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April 29, 2009

Jim Furyk


MARK STEVENS: We'd like to welcome Jim Furyk to the interview room. Jim won this event in 2006. If you'd just start off and give us some general comments about the course, how it was set up today and your thoughts coming into the week.
JIM FURYK: The course is in great shape, as it's been here for a lot of years. There's definitely a different setup. We've come here a lot of times where the rough has been very deep, thick. It's been a huge premium on accuracy, and the rough is very low this year, as low as I've ever seen it and probably as low as I've seen it in almost any TOUR event I've ever played, outside of Harbour Town. It's obviously a different style.
I assume the greens are going to get very firm and quick, and it's a good golf course. I think that it'll play well in both styles. I'm anxious to see how it pans out through the week.

Q. Are you surprised to see it that way?
JIM FURYK: Well, I'm not, because we got a little heads-up in our green sheet or information sheet that the rough was going to be cut at two inches, and that kind of -- and the green speeds were targeted a little quicker than they were in the past. They were talking about possibly 13, which they're not right now, but if they get these greens firm and fast I don't think it matters if there's rough out there or not, it's going to be really difficult. But it's definitely a lot different setup than we've seen in the past.

Q. Were you surprised when you got your green sheet?
JIM FURYK: Yes, because it's not what we've seen here in years past. On one hand I know there's -- it doesn't matter what they do to the golf course. 50 percent of the players want to see rough and the other 50 percent don't. The guys that hit it crooked don't want to see rough, and the guys that hit it straight are happy to have it. It doesn't matter what they do.
I think it's a good enough golf course it doesn't matter. Everyone likes the tournament. The golf course is wonderful. Charlotte is a great city. I think the setup is not going to affect the tournament, but if you get a tournament -- if you put a course out there that I think is okay, I'm kind of wishy-washy about, and then they set it up in a fashion that's not favorable to my game, I'm just not going to play. It makes it very easy. This is one of those tournaments that probably has a little bit more of a green light to kind of mess around with the setup and see what's best and what's not because the players like the course so much and support this event so well.

Q. Along those lines, in the tournaments you've played this year from I guess Pebble onward, have you noticed any more maybe variety in setup than we've had in previous years?
JIM FURYK: What do you mean by variety?

Q. Not everything being the same. I mean, they may try something one week and something different the next, whether it's hole locations, whether it's rough. There was a lot of talk last year about sameness a lot of the weeks.
JIM FURYK: I don't know, I think there's certain courses that are meant to be set up certain ways. Does that make sense? Like you're just not going to set up Augusta with high rough. It wasn't meant to do that.
I don't think TPC at Sawgrass -- in my mind when I look at the setup and I look at the golf course and try to figure out what Pete was thinking when he designed it, I see a golf course that has very little rough on it, has a lot of collection areas. We couldn't play it that way in March. Now we have a little bit more of a green light in May, so a lot of it is due to the conditions and the time of year. I still think we could play THE PLAYERS Championship with less rough and more collection. The rough probably not as much, but I think the collection areas get covered up by rough too much, and the ball is supposed to feed away from the greens and be in closely mown tight areas and you're supposed to use your imagination like you would at Augusta.
This golf course, it's still relatively the same golf course -- it's going to play the same way, it's just going to give us an opportunity to play from the rough more often, play from sort of errant shots. But the protection of it is going to be different. Like I said, if they're planning on making the greens quicker, which is what I read, I assume they're going to get firmer, so it's going to be a little bit different style and different look, but it's a good golf course either way.

Q. What was the environment like at Bethpage, and have you seen anything like that anywhere else over the years as far as frenzy?
JIM FURYK: It was a -- frenzy?

Q. It seemed to be a participatory Open with the fans.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, it was New York. I don't know how else to describe it. It was New York. I think when you're playing well and everything is going your way, that loudness is all in support, and when you're not playing well and when things aren't going your way -- I'm sure Sergio didn't have the best time. You can take it the wrong way.
I played very poorly on Friday's round. I had a couple guys let me know it walking off the 18th. They told me how they really felt about my game at that point.

Q. Right when you really needed to hear it, huh?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, it's not worth fighting back. Actually they were probably right, it wasn't all that good (laughter). But that's kind of part of New York. It's part of New York sports, and if you're a Yankee and you're Derek Jeter and you're playing bad, it doesn't matter if you're Derek Jeter or not, they're still going to let you know.
Philly has a little of that in them, too, where I grew up. I think that's part of all sports in New York, and it's a wonderful venue and a great place to play, and the people in that area are very proud of that golf course. It's where they grew up, it's a public golf course. They've obviously since gone in and renovated it, they change it for the tournament, but it's something to be proud of. It's a great place to play.

Q. That kind of feedback is a little rare in this culture, isn't it, where usually you get the get-'em-tomorrow crowd?
JIM FURYK: Well, you're always -- I don't want to paint a terrible picture. I don't mind someone being forward. I'd rather someone tell me how they really felt about me than rather than just kind of pitty-pat around the situation and be fake to you, and New York is not a place like that. It's a kind of a blunt atmosphere, and it's fine, it's where you stand, so I don't mind that at all.

Q. I'd be curious if you recall a difference in the gallery from Bethpage to a little tonier place at Shinnecock?
JIM FURYK: Absolutely.

Q. Same island.
JIM FURYK: Absolutely, a little different atmosphere. Do you want me to elaborate on that?

Q. If you're going to make it up, don't.
JIM FURYK: If I'm going to make it up? You mean if I'm going to pitty-pat around the question?
Yeah, it was definitely more verbal. There was more of a frenzy, to steal a word, absolutely at Bethpage than there was at Shinnecock, absolutely.

Q. Kind of a reflection of the club almost?
JIM FURYK: But it shouldn't be that way because the patrons shouldn't be a reflection of -- the U.S. Open crowd is going to be a U.S. Open crowd, whether you're at Bethpage or Oakmont or Shinnecock or wherever it may be. Obviously it should be a reflection of the area you're playing in.

Q. Those are the Hamptons.
JIM FURYK: Well, New York in general. That could be North Jersey, Manhattan, people driving down from Syracuse for that matter. But you're probably going to see less people from California and such and Pittsburgh than when you go to Torrey or Oakmont. But it should be a reflection of the whole area, not just a tiny little area right around the club.

Q. Probably more member badges at Shinnecock than Bethpage.
JIM FURYK: I assume Bethpage doesn't have any members. Yeah, it was definitely a more boisterous crowd. The place is a perfect venue for a U.S. Open, that's the easiest way.

Q. Because?
JIM FURYK: Well, one, it's a good golf course; it's never going to get too short. There are five courses there to the best of my knowledge. There's four courses to put corporate tents on and hospitality, an entire state park for parking.

Q. Not for the press.
JIM FURYK: Well, maybe that got that one right (laughter). I'm teasing.
They have all sorts of room, and it's just that old style of golf course built in 1920. That just doesn't exist anymore. It's perfect. And then just plant it right there in New York close to Manhattan with the draw of the corporate dollars. I can't think of a more perfect scenario to be honest with you.
It's public. I don't think that's a big deal. To me that's not a big deal. If it's public, private, I don't care, I just want to play a good golf course, and that one is a good golf course.
They love to make a great story out of it, and I'm sure it's a good story, but if we go to a private course that I think is a dog track, which we don't do for the U.S. Open, but public, I think it's a neat story, but it makes no difference to me. I just want to play a good golf course.

Q. What do you think about the fact that it is a public golf course and people want to play it so much they sleep in their car? It's one of the ways to get on Bethpage Black is guys go there the night before, they get in line in their car, the whole thing. I just wonder what that means to you or if you can understand why they would want to.
JIM FURYK: Well, what it means to me, I mean, if they stood in line to come to the golf tournament, stood in line and slept in their cars to be the first in line to get tickets to the tournament, it would mean a lot to me. But to go play a golf course, definitely I would not sleep in my car to go play a golf course.
Now, obviously I've got a lot of great privileges that most people know I get to play a lot of good golf courses that the average person can't get to. But I don't imagine myself sleeping in a car to get up to go play a round of golf. But I think it tells you how special that place is to the people that live there and how good a golf course it is.

Q. Getting back to this week --
JIM FURYK: I give them credit for their toughness.

Q. Getting back to this week, as you imagine the different ways this course can play, do you prefer it to be as fast as it's playing right now, the fairways this firm?
JIM FURYK: I love firm, fast golf courses. You know, at the end of the week I'll be better prepared to say whether I liked it with rough or not with rough. I'm not dodging the question, I just want to see it in tournament shape. I want to see what they do to it. You get somewhat of a feel of what's going to happen on Tuesday and Wednesday, but you can't ever really quite understand what the conditions will be Saturday and Sunday if it stays dry and it keeps getting firmer and faster how that's going to pan out, how they're going to set the golf course up.
I've got an idea. Being a guy that hits the ball relatively straight when I'm playing well, you would think that I'd really like the rough. I'm comfortable at the U.S. Open sites. I've won here with that type of setup. But I'm interested. I want to kind of see how this plays out. I love Harbour Town with no rough. You ruin that golf course by putting rough on it.
It's interesting that -- what's interesting to me is they've had so much success here, and you hear everyone talk about this being one of our best, if not the best regular event we have on the TOUR, and then they just flip-flop the setup and do something totally different. I find that very interesting.
You know what, it's such a good golf course and such a good tournament, probably in the long run no one is going to -- part of the guys are going to be -- we know who a couple of them are, they're going to be in here and be raving about how great the setup is, and one of them is left-handed. (Laughter.) If he's here this week, he's going to love the way it's set up and he's going to tell you about it and he's going to make sure Johnny knows and he's going to make sure everyone knows how great it is because I've seen him do it before. And then there's going to be a few guys back there kicking the dirt, wishing the guys missing the fairways aren't going to have such an easy play when they're missing the fairway.

Q. In the year you won it, you won on a Sunday when it was raining so you've also played it when it was a little bit slower.
JIM FURYK: I've played both ways. The slow kind of evens out the field, I think. All golf professionals want to see the place play firm and fast. It's that much harder to control the golf ball, you have to be that much more accurate and crisp, and I think it separates mediocre shots from good shots a lot more.

Q. Playing with Lynn Swann at Pebble most of the years, do you get excited to play every day because you're playing with Lynn Swann, or do you think Lynn gets more excited to play every day because he's playing with you?
JIM FURYK: Well, I would probably think I'm probably more excited to play with Lynn. But if I said the opposite, I would be pretty arrogant.

Q. My thinking being, I was kind of thinking of the Peyton-Tiger thing.
JIM FURYK: I think what's interesting, for someone on the outside, for my wife to stand on the outside looking in and for me to walk up to -- I like meeting athletes. I played ball when I was a kid. Now, it's great to go there and you meet actors and movie stars and people from all different walks of life that are very famous for what they do, but I wanted to play ball as a kid. I wanted to be a professional athlete. I probably got as close as I could being a professional golfer (laughter).
But I get more excited about meeting athletes than anything else because that's what I loved to do as a kid is play ball. So to play with someone that played for the team that I grew up loving who's obviously a Hall-of-Famer, someone I looked at to as a kid and now becoming friends with him, I actually keep in touch and talk to him quite a few times throughout the year, and he's actually just a very friendly, very nice guy. So I look forward to it, but when I meet those people, my wife says, wow, it's really funny watching because that guy was excited to meet you.
I just think I play golf for a living. To me it's not that special, but to them it's probably not all that special they played football because that's what they did all their life. It's a weird scenario, I think, for me.

Q. If you could change one rule in golf, which one would it be and why?
JIM FURYK: Just one? I mean, there's so many stupid rules (laughter). I don't quite understand the difference at times between a hazard and a lateral hazard. I don't see why there's two -- like when you hit it in the water on 11 at Augusta why you have to go back to that ball drop or line the ball up with the pin. Why can't you take two club lengths like you usually would? It just seems very, very awkward to me. I guess you're usually supposed to use the yellow line whenever possible and then the red is kind of like a -- when you can't use yellow, use red. It seems like we should have one hazard line and get on with it, and it would make it a lot easier. To me it's just a way to punish us more for hitting it in there.

Q. Which one would you eliminate?
JIM FURYK: Well, red gives you the most number of options, so I would probably stick in there. You know, it doesn't matter, just draw up a set of rules, give me three or four options and off we go. Actually one has three options, the other has five, so you can figure that one out.
MARK STEVENS: Jim, thank you for taking the time. Good luck this week.

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