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June 30, 2010

Jim Furyk


NELSON SILVERIO: We welcome Jim Furyk here to the interview room at the AT&T National. Thanks for spending a few minutes with us here. You got a chance to play in the pro-am. Just get us started by general thoughts on the course and coming back to the Philadelphia area for the PGA TOUR.
JIM FURYK: Well, obviously it's great for me to -- I'm excited about being back in southeast PA. I have a lot of people out there pulling for me, a lot of friends here this week, so I'm excited about that. I haven't had that opportunity very often in my career, and there is a ton of people out there right now for a Wednesday pro-am. It's amazing.
You can tell there hasn't been a lot of golf in this area. It's a shame. There's a lot of history here in Philadelphia, a lot of great courses, and it's nice we'll be back here for 2010 and '11 at Aronimink and the U.S. Open is coming in 2013 at Merion, so I think it's great this area has a golf tournament.
The golf course is very, very tough. I knew its history; I knew it hosted major championship, was supposed to host another one I think around 1990. I'm probably, even so, taken aback by its difficulty. I think it's a very tough golf course. It's tough to get the ball in the fairways. They're pitched at a lot of angles from left to right and right to left. You have to work the ball well off the tee. The greens are very big but are cut up into smaller sections. There's a lot of slope, a lot of undulation, and they're already quite firm.
I think scoring is going to be very difficult. Add to that, there's probably the thickest and the longest rough we've had for a PGA TOUR event this year. So I expect scoring to be difficult. It's a tough golf course and a good test.

Q. You said at the AT&T in the past that you've liked Congressional as a course. Are these similar venues in your mind, or do you prefer one or the other?
JIM FURYK: We'll see. Time will tell on that one. I think that I've had a lot of success at Congressional. I've played well there in the U.S. Open, finished in the Top 5 in the couple of those. So it's very dear to my heart. My caddie is actually a member there, so it's dear to my heart.
I like this golf course. I'd say Congressional probably -- I don't think this -- I like the golf course and I think it suits my game. Congressional probably suits it a touch more. But I'll be anxious to see the setup and how the golf course plays once the gun goes off tomorrow. Play well here for a couple years, and I'll like it just as much as Congressional.

Q. Are you surprised at the setup, that it's this difficult? Were you looking for a little bit more of a vacation this week?
JIM FURYK: No, I don't think anyone was looking for a vacation. I just had never played the golf course. I was expecting different, to be honest with you. I had a different -- I think what I imagined in my mind. I had never been here before, and I know they renovated it. I didn't see it beforehand, so now I just see what it looks like after. I just had a little different picture of the golf course in my mind.
Like I said, it's still very good, I've just pictured it differently. The green complexes I had -- I didn't realize -- you think of old, something that's been here for -- I don't know when this club was started, but '20s, '28, so something that's been here for over 80 years, I don't imagine greens this size. Some of the slopes on the greens have a what I would consider somewhat modern feature to them. 17th green would be a perfect example of that.
So it's just not what I pictured in my head. I knew it would be a good golf course, I knew it would be tough, and it is definitely all of both of those. It's just probably a little different style than what I had projected in my head.

Q. We have four golfers here this week who are winners who are in their 20s. I wondered if you could give us your opinion about the significance of younger players, more international players winning. What's going on on the TOUR with that?
JIM FURYK: Actually I'm shocked it's only four to be honest with you. It seems like we definitely have a lot of great young players out on TOUR right now, but I think we did in 2000, I think we did in 1990, as well. You know, 1990, you all were talking about Phil Mickelson in college and Scott Verplank being a young player, and then in 2000 it was another group of guys, and in the mid-'90s it was Phil Mickelson and David Duval and Justin Leonard. I got thrown in there, Ernie Els at that time.
Now we're 40, so it's the next group of guys coming through, and I think there's always going to be great young talent. It seems like the talent gets better younger, but that being said, we've got Scott Verplank that won as an amateur and Phil that won as an amateur back in the late '80s, early '90s.
It seems like you have more guys prepared in their early 20s than you used to have. Before it used to be one here, one there. Now you've got a handful of guys that are that young that are more than ready to win on the PGA TOUR and prepared. It's probably because of the boom in golf and the advancement of junior and college golf, and a lot of guys actually taking a route -- a lot of Americans taking a route that a lot of Europeans had where they don't go to four years of college and they're playing professional golf at an earlier age, and if they are ready they're advancing a lot quicker.
You're going to advance a lot quicker playing for a living than you will in college if you're ready. I wasn't; college was the best route for me. I'm not saying you shouldn't get your degree and go to school. I wouldn't trade it for anything. But being out here on your own and trying to make a cut and earn a paycheck is the best possible preparation anyone could get, and I think that's why you see guys -- that's why I advanced so early in my career as a professional.

Q. There's a lot of talk right now about the potential flex schedule. Just wanted to get your thoughts about it.
JIM FURYK: You have to fill me in because I'm actually on our Player Advisory Council, and I know nothing about what you're talking about. It was mentioned earlier in the year, but I think it's already been squashed as far as I know.

Q. It's the one where every top player would have to play at least one of four events.
JIM FURYK: Well, when I think of flexible schedule, I think of putting -- a year ago they talked about putting tournaments in pods and then rotating -- putting tournaments in five bundles and then rotating the dates of those bundles, and it was impossible to do, I think, from a logistical standpoint. You're talking about now where the players are -- the top so many players on TOUR are required to play -- what they're talking about is a list of events that would be chosen by the TOUR, whomever, that need some help, that possibly need a boost in the schedule, and that might be as few as three tournaments and it might be as many as six and that we would be required to play one of those if you're so high up on the Money List or the FedExCup or however they choose it would be. I'm not sure how many players that would be.
But we talked about it at the PAC and everyone seems to be in favor of it and felt like it was the right thing to do to try to increase the depth. The idea was you might have 20 players that might not be in an event and maybe four or five of them might -- two, three, four, five of them might play in each one of those events and help out their field.
It's an interesting topic. We are in competition as players and the tournaments are in competition amongst themselves. It's a really easy formula. If you can put a good golf course out there and a good purse, the best players in the world are going to show up. It's not a secret.
You look at Quail Hollow, they kind of came out of nowhere eight years ago as a tournament, but they have one of the best golf courses we play all year and they have a good purse. You know what, they have probably the best field of any regular PGA TOUR event. It's not like a secret or any magic success; if you go out there with a new golf course and guys don't like it or don't think it's a good golf course or it's not in good condition, then that word gets out quick and that field is going to struggle for a while.
Is it the right thing to do now? I think so. I think we need to help our sponsors. I think we're in an economic situation where we want to try to make sure that everyone is happy that are partners with us so they feel like they're getting a value for their dollar.
But we also are spread a little bit thin. We have 47 events in 43 weeks. The TOUR wouldn't want me to sit here and say we're spread a little bit thin, but you can only play in so many events. If I go and play in one of those other events that maybe is on the list, I'm not adding events to my schedule, so if I do that, I'm taking away from another event. There's a give and take to everything.
If there are events that are struggling out there and we need to help, then we need to do so.

Q. You mentioned that the course and the purse. How much do you think, especially since the FedEx came into the picture, has the date gone up in importance?
JIM FURYK: I think there's some significant areas where the date is a huge factor. Obviously Greensboro is in a tough spot. It's between the PGA Championship and our first Playoff event. No secret, they're in a tough spot. But the event before the British Open, tough spot; Canada, going to the West Coast after the British Open, tough spot, although they did choose the West Coast. That's part of their choice, as well.
Yeah, there are some tough situations, but I still think every year I go down the list, and I -- you could write my schedule out because if you really went back and thought about it, I've played the same tournaments every year. You could pick where I was going to go play, and I picked the golf courses. Out of the 24 events that I play this year, there's probably 18 of them that are set in stone -- there's probably more than that to be honest with you, there's probably 22. But I go down and start checking off my favorite ones and I count how many that is and I start trying to bundle them around my favorite events.
But you know what, if they put an event at Congressional the week before pretty much any golf tournament, I'm going to play it, just because I think it's a great golf course, and I think it suits my game.

Q. Back to Aronimink, a course that you haven't seen before and you only have a couple days to prepare. What are the most important things to get you ready for the tournament?
JIM FURYK: I think trying to figure out where the best part -- what's the fattest part of the fairway, how is the bunkering set up, where do I need to put the ball off the tee to be able to attack the green, and then the most difficult -- a golf professional figures that out in two rounds pretty easy.
The difficult part of this golf course is figuring out the pin placements and the greens because there is a lot going on out there, and I think that goes along with the surprise. I didn't expect to see such big greens, I didn't expect to see them cut up into small areas like that; it's a Donald Ross course. I feel like you can go to Pinehurst No. 2, play it a couple times, and those greens are pretty easy. You aim at the center of the greens every time because you're afraid the ball is going to fall off the sides.
Here there's more going on. There's a lot of slope out there. The greens are giant, and like I said, they're cut into sections and you have to figure out which pins you can attack, which ones you can't. As in any Ross course, you really don't want to go over any green; you'd rather be on the front fringe or ten yards short than probably two yards long most of the time. There's a lot of those fall-offs on the back that will leave some very difficult up-and-downs.
I think learning the greens right now and pin placements and how we can attack those is probably the biggest concern for all the players.

Q. How important was that four-week stretch in the spring to your career, winning twice, to establish yourself in the World Ranking? You hadn't won in a while.
JIM FURYK: I don't think as a player we really ever look into it in depth that much. What was important to me was -- my World Ranking I've always said isn't that important to me. It was very high before I won those events. I was still in the Top 10. So I don't really feel like I had to go out there and establish myself as a player.
What's important to me is trying to win golf tournaments, and as you said, I hadn't done it in about two and a half years on the PGA TOUR. I was able to win the Chevron in December and I think that was a boost of confidence. I hit some good shots down the stretch and made some birdies down the stretch.
But yeah, I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform, and the longer it went and the longer -- every time I sat in this chair and we talked, we talked about how long it had been since I had won. The pressure that we put on ourselves as players is greater than anything you could put on me, and I was disappointed, and I put a lot of pressure on myself.
And I think getting over the hump in Tampa was just kind of -- if you go back and watch the tape of that, I don't really look all that extremely happy. I look a little bit more relieved. It was kind of letting the air out a little bit.
Later on that night, I was happy, but the first emotion was probably just a big sigh of relief, that okay, two and a half years, I won, I don't have to answer the question. I'm happy. I got over the hump. And I think it allowed me to win so quickly afterwards because my mind frame was better and I wasn't putting that extra pressure on myself, and I was a little bit more free with my game.

Q. Following that to the issue of the TOUR and the schedule, is it time that you played few tournaments, maybe put a break or two in say the week before going into the Playoffs or something of that nature?
JIM FURYK: I don't understand your question, I'm sorry.

Q. We talk about Greensboro being in a difficult spot the week before the Playoffs. Would it make sense to have an open week in the schedule going into the Playoffs or something? If you had breaks --
JIM FURYK: The issue we have, there's so many issues, and I feel like I've sat in this conversation for years now. Would it be nice? Sure, it would really help out Greensboro. But then the problem is our schedule gets too long and we get too much into football season. Now the networks are upset and the ratings are going to be down because we're getting -- our ratings aren't going to be as good. The deeper we go into football season, the more we lose golf. As much as I hate to say that, we're not going to ever compete with football, or at least not in my lifetime. It gets too long at that point.
So then we talk about possibly cutting down the number of golf tournaments, but now you're taking starts away from a guy's job, a guy that's trying to earn a living. Now you're not taking care of all the players on the PGA TOUR, you're taking care of the best players on the PGA TOUR. And that doesn't work.
We got ourselves into a situation as we grew through the '80s and '90s and we grew to 47 tournaments in 43 weeks. We put ourselves in this situation, and now we have to deal with it. Part of what we talked about earlier with some of the top players, whether it's a top 50 or whatever it may be, helping out and trying to help some of the events that have struggled, the problem is identifying those events is difficult, and how do you identify them and what if there's an event that -- well, you were close but you don't quite make it. It's hard. It's hard.
Our commissioner has got about ten balls in the air at all times and juggling them and trying not to let them crash down, and it's a difficult process. I think he does a good job with it, but it's tough.
For everything you can tell me about the schedule, I would -- because I've sat in so many meetings, I could give you the rebuttal of why it doesn't work the other way. It's very difficult.

Q. So basically you're saying the schedule is the way it is because you've gone through all the --
JIM FURYK: I think it is the way it is because it's the most successful right now. They're always trying to tweak it, trying to change it, trying to make it better. But it's difficult. You've got our -- you've got the networks, TV, you've got our sponsors; you've got the tournaments themselves; and you've got the players. And he's trying to juggle all four of them. Any decision he makes, it's difficult to make all four parties happy if that makes sense. That's the way I look at it. He does the best he can, and obviously if the networks aren't happy, it doesn't work out for anyone. If the sponsors aren't happy and we don't have a value to them, it doesn't work.
You have to keep the tournaments in each situation happy as best we can, and we've got to try to keep the players happy. You know, every issue probably has a different pecking order for -- but obviously cash talks. That's the way we run our door.

Q. Would it be difficult these days not to have a swing coach if you didn't have a father like as an overseer or if you were just relying on electronics?
JIM FURYK: Why, does someone not have one? (Smiles.) It would probably depend on where you're at in your career. Obviously we're talking about Tiger, I believe, in a roundabout way. I think it depends if you were a young kid on TOUR and you were 21 years old, it would probably be very difficult.
There's times where I think the importance of a teacher is severely overblown, and there's times where I think it's severely underblown where they're very important. I tend to want to work with my teacher, my father, at home more often. I want to work on my game there. I want to bring my game to an event. I don't want to try to come find it at the course or at the venue.
Right now my goal is to try to learn Aronimink and try to learn the best way to try to get around this golf course because it's brand new. If I'm on the driving range working on my swing, it's going to be difficult to do so.
But Tiger is -- let's be honest, how many teachers has he had? He's had Butch and he's had Hank. Anyone else since he's been on TOUR? His dad when he was younger. Does his swing look that different to anyone from his first day on TOUR to now? Does it look severely different to anyone here? I'm just saying if you looked at tape -- if you, Doug, with your knowledge of golf, does it look that much different from -- let's say when he really became dominant on TOUR, '97 or '98, when he started to just dominate, to 2008. Obviously he went through some major swing changes, but it doesn't look -- it's not like a totally different guy or a totally different golf swing. He's perfected things and he's gotten better at things. I think he's been through -- he's dominated for so long and so good at what he does, I honestly think he'll be fine without that.
He's very knowledgeable of the game, on his equipment, on the golf swing. I have a hard time seeing that that's going to be a major effect on the future for him. It's just a matter of time, just a matter of time right now.
NELSON SILVERIO: Jim Furyk, thank you.

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