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May 4, 2010

Jim Furyk


MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Jim Furyk to the interview room. Jim is going to be making his 15th appearance at THE PLAYERS Championship, site of his home course here in Ponte Vedra Beach. If you'd start off talking a little bit about your thoughts coming into this week. You've had a great year with two wins already. You said you haven't been on the course yet so can't really talk about course condition, but just talk about your thoughts coming into this week and how you've been playing this year so far.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I'm obviously excited. It's good to be home, sleeping in your own bed. I've got a lot of support, family, friends, and it's nice. There's no substitute for sleeping at home and being at home this week. So I'm excited about that.
My game has been in pretty good shape. I feel like I've been playing pretty well, consistent, already two wins this year, so I'm excited. I feel like I've still got a lot of good golf ahead of me and a lot of big events starting this week. So interested in getting started.
I played real well last week. I felt like I played great on the weekend and struggled a little bit with the flat stick and didn't get a lot of putts to go, so I'm kind of anxious for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to kind of blow by and get started on Thursday.

Q. Does the kind of pressure on some local guys, I guess did it happen because some local guys did win it, David, Fred, Davis to a certain extent is local, but do people realize you don't see the course the other 51 weeks of the year ? You're just like all the other guys in the field, you're getting the same conditions they're getting, and if you want to play or practice out here it's not the same thing as what you're seeing here?
JIM FURYK: No, it's not. That's a good point. I think that the knowledge you can gain really is definitely not with the greens year-round. It would be more with sight lines off the tees.
The golf course has a lot of those long bunkers on the inside of the tee box -- or inside of the fairway. 1 is like that; 4 is like that; 5 is like that; 6 is like that. You have those long, stretching -- 7, long stretching bunkers off the tee. And sometimes on the doglegs the sight lines change whether you're into the wind, downwind, fast conditions, slow conditions.
I think you gain a little bit of an advantage really off the tee box of where you want to hit the ball maybe playing here year-round. But as far as iron shots into the greens or reading the greens, the other 51 weeks are, yeah, pretty worthless to be honest with you.
It's still good to be here, and I know the golf course well, and I've played a bunch of events. As he said, this will be my 15th, so I've seen it as much as most. I really enjoy the switch to May and the firmer and faster conditions.

Q. Does this golf course favor a particular type of player, because you've had a very broad range of winners from plinkers like Funk to bombers like Tiger, all manner in between? And if it doesn't, why do you suppose that is? Why is it such a democratic --
JIM FURYK: Off the tee box I don't think it really favors a style. I don't think there's more cuts or more draws or a bomb -- it's definitely not a bomber's paradise off the tee. It's very limiting for the Tigers and the Henrik Stensons of the world. On the greens I would say it favors someone who can hit the ball hard and high and spin the ball.
I don't think that -- I think working the ball off the tee is an advantage here. I'm not really sure working the ball into the greens is an advantage. And the reason I say that is usually when you work the ball into a green, you start the ball in the center of the green and you work it towards a pin or towards a pin that's hidden.
There is no center of the green out here very often to be honest with you, and if you think about the center of the first green, it's not a hump. If you think about the center of the 4th green it's on a hump. The center of the 13th green, you don't want to hit the center of the 13th green because if you get a side hill lie it might kick in the water.
I think into the greens here you want to hit the ball up in the air and hit it high and hit it soft and spin the ball. The greens probably favor a little bit more of a longer, stronger player. I think the tee shots probably favor the guy that's a little bit more accurate and can work the ball a little bit more.
I do agree with the fact that there's probably no style favored for the week. You know, conditions always dictate that. But I agree with you totally. I think that's why there's been a wide range of winners here.

Q. There's obviously the debate about where this tournament ranks, fifth major for years; some players recently have put it down further on the list with the emergence of tournaments like Quail Hollow. Where do you put this tournament on the schedule and where does it rank and why?
JIM FURYK: Fifth. You know, the majors are the majors. This is a very difficult golf course. It is the best field in golf, and because of that, I always -- I always rank the major championships right up there and this is the next event in line for me. And then you've got the World Golf Championships and then you've got your Quail Hollows and your big events. Colonial is a big one for me. Memorial is a big one for me. The ones I really love to play.

Q. Strength of field?
JIM FURYK: Strength of field here is second to none, so in my mind it's -- excluding the major championships, this is the best field -- including the major championships, it's the best field in golf.
But if you take those four tournaments out, I don't want to sit here and have the argument with you and battle this versus those. But it's an easy argument to battle this versus every other golf tournament. It's far and away, in my mind, the biggest event otherwise.

Q. Do you think since you talked about the shots into the green they're going to be critical this week? What is going to be the effect of the change in the grooves?
JIM FURYK: I don't think from the fairways, it's not a huge difference. I actually am probably hitting the ball -- if you measured the spin on my shots, it's going to be slightly less from the fairway. But because of the -- I seem to be hitting the ball higher this year than I have in the past, and I think those grooves tend to -- although they're spinning the ball more, I think they also tend to flight the ball down slightly, which makes sense.
If you were to spin the ball more and hit it higher, it would be a bad thing, because now you'd be hitting up-shooters. Usually when spin is reduced, height is gained, and vice versa if that makes sense.
You think of a cavity back or a golf club they make for an automatic Tour player that's meant to throw the ball way up in the air with all that weight down low, you usually have very little spin, which is a Catch 22. The shot looks prettier but you hit a high knuckle ball.
A guy like Hal Sutton would hit a shot like real flat and low but it would spin like crazy and stop on the green. I feel like from the fairway it really hasn't really made a big difference for me.
From the rough it has made a significant difference. I'm able to hit the ball up farther out of the rough now, and probably from 200 yards I like these grooves better out of the rough than I used to because I couldn't fly a 5-iron or a 3-iron on the green anyway anymore out of the rough. Now I can take a 6- or 7-iron and maybe get it hot and get it rolling up on the green.
That 135 shot with a little 9-iron or pitching wedge out of the rough is definitely more difficult. But I feel like our TOUR has made a significant -- they've definitely tried to keep rough height down this year in my opinion, and I think that it's not that they're extremely low, but Quail Hollow is a great example. That rough was as low as I've ever seen it, and still, it's a fun golf tournament, an exciting golf tournament. But they were able to then make the green firmer, make them faster, especially on the weekend. They were able to make them soft early in the week, that's why the scores were so low.
But with the groove change, I think the TOUR has tried to go out and not have just U.S. Open rough where we're hacking a wedge back into the middle of the fairway and they're giving us a chance to play. If you hit a good shot, great. But there's always an opportunity for a flier and bogeys and double bogeys, and I think the players enjoy that.

Q. Just kind of a two-parter. You've played 15 years, you've had several Top 5s, Top 6s here. Is there one thing or two things that have held you back from winning on this course, and given the fact that you've won twice this year already, are you coming in in a better position this year more so than the previous years? Does that make sense?
JIM FURYK: It does. I'm deciding whether I want to tell you the truth or lie to be honest with you (laughing).

Q. How about both?
JIM FURYK: No, I have to tell the truth. Quite honestly it's an age of architecture that you know that I've never been all that comfortable with. When I stand on most of the holes early on in my career I was not comfortable with this golf course at all. It's a manufactured golf course.
What Pete Dye is really, really good at is taking a very difficult piece of land, and this was swamp land at one time. He took a very, very difficult piece of land and made a very difficult golf course out of it.
But in doing that, you have to push a lot of dirt around. He's got a lot of sharp edges. We talked about those long bunkers where you're not sure how much you're supposed to bite off. It's an awkward look. Whistling Straits is right down that alley. It's probably the most awkward and the most intimidating and the most -- I've heard his shapers -- he calls it visually disturbing. It's the most visually disturbing golf course I've ever played.
This one to me was like that early in my career. Now that I've played here a lot, I've gotten used to it, and it's not disturbing to me off the tee. I know where I'm supposed to put it, I know what's good, what's bad, and where I should put the ball off the tee. Early in my career I think I struggled just because I was never comfortable on the golf course.
And the second part of that is, yes, I think winning and having confidence at this point and playing so well early in the year. Because usually if you look back at my record, the only wins I've ever had on the West Coast have been Hawai'i. I've won once in my career at Doral, and most of my wins have come at this point or later. So out of 15 wins in my career, over ten of them have come later.
I guess I won Sony once and Kapalua once and Doral -- well, now Tampa. So 11 of my wins have usually come after this point, or 10 of them now because I have Hilton Head now.
But usually once I leave Florida, the weather starts to heat up in the summer is when I've usually done my most damage. And then back in the day if you count Vegas. That's hot weather, so hot weather is usually good for me.

Q. 90 degrees this week.
JIM FURYK: But I think a lot of it was probably not being as comfortable on the course early. That was the truthful part, whether I wanted to mention it or not, I do feel more comfortable here now and playing so well at this point will help out.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about what Rory did last week given that golf course and the difficulty and just --
JIM FURYK: He played right behind me. It was pretty amazing. I know we left a lot of birdies out there for him because I couldn't find that many of them.
It was really impressive. I think everyone knows that Quail Hollow is a very demanding golf course. The greens are very severe, and they had them somewhat firm but very quick on Sunday, and there was quite a bit of wind out there. To go out and make however many birdies it was, eight, nine, ten birdies and an eagle or whatever he made and shoot 10-under par 62, I've got to think that that was probably the low round of the day by four shots.
Maybe 66, 67 was the next best score, that to me usually -- when you see guys go out and shoot 61, 62, it's a great score no matter where you shoot it, but if there's a whole bunch of 63 and 64s behind it you know that it was out there. When you see a guy that goes and shoots 62-under the gun to win a golf tournament in the fourth round and the next best round is 67, it's a very good round of golf.
And I think -- he's so young, he's got so much talent. He's won in Europe. It was just a matter of time and a matter of playing over here in the States more before he'd win a golf tournament.

Q. Have you ever had 12 threes on one card?
JIM FURYK: I doubt it. I doubt it. I know he finished with five straight; that's what I heard when I finished. I got to the scorer's tent and the television was on, and it said he finished with five threes.

Q. I think it was six, actually.
JIM FURYK: Six? They were wrong. What did he shoot on the back?

Q. 30.
JIM FURYK: I mean, quite amazing. Just a very good round of golf. I think what was even more amazing is I came out yesterday to build a golf club and to hit a few putts, and he was on the range when I got here. I got a kick out of that. I'm not sure what he was working on.

Q. What do you anticipate the USGA doing with the rough at Pebble? Anything beyond the graduated rough that they've used?
JIM FURYK: I would assume that -- I'm expecting the rough to be similar to what we've seen the last four or five years would be my guess. But since Mike has taken over in setting up the golf course, I thought the graduated rough is just, I think, a great idea and a novel idea.
The only problem is it tends to push the fans maybe a little bit farther away from the holes. But as far as protecting the integrity of the golf tournament, I think it's phenomenal.
The one year where the rough was quite brutal was at Oakmont where it was really penal. Other than that, it hasn't really been over the top or not playable. At Pebble with the severity of the greens there, if they can get some dry conditions and a little firmness and quickness in those greens, they don't need a lot of rough, especially with some of those proposed new tee boxes. I'm not sure how we're going to hit the 9th green from on top of the hill with -- putting us over 200 yards, 210, 215, 220 yards, that greens looks like it's the size of this water bottle. It's about the same shape, too.
Yeah, I don't think they need a lot of rough, and I don't expect it to be much different than previous years.

Q. You don't think they'll make any sort of changes based on what you were talking about with the grooves and what you've seen of the rough on TOUR? You don't think the USGA will fall in line and cut back even more?
JIM FURYK: I don't expect Oakmont-like rough, but it's also the U.S. Open. I don't expect guys will be whipping 5-irons out of the -- they have the fairway and then the little strip of shortcut and then they've got primary, secondary, however you get to it. Then you usually have that five-yard strip of something that's playable. I don't expect that next patch to have us hitting 3-irons and 5-irons out of it, put it that way. It's still the U.S. Open.

Q. Could you talk about the three finishes holes here, how you approach them under the gun and whether you think they rank up there with some of the best?
JIM FURYK: I think when you're trailing, you look at them, there's a lot of opportunity. And when you're leading you probably -- I've never been in that situation, but you probably don't see the opportunity as much as the possibility for someone to catch you.
I think the last three makes every tournament -- even with a three-shot lead, a four-shot lead like Rory coming down the stretch last week, no one is turning their television off, or shouldn't be, because a lot of 3s and 6s can be made at 16. Who knows what can happen at 17 until you put the ball on the green. And 18 has got two shots with water left. If you bail right, 4 is going to be a very tough score.
You've got the opportunities, and with that back left pin on 18, you've seen some birdies. You can bring the ball in from right to left, land it in the middle right of the green and it will chase it back there and it'll give you a pretty good birdie putt at it.
You can make birdie on all three of those holes. 16 is obviously a good eagle opportunity. 17 and 18 are tough birdies, but it's possible, but the chance of making a big number is there, as well.
Even with a two-shot lead standing on the 18th tee, you've got to feel like if I make birdie I've got a chance of winning this golf tournament.

Q. So is that what makes finishes holes great, the opportunity to either make a high number or a birdie?
JIM FURYK: I don't think that's the only thing. I think that's what makes these holes so exciting, and that's what makes this finish so exciting, is that there's a chance for a lot to happen. You can make up three or four shots on those last three holes very easily.

Q. 17, they may lose the back left pin placement because of that's an area they had to resod, and one of the rules guys told me they might have two front locations this year. How does that look as the week unfolds on 17?
JIM FURYK: A couple more chances for a hole-in-one, I guess, for the fans. I haven't seen the back left of 17 in close to two months, so I haven't been out there since Doral. Yeah, I did. I think maybe before Augusta I might have played nine holes.
But I haven't seen it. And obviously the four pins I can usually think of, everyone knows the Sunday pin, everyone knows that front pin. That's usually on Thursday or Friday, and you get a back left and kind of a back center-ish right up on top.
I think that back left is actually a very difficult pin. It's enticing. It makes you want to fire at it even though you shouldn't. I actually won't miss it to be dead honest with you.
Trying to put two on the front is going to be difficult, because I'm not sure there's enough area in there to get it -- the front pin is somewhat sketchy as it is if you think about like the putt that Tiger made that year. The famous one where he came down and broke 16 different ways and S'd in.
There's a lot of guys with 15-footers that week that didn't get their first one within four or five feet. When you get the greens at a certain pace there's not a lot of pin placements out there. Those two won't be very far apart, and if there's going to be two of them, it'll be a Thursday and a Saturday because they won't go back-to-back.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you, Jim, and good luck this week.

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