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September 23, 2009

Jim Furyk


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Jim Furyk into the interview room here at THE TOUR Championship. Jim, it's been a steady progression for you through the Playoffs, T 15 at Barclays, T 8 at Barclays and then T 2 at BMW. Now that your destiny is in your own hands, it could be a great week for you.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I always look forward to coming here. It's obviously a testament to having a good season. But I've always liked East Lake. I've had some success here. I just think it's a good golf course. So I don't really think it favors anyone's particular style or type of player.
You know, it's a great opportunity I have this week. I haven't won a golf tournament, and that's obviously what I've been hearing pretty much all of last week (laughter), is I haven't won a tournament this year, I control my own destiny, I'm in good position. And the way the Playoffs are set up, if you play a good event here or there at the right time, you could leap up into that Top 5. I haven't actually looked at the points, but what I think is interesting is everyone keeps talking about the Top 5, the Top 5, the Top 5. The nice part is you control your own destiny but there's a lot of people who have an opportunity to win this golf tournament and then win the FedExCup. The pay I look at it, it's a unique opportunity to have, and I come to every event trying to win the golf tournament, and the goal this week is to go out and play as hard as I can, jockey for position, put myself in position for Sunday, and hopefully can play well enough to win.

Q. Do you ever stand over a putt thinking about money, even way back in the early years when you knew how much something was worth? Because there's a possibility of an $11.35 million putt.
JIM FURYK: When you're gambling you do. I gambled a lot as a kid, and even on the Nationwide Tour. We played on Tuesdays, and when I was a kid I always played for something, whether it was a dollar or a Coke, not that I would teach kids to gamble, but I think it's in our blood as professional golfers as far as -- I think there's always -- you have to put something on the line when you practice. There has to be a consequence at the end.
I enjoyed playing for something, and yeah, when you were a little kid, $2 and a press, $4 is a lot of money. I shouldn't say little, but when you're a 16 year old, $4 was -- I didn't want to lose $4, so yeah, I stood over putts thinking, this putt is either to halve or lose $2 or lose $4, and it's a lot different obviously than $11 million.

Q. When is the last time you played keeping score without anything on the line, without money or a Coke?
JIM FURYK: I always keep score when I play, but I don't enjoy playing when there's nothing on the line, and I actually try to avoid it at all costs to be honest with you. It's just no fun. I shouldn't say it that way. I enjoy golf, but I enjoy competing.
As a kid I played every other sport and enjoyed games, and practice was so that you could get better for the game that came up. That was the ultimate test.
And so the first summer I played golf, I played for about 60 days, played with a buddy every day, same guy. We'd go out, and he liked Jack Nicklaus, and I'd be Arnold Palmer, and off we'd go, and we'd play our match, chip and putt after the round, always have little games. At the end of the year he was in a golf tournament, and I didn't know much about that, so I got involved. I joined, got into the event and played my first golf tournament, and I was hooked.
Since then I've really played every round of golf and every practice session thinking about the next event, how I was going to prepare, and that's just the way I really know the game.

Q. So $11 million would help you focus maybe more than being a distraction?
JIM FURYK: You know, I don't want to put it in the sense that -- they're obviously two different things. I haven't stood over putts on TOUR thinking -- everyone gets done. There's always the rundown. You're like, I'd better make that putt or it'll cost me 30 grand. Everyone looks at that sheet.
But while I'm out there, third is better than fourth, fourth is better than fifth, and there's a lot of pride and you want to play as well as you can. Ultimately you can't look at that sheet or you'll just drive yourself crazy throughout the year. So I don't really let it bother me.
This is obviously a unique situation, if a guy stands over a putt for $11 million, it's impossible that he's not going to realize what's going on. It makes this event unique. Now that it will come down to the last tournament, it makes this golf tournament unique. It makes the whole -- I think it brings the whole FedExCup together. I think a lot of people in the middle of the season still were confused, had no idea what was going on, and somewhere around the second and third playoff event, somewhere around Chicago, TV must have just beat it into someone about the Top 5, because the people I've talked to in the last week seem to be getting it a lot better and comprehending what's going on. They might not be able to tell you about the points and this or that, but everyone I talked to last week, whether it was friends or acquaintances or what have you, they knew I was in the Top 5, and if he knew if I won the TOUR Championship I won the whole thing, and they didn't know that a month ago. Someone has done a good job of getting that word out.
As I said, it's an opportunity. I'm viewing it as -- if you stand over a putt trying not to miss it, you're not going to make it. I'm standing over it saying I've got a great opportunity, let's knock it in. I'm going to treat it like every other event I've played in through the entire year. Hopefully I do a little better than I did the entire year. I'm prepared to win the golf tournament, and first and foremost, winning that tournament will mean the most to me. I haven't won in over two years. You all let me know about it and remind me, and obviously it pisses me off more than anyone else.
First and foremost, I want to win an event. I may only play this one and one more throughout the rest of the year, so I don't have that many opportunities left. That would be first and foremost.
But it's hard to avoid. There's a $10 million chunk, and at the end you add it on, and that's a -- it'll definitely be a -- hopefully it comes down to the end of the tournament and hopefully it's dramatic, and I think it'll be very cool.

Q. What would you do with $10 million?
JIM FURYK: What would I do? I wouldn't give you any; I know that.

Q. Then what would you do?
JIM FURYK: I'm conservative. I'd put it away. I'm not really -- I wouldn't say that I am the most conservative or the -- I don't spend that much money, but I don't need any more than I have. So I'll put it away and make sure that when I retire from golf I don't have to worry too damned much about it; how's that?

Q. I don't mean to press on that or sound too blunt, but I think most people would look at you or people in your class of golf as having done well enough that you're pretty well set for life. Does $10 million even mean anything to you? I think there might be a perception out there.
JIM FURYK: Does $10 million mean anything to Donald Trump? Just curious. Everyone has got to shake their head one way or the other. I know which way I'm shaking it.
There's only two things, Zinger, I guess, got it right. There's only two things he ever choked for, one was winning a golf tournament and the other one was money. I guess, hell, it's a big deal. It's a lot of money. I think the best players out here are driven by history, but you can't start something brand new and three years later expect it to have a rich tradition in history.
The only other Avenue you have to go is cash. It's piqued everyone else's interest outside this room. I know it's piqued all your interests. It's the first thing we talked about. And yeah, I think the players, it definitely catches your eye and definitely piques your interest.

Q. You obviously just said a couple times that you're thinking about trying to win this week; that's foremost. But are you aware that there is a scenario or two where if you don't win you could still win the FedExCup? Just curious if you've looked at it that much?
JIM FURYK: I saw the math. Earlier when the year started, they sent us the sheets. I assumed if Tiger finished so far down, and I finished second place that -- I'm sure there's a mathematical way. But honestly, I just haven't bothered to -- I heard someone said that -- Golf Channel or someone like that set out a scenario for every player that was written out. I want to say John Senden is 30th, so for John Senden to win the FedExCup here's what would have to happen. He'd have to win, Tiger would have to finish here, Stricker would have to finish here. I know there's a scenario for all of us, but the only way really is to go out there and play golf. If it comes down to the end on a Saturday night and I've still got a chance to win the FedExCup, and even if I don't win the tournament, one of y'all is going to remind me how that's going to work out. I don't really have to worry about it. Right now it's just go play golf and have fun, and as I said, it's an opportunity, so I'm going to enjoy it.

Q. Kind of along that same line, you know where you stand now in the points. As you go further along in the week, do you keep track of that? Do you have a numbers guru? Or do you just play it out and wait and see what happens in the last couple holes?
JIM FURYK: No, I'm not worried about that at all. It's on the boards, though, where you would finish at the end. I'll look at the leaderboard, but it's going to be for what's leading, where I fit in, the whole scheme of things, what I need to do to play better and finish well in the tournament. So I won't be looking at exactly where I finish in the FedExCup.
Ultimately it'll matter; a lot of it is in my retirement and different things, and it's a nice chunk of cash. But past that, I mean, there's really nothing I can do other than try to play well.

Q. Just curious, do you like the way the new point system is set up now compared to what it was before?
JIM FURYK: Everyone likes it now compared to what it was before. But I think it was pretty -- the first year everyone felt like you couldn't move around enough. Last year it was crazy not having Paddy here. So we probably didn't put our best foot forward the first two years and come up with a good system. The guys we hired from MIT probably dropped the ball a little bit. But this year is definitely better, and the status quo -- I'm sure Commissioner obviously said let's let it all play out and we'll decide at the end. That's our status quo.
I still think maybe the first year it probably -- I ended up kind of getting the bad end of the stick; last year I got the good end of the stick. This year so far I've got the good end of the stick. To try to take yourself out of the picture and look, I think the points were a little too volatile. What were they, five times? I could almost swear when it was brought to the players they set four, and then it ended up five. But my memory is not that good, so it could have been five. But that seems to be a little too volatile to me. I still think we played those first 30 events or whatever it was for a reason, and they should probably weigh in a little bit more important than they did this year. But that's just my opinion.
I like the reward I got for a really good season other than some idiot finishing second at the last event and jumping up in the Top 5 (laughter).

Q. Jim, I was hoping I could get you to talk about the bye week. Did you feel like you needed it, and in context with other sports, sort of the perception of the average sports fan saying, oh, these guys are golfers, why do they need to take a week off in the middle of the Playoffs, they're not getting banged up, but obviously you played a lot of golf, and maybe you were golfed out.
JIM FURYK: I played six of the last seven weeks. I don't think you get that physically tired, but a little bit, and mentally tired. No one is feeling -- it's like feeling bad for a kicker because he had to run down the field and make a tackle. No one is feeling real bad for him, and no one is feeling bad for us that we're playing golf every day in beautiful places and making a good living. I like the idea of having the week off.
What we have to be real careful with in the future is how it falls with the Ryder Cup and The Presidents Cup, how the weeks -- you don't want to make the best players in the world feeling tired or start playing five weeks in a row around big events. I think it's good for the buildup. I think it's just like -- as a football fan, it drives me crazy that you play the championship games, you take a week off, and then you have to wait two weeks for the Super Bowl. It drives me absolutely insane.
But the buildup and the anticipation is good, as well, from a media standpoint. It allows the two teams to get healthy. We're doing kind of a similar thing. I think it's good for the buildup. A lot has been talked about it in the week off. You know, I think it was good, to be honest with you.
I liked it. Did I need the week off? Yeah, I think you mentally prepare. If I had to come to the TOUR Championship, I would have been raring to go. I had just finished second and would have been raring to go to tee it up on Thursday, but in my mind I was set, okay, Sunday is done, I've got a week off and Monday I wake up and feel totally different. If I have to go, the adrenaline is there and I'm ready to go. If I don't, that all leaves and you feel stiff. I think your mind gets you ready for things and you can do more that way.

Q. Off topic slightly, but it's coming right up, The Presidents Cup. Harding Park, you played there in '05, had a good tournament, Top 15. Just your thoughts on going back to that venue, not a regular TOUR venue, public course. What do you think about that?
JIM FURYK: I thought it was a great golf course. I enjoyed it. I think the comments on the course were great when we were there for the World Golf Championship. I think it's a super venue. I know the weather could probably be a touch iffy, probably can't be any colder than it is in the summer there, so we should be all right.
You know, I'm looking forward to it. I always love the events. I always love hanging out with the other 11 guys. We've got Freddie Couples, everyone is making a big deal out of Michael Jordan being in our team room. I think that will be a lot of fun.
But I enjoy the camaraderie, I enjoy playing with some of the best players in the world. I learn little things and tips. We all make fun of each other, take shots at each other, have fun until Thursday and then start pulling for each other again.
So it's a good -- I feel really blessed to have played on as many teams as I have and to have had that experience over and over again, and I don't take it for granted. I really enjoy it.

Q. To phrase this in a different way, you could win the FedExCup without having won a tournament this year. If that happens, would you be okay with that?
JIM FURYK: Well, I'd be like Sylvester, I just swallowed a Tweety bird and that would put a big smile on my face. But obviously that probably wouldn't be good for the system.
The thing I probably haven't enjoyed for the whole week is the what-if, the new points. Until something happens, what would you do with the money if you won it? Not to pick on your question, but I've had people -- and I have no problem with that, either, but I've had people ask what if, what if, what if, all the way down the line. It all doesn't really matter until we tee it up and go figure it out.
I don't think that someone should be able to win the championship without winning a golf tournament. Obviously it would be a testament to a good, solid season. You've played well, but if you're going to win a championship, you're going to have to win something along the way, in my opinion. I know mathematically it could happen, but at the end I'd have to sit here and look at y'all and say, it's not my damned fault. I'll take the cash and I've got no problem with it.
Yeah, if I were to sit here -- you know, it's easy to say it beforehand, but I'd say the same thing afterwards, it's not supposed to work out that way. It would be a little anti-climactic.
JOHN BUSH: Jim, thanks for coming by. Play well this week.

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