, 5-wood probably would have been enough club, and probably give me a better opportunity to hit the green. But it's a decision you make.

Q. Statistics say you didn't miss a green today. Has that happened very often for you, and would you have thought you would do it here?
JIM FURYK: I would have never put that together, although I never remember chipping that much. (Laughter).
No, that doesn't happen very often here. There's a lot of places where the ball can roll off the green, a lot of good shots turn out poorly. So, no, that's probably nothing that I will ever replicate again, and I don't expect to, and it's not going to happen again this week. So I'm going to have to get the ball up-and-down, and make the best of it in some situations. But that's interesting. I've never done it here before. I've done it before, but not at Augusta.

Q. You've obviously played well in the U.S. Open, you worked on it so that you played well at the British Open in the last few years. Has this Major been something that you've always thought would be one that would suit you and that has been a real target goal of yours?
JIM FURYK: I've probably had to work a little bit harder on this one than most other Major Championships. The U.S. Open is probably the one that comes the most natural to me and it's probably no secret that's why I won it. It's where all of my best finishes are. I've had three or four opportunities to win the U.S. Open.
The British, early on, in the first year or two, I had no idea what was going on. But then immediately, that was the major that I played the best in. I was always comfortable playing in the wind. I was always comfortable flighting the ball down. I had to get used to the short game and just to the links-style of golf and the turf a little bit. I've kind of gone back and forth through my career on that one.
This one is the one I look most forward to, I promise you that. The first year here, I think I hit eight practice shots and I couldn't stand it anymore and went to the first tee, I just wanted to play. I was pretty loose by that time. (Laughter).
I look the most forward to it. The combination of being a little bit of a high-ball hitter type of golf course, a guy I think that can bring it down soft on the greens and spin the ball; but still, you know, you look back through the years, and you look at the Crenshaws and the Olazábals and the Faldos, and you start looking at guys that were really not all that long. They just had a lot of imagination. Obviously I named Faldo and Olazábal, had a lot of imagination -- I'm sorry, Crenshaw and Olazábal with just great short games and putting and imagination. And Faldo, he kind of picked the golf course apart, I tried to take notes on how it was possible and those guys do it, and I've tried to figure it out.

Q. Can you talk about the streak that you had on the back nine, was everything just going well for you? I know many people have streaks in the other direction on this course, but you had that streak of the birdies. What was going right?
JIM FURYK: I hit some good iron shots. I want to say, I hit a -- I can't remember if it was an 8-, or 9-iron to 14; three feet, a ball that barely carried the ridge and trickled down close to the hole.
I hit a nice wedge on 15 to three feet.
On 16, I hit an iron, just trying to kind of hit a low 6-iron over the right. I hit it a touch thin, and chased back there a little bit farther behind the hole, but still, an 8-footer.
And then 17, I played -- it's tough for me to get the ball in the back left and stop, but especially downwind. Played a little right of the hole probably 20-plus feet and made a good putt.
But really is boiled down to hitting some really crisp -- got the ball in the fairway on those holes and had good angles to the pin. Hit it up the left side on 14 and had a good angle on that pin to the right. 17 is a tough drive for me with the tree and just the way it sits. It's an awkward drive. I hit it right down the middle.
Really it, was just crisp iron shots to set myself up with a lot of opportunities, and two short putts, but then took advantage of two with an 8-footer and 20-footer.

Q. You played with Phil today and looked like he was struggling a bit, did that surprise you considering the way he played a few weeks ago at Doral and seemed to be moving in the right direction?
JIM FURYK: Obviously I've played against him for a lot of my career, and as a Junior even. So being a two-time Champion here, I know he looks forward to this event more than any. I wouldn't say I'm surprised, but yeah, you expect him to go out there and play well. The course suits his game and his style.
He probably struggled a bit off the tee today and wasn't in the middle of the fairway as much he would have liked, and makes it tough to score. It makes it tough to attack the pins with iron shots. I expect him to come back tomorrow and play a solid round; how's that? (Laughter).
The one thing you learn is you're never surprised by this game, because a lot can happen real fast. I felt great on the practice tee and felt like I was playing good enough to win a golf tournament and went out there and missed the cut and felt horrible on the practice tee and I don't know what happened between the 40 steps to the course and went out and shot a 62. So you never really know what to expect, and keep an open mind and you keep fighting it out every day.

Q. You talked about digging yourself out of a hole, you go to the first tee today, kind of not certain what kind of round of golf you are going to play.
JIM FURYK: Never are.

Q. What are you expecting on a day like that when you step to the tee? Are you trying to cautiously get it around?
JIM FURYK: Never in my career have I ever stepped stepped to the first tee -- I learned a long time ago, I was a young player, I would tell myself I was playing really well, I'm hitting it great and go out and miss the cut, because you end up trying to do some things you shouldn't; play a patient round of golf. It's not really a question here. I know if I don't play patient here, it's going to bite me.
Also very rarely in my career, have I ever walked onto a first tee on Thursday thinking I'm going to win this tournament, I did it once in my career. I usually go there, just knowing that it's a major championship, golf course here is very severe. You have to be patient, and you just have to gut it out and get the ball in the hole as best you can and not really worry about it too much. If you're hitting good, hitting bad, do the best you can and get it in the hole as best you can.

Q. Phil's putt on 17, did it help you with the read?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I would have under-read it. I was surprised by how much that putt broke and I played a little extra break because of it.

Q. 2 and 9, can you run those would birdies?
JIM FURYK: 2, had I it a good drive, I pitched the ball past the pin up the hill to play it back because the pin was cut close to the right bunker. Didn't get it up the hill as much as I would have liked but rolled it back to five or six feet and knocked that in.
9, I hit a driver and a 9-iron that again, did not carry that original by much but stopped up there probably ten feet left of the hole.

Q. You looked surprised a little bit -- were you surprised the putt on 18 did not keep tracking the way it did?
JIM FURYK: Just did not quite hit it. I felt like it was kind of up over that bump and down, but then back towards the hole, I was trying to figure, was it going back uphill, do you have to give it extra. I hit a pretty solid putt. I was surprised it came up three or four feet short.

Q. '98, the performance, how much did it stick with you, coming that close, especially in a tournament like the Masters where you get to come here the rest of your life?
JIM FURYK: I've been real -- I don't know if I'm fortunate or just ignorant or what it is. It's been real easy for me to forgive and forget.
The two that really stuck with me were '98 here and '98 at Birkdale. Winged Foot hurt, but that didn't stick for long. Actually I put those three in there. Winged Foot hurt as well, Oakmont hurt a little bit; I played my heart out. But the '98 ones hurt more because I was younger. I was 28 years old, 27 I guess for the Masters, and it was my first taste of really having the opportunity to win a major championship and really the first time I ever got in the heat.
So the disappointment when I actually played pretty darned well in both of them down the stretch, but not being able to convert and just the ball would not go not hole sometimes. The Masters here took a lot out of me, but a week later, I never really thought about it again to be honest. It's been real easy in my career to move on, and I wouldn't say use it as motivation; I don't keep thinking about that for motivation. I just know that I've got to keep working and keep moving on.

Q. The one name that really jumps out an that leaderboard is Cabrera as the biggest hitter up there. Is there any explanation when the course is set up receptively, that it's not these guys who hit the ball the long heest that are scoring the most?
JIM FURYK: You still have to -- sometimes the longer you hit it on this golf course, the staighter it gets. 1 would be a good example. 8 would be a good example; 2,5, it's somewhat limiting in spots, as well, if that makes sense; 15, and 15th fairway is 50 yard wide for me. If it's playing shorter and the long guys get up there, you have to hit in that neck to go for the green. There are times where the fairways may be bigger for me than the guys who hit it longer. But let's be honest, if I get an 8-iron on the green, I get it high and spin it versus a 5-iron, it's always an advantage. And these greens definitely help a guy that puts the ball in the air.
Honestly, I think that the firm, fast conditions allow the shorter or mid-length hitter an opportunity here, so the firmer and faster it gets. And I also think -- I'll say it again, I think the wind condition helps as well. If the wind is coming from the west, if you think about it, it makes all of the long Par-4s play in the wind. I don't want to play 7 or 14 into wind and I don't want to play 17 into the wind. I would rather have a short iron in my hand and a little downbreeze than a mid or longer iron into the wind.
That also again neutralizes the Par-5s again the other way. It just seems to me, I'm a lot more comfortable on the golf course when the wind is coming from the west than it is from the east.

Q. Harrington talked about when he was sitting around even par, 1-under, still feeling this sense of urgency because he was seeing scores being lower today. Is that something you felt a little bit, too, just the need to take advantage of these conditions, because maybe they are not going to be there the rest of the week?
JIM FURYK: I think I was a little surprised by the scores that were put up, still relatively early in the morning. The winds picked up later in the round and may be a little tougher this afternoon. I was a little surprised by the scoring but not really a sense of urgency. Not really; I didn't put a lot of stress on myself or a lot of -- I just never really felt like a forced issue and never really put a lot of sense of urgency.
I went out there really with a game plan to be patient, to play all of the shots and play the holes the way I planned and the best way I knew how, and not really try to pinch one in there or force one in there, because I know what happens here when you do that. I was able to stay real patient, and I think that's probably, again, that's why you get on those good rolls and why you just pick up that momentum as you go. You start knocking it close -- I stuck to my game plan, I had some accessible pins on those holes and I was able to hit good shots on them.

Q. Was there a stroke or two you left out there somewhere? Could it have been even lower?
JIM FURYK: I missed some makeable birdie putts. There's always strokes -- you might stale one here or there, but you always think about the ones you could have had. I hit really good birdie putts on 6,7,8 and 9. The only one I made was on 9. I hit it in there about six feet on 6 and was disappointed with that, but hit a really good putt and misread it. So, I can live with those.

Q. Phil mentioned the other day, you guys I think are born in a matter of days or weeks apart, you both turn 40 next year I think.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I want to say he's in June or April. I'm in May.

Q. He said he feels like he's got really five years left to drop the hammer and make things work. Do you think about stuff like that at all? I'm not saying your milk carton has an expiration date with Kenny Perry is winning at 49.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I think also, too, what's probably been really good for Kenny Perry in some respects is that his kids are kind of growing up now and I think most are out of the house, some are getting married. It's kind of allowed him and Sandy a little bit; he probably has re focused his game. They are such nice people, and I know he's a family man, and someone who worried about being around and being a good father.
There's probably parts of his career in his early 40s, he was probably more focused on that obviously and that's going to take away from things. So I think it also depends on where you are at in your career. I had kids a lot later than Kenny did. So through the same periods, we are just kind of doing it differently. Give it five, six, seven years from now, my kids are going to be -- six years from now they will be 12, 10 and 11. So I'm going to want to be home a little bit more and I won't be playing 28 events a year and that sort of thing.
Yeah, I think there's always a time frame. When that falls, you never know. You never know. I get it more probably than Phil does because I'm not long; so everyone thinks my expiration is going to end a lot quicker. (Laughter) The game is going the other way. Before my best year ever in 2006, I can't remember anymore who asked, but somebody asked me about, do you feel like the game is going to pass you by because you're short and I was ranked No. 2 in the world and he came back later in the year and said, "I guess you weren't really worried about it, were you"? (Laughter).
There's always a way to get the ball in the hole but I'm going to get shorter than Phil and Kenny, quicker. I still think I've got -- like you said, I've got at least five good years left in me. At that point I will want to slow down a little bit because of the kids. But golf will always be in my blood and competing will always be in my blood.

Q. I assume the course will change the rest of the weekend, how much will that factor into how much fun we will have? Do you perceive three more days like today where a lot of people are making birdies?
JIM FURYK: I don't see that happening, but I'll be real interested in seeing what the weather does tomorrow. If it rains, it will take a little bit of the firm and fast away. I'd like to see that rain be very -- if it was here, to be very mild and not really affect the golf course too much. I think the golf course will be a lot of fun on the weekend. It will firm up, dry out, greens will obviously get firmer, and you know, both Paddy and I said, there were pins that were accessible today; so that means that there are some that are not coming up.

Q. You said earlier this is the tournament you look forward to the most. Can you talk about what it is exactly about it?
JIM FURYK: I said that early in my career, when I went to each Major Championship, this is is the one that probably just -- in Pennsylvania, this was kind of like the opening of the season almost, for me. I had been playing a little bit of golf through March, but April was just starting to warm up and just starting to get to the golf course every day.
Masters has a tradition. It's the only Major that's played every year here, the history, the tradition. But anyone that lives up North and deals with shoveling snow in the winter, this opens up golf season. This is the first time the birds are singing and the sun is out and you're thinking about warm weather and playing golf. I looked forward to watching this on TV as a kid, and then also being a young player on TOUR, I want to say the PGA at Riviera, I made a double-bogey on the way in and finished a shot or two out of the top eight, and just missed qualifying here and I was mad. But turned around later on in the year and won at Las Vegas for my first win so, it was exciting to be invited for the first time.
ED HERLIHY: Thank you very much.

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