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March 16, 2011

Jim Furyk


COLIN MURRAY: Like to welcome defending champion Jim Furyk to the interview room here at the Transitions Championship. Obviously your victory here last year served as a springboard to a wonderful year on the PGA TOUR. If you can just talk about kind of what this victory meant to you to jump start your year and then talk about being back in Tampa, that would be great.
JIM FURYK: Well, if you look at my face after winning, it was probably more at the time a sense of relief. It had been 2 1/2 years. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. I really felt like I wasn't enjoying playing as much. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform and complete, and I was a little rusty coming out of the winter last year and had not played well to this point.
So to get myself into contention; and I had a decent lead there on the back nine and started to leak a little oil down the stretch. So obviously 18 was a little bit of an expedition, but to get it in at 5 and win the tournament, it was probably originally relief and by the time I got to the media room, and thought about winning, I was obviously very happy.
I think that it allowed me to relax and I came into this week last year with the feeling that I realized that I wasn't enjoying myself and I was putting too much pressure on myself. I came in with the idea that I was going to have a little bit more fun and usually you don't see results that quickly but obviously played well.
Was fortunate enough to win the golf tournament, and it really -- I think it was a sense of just I relaxed a little bit and when I didn't play well, when I struggled on a week last year, I kind of was able to brush it off and move on. I think because of that, and because my attitude was better, I was able to go on and play well throughout the rest of the year.
And last year was really a year of timing and that I really was not in contention anymore last year than I had been in the previous two years. Just was able to close the door and win tournaments. I think a lot of that was due to some good fortune and good breaks and probably a little bit my attitude, as well.
As far as coming back this year, it's always nice to come back to a place where you have won in the past. Whether it was the year previous or not. And you have great memories. I have always liked this golf course. I played junior tournaments here, so always liked it. Always thought it was very difficult and tough, and I think the players always perceive this as one of the better golf courses we play during the year. So we get a pretty good field here.
But having that memory of winning and hitting some good shots and playing well, making some putts around this place, it's always nice to come back. You have those memories to draw from. I think it always helps you in a tournament.

Q. Was there a particular low point before you broke through with the win here last year?
JIM FURYK: I never really got to a point. It's hard to say there was a low point. I was still finishing the year previous. I went into the FedExCup I think it probably a Top-5 ranking and I was playing on The Presidents Cup teams and Ryder Cup teams, and so not a lot of players were feeling bad for me; put it that way. (Laughter).
I wouldn't say I was in a slump or anything like that. I just wasn't winning. Sometimes that was my fault for playing poorly and other times, I got beat. Sometimes I played very well; I just got by someone was hot; the timing of it was bad.
No, I never was down and out or losing confidence in my game or anything like that. I was playing well and still ranked in the Top-10 in the world, Top-5 at times. No one was feeling bad for me, put it that way.

Q. I don't know if you've talked about your year-to-date, but could you talk about that? Seems to be somewhat of a theory, but I'm not sure that's so unusual for you, anyway.
JIM FURYK: No, it was very similar last year. And I probably have done a very poor job preparing in the off-season. Something I need to address. I thought I would address it this year but obviously I didn't. The difference is this year, I had Kapalua and Sony to start, where I played decent in Kapalua and missed the cut at Sony. I was putting poorly; pretty much since I won there, is kind of my M.O. I haven't putted well there in ten years probably.
I take a few weeks off and I go back off and started year, match play, L.A., Tucson like I have in the past, and didn't particularly play real well at Doral last year. So the start really isn't much different than last year. It's still obviously disappointing that I have not been playing that well and scoring that well. I'm a little bit baffled by it myself.
So some of it was putting out on the West Coast. Other parts of it was not hitting the ball well. Some of it has been mental errors, bad mistakes, short game, whatever it may be. A lot of it is just not scoring and getting the ball in the hole and pressing.
Hitting the ball in trouble and trying to find a way to make four and making a stupid play and making six; does that make sense? I've talked a little bit about it with my caddie, because he's there, he sees every shot. I really don't feel like I'm driving it that bad or I don't feel like I'm hitting my irons that bad; I don't feel like my short game is terrible. I feel like I'm putting pretty decent. Just when I add it up at the end of the day, hasn't particularly well and been a little rusty. I have not played particularly well and I have not scored.
When you win tournaments, it's all about making a key putt when you need to keep a round going. It's about getting a ball up-and-down after a poor shot. It's about making the smart play when you're in jail; just put back in play, taking your lumps and making bogey and hitting a shot on the next hole and making birdie. I haven't been stringing those together.
Only thing to do is keep plugging away and work hard which I had been doing. Eventually, I'm old enough to know that we are in the middle of March, so not a time to push the panic button. It's been a long season. So I have a lot of events to play well with this year, whether that's this week or next week or whatever it may be.
Right now I would like to obviously play being the defending champion here and would like to play well here at Bay Hill and would like to gain some confidence going into Augusta.

Q. You've got some new toys in the bag I guess. I don't know how much there was an equipment switch. Does that factor into the slow start at all?
JIM FURYK: Not much of an equipment switch to be honest with you.

Q. Irons still the same?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, the biggest difference I guess would be switching balances to the TaylorMade ball. I think it's a wonderful golf ball. I actually approached TaylorMade and told them I wanted to play the ball rather than them recruiting me last year. Because I really believe in it and I think it's a good product.
I played their driver at the end of last year when I won THE TOUR Championship. It was a burner, and now we are obviously all trying to switch to the white drivers and it's the Burner 2.0, new version. I think it's actually a better driver because I think it's more forgiving.
Other than that, I've been tinkering, and there's good and bad to tinkering. The good part is I have a contract this year where I have a pretty open bag. I have a corporate RBC golf bag. I'm under contract with TaylorMade for ball and driver, two products that I really believe in.
But what that does is it leaves a very open bag and I've been tinkering. Obviously being affiliated with TaylorMade, I'm trying a lot of their products. I've got some hybrids in the bag and putters and with tinkering comes some issues as well. I'll eventually settle in, sort everything out.
But, with tinkering brings some issues, as well. Having that open bag is wonderful other than the fact that everyone knows that you have an Open bag and you can have a lot of toys in there at times. I've been testing and I've been going through things it. Would be better to do it at home but quite honestly, there's no conditions like TOUR conditions. You come out, I'm playing my best when I'm out here. I'm more focused when I'm out here. The golf course conditions are different here than what you're going to see in most places.
So it's hard to emulate TOUR conditions at home but I come out here and work on some equipment. I'm trying to do it in a nice methodical way, so not to ruin my preparation.

Q. Since you brought it up, I know you're focused on this week --
JIM FURYK: Sorry I did now.

Q. Where is Augusta, back of mind, front of mind?
JIM FURYK: It's in the back. Someone asked me this week, I can't remember who it was. Someone asked me about preparation, I've heard Phil and Tiger in interviews talk about the week before major championships trying to hit shots that week on the course they were playing for next week or what they were working on.
I've never really approached it that way. I'm trying to prepare right now for the Copperhead Course, and what it's going to take for me to play well here this week. I'll be doing the same next week Bay Hill and the Masters is always going to be in the back of my mind. I'll then have a week off to prepare. I'll take what I've done these three weeks, starting at Doral, kind of get an idea of where I think my game is, what I need to improve on, and what is it going to take for me to compete at Augusta and what do I need to work on shot-wise and preparation-wise for that golf course and kind of put that all together and use that in my week off to get ready.

Q. As a follow-up to that, with this course, everybody is raving about the course here, everybody knows about Bay Hill. Are those -- are there some things that this course and Bay Hill that you can go, this is kind of -- we might have to do the same thing at Augusta, is there any kind of similarity between them?
JIM FURYK: Well, I think from -- now that we are here, at this course, the best preparation, I could probably say, it looks a lot different off the tee. It's tighter, more tree-lined. Augusta has a little bit more of a vast look off the tee. Although it's tightened up a lot in the last couple of years.
The greens might have a little bit of similarity in that you get a lot of putts on these greens, there's a lot of slope and a lot of pitch to these greens and you'll have a lot of 6-footers where you're playing the ball pretty far out of the hole, and having to match-up a line and a speed to get it to basically break to the hole.
Obviously at Augusta, I'm always trying to find places to practice at home where I've got a 4- or 5-footer that's breaking a cup or two, because that's what you're going to get at Augusta where you have to lay one out here and it's going to feed into a hole. That's really tough to emulate. You can do that here. You get a lot of very difficult putts and putts that you have to feed to the hole here.

Q. From your perspective, how wide open is the Masters or how closed?
JIM FURYK: From what perspective? As far as --

Q. Style of play. In the past we've heard this business about, well, 20 guys have a chance to win.
JIM FURYK: I think it's closed significantly in the last ten years with all of the course changes. I think it was much more wide open in the past. The added distance; the changes to the golf course. Augusta's always been a power-oriented course, so I can't really say what it was like in the 60s, 70s or 80s because I didn't play.
But from the mid 90s to now, I think that it was a more wide-open field in the mid 90s to 2000 than it's been since. And the added distance has played into the hands of the power hitter, and obviously there's a couple of guys that will come to mind, like a Zach Johnson or --

Q. Immelman?
JIM FURYK: Immelman was long that week. He even says that. You can check his driving stats. He was in the Top-10 of distance I think that week. Might even have been in the top five.

Q. Mike Weir.
JIM FURYK: Now I played really well that year, as well. I finished fourth. And the year Zach won, I played pretty well. The conditions were set up very firm and fast. I think that -- I'm not saying that it's closed, like it's shut; it's just closed down. It's narrowed down significantly and I think for guys, I'll put myself in the category, I feel like I can win anywhere when I'm playing well.
But, I am rooting for very firm, fast conditions there, and if it's playing really well and really damp, I think the year that Vijay won and it smelled terrible there because of all of the mud -- I hate to say that about Augusta, but it did. I was hitting 4-irons and 5-irons into 14.
It's just, you know, it's going to be a lot more difficult it for me to compete at at that time. When it's firm and fast I feel like I have the best opportunity. And when the wind direction, when it's into the wind on 1 -- I've been saying that for two or three years now. So much was made of Zach laying up on all the par 5s. I have got news for you: He couldn't reach one of them. The reason I know that is because I hit it as far as Zach, or as far, and I couldn't reach one of them. So there's no real mystery in his course management. He couldn't get there so he had to lay up.
When the wind blows into your face on 1, that means you've got all the long par 4s downwind, all of the difficult ones, other than 1. But you've got holes like 9 and 7 and 14 and 17, holes that when they are into the wind, they are very stressful when you have a 5-iron in your hand because those greens are difficult to hit.
Now downwind, wedge and 8-iron is not as big a difference as 5-iron and 7-iron. That becomes more drastic. It also neutralizes the length of the par 5s. It makes it very hard for guys to get to 8, 15; 13, you still have to bend one. Or I can get to 13, it's not a big deal. It's more about carving the shot off the tee but it neutralizes the fives.

Q. Could you please retell the story of where you were for the '86 Masters and where you watched it and what that was like?
JIM FURYK: At the time I played at this course called Media Heights, south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was when I was really, really starting to get into golf, about the age of 14. So I was 15, just about ready to turn 16 at the time. Masters was coming on. Lived in Pennsylvania. Springtime. It was -- we were just starting to get into our golf season.
So as soon as the telecast came on, I was with two other juniors that day. We went to the 19th hole, grabbed a coke and hot dog, whatever, sat down in front of a television and Masters were on. There was no one in the place. And as the day went on, the 19th hole filled up, as word got out that Nicklaus was leading. It really filled up. So about mid to two-thirds of the way through the telecast, it was the three of us sitting at the first table in front of the television, and when I turned around it filled with a bunch of guys having a beer and the place was packed.
It was kind of cool. They let the three of us stay at the very front table in front of the television, we had been there all day and we were watching the telecast. Obviously Jack was a hero of mine growing up, and two big American players of that time, the era that we grew up watching and cheering for, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, I love Jack, and to see him the charge and Seve was in there and Norman was there. Probably the very first tournament that I can remember shots being hit and where I was. It is the very first one.
So for me, it's one of those moments I remember. I remember a little bit about Kiawah. That's the first Ryder Cup that really -- the one at Muirfield I kind of remember a little bit about, but the big impact was at Kiawah.

Q. Sergio is making his first U.S. start this year, and we sort of grilled him about how he maybe had found his enthusiasm for the game again. When you came here last year, when you were turning your thoughts around, was there something around or how did you talk yourself into saying, I'm going to enjoy this more?
JIM FURYK: I was just tired of being miserable on the golf course. (Laughter) I love the game. I love competing. And no one likes playing poorly. It's hard to be in a good mood when you're playing poorly. But I kind of felt like in talking to the people that are closest to me last year, whether it was my caddie or my wife or my parents, and a lot of this came from my wife; it's the chicken and the egg, am I playing poorly and getting upset, or am I just -- is one forcing the other.
I kind of made it a point that last year, for me, I made it a point that I was going to have fun out here, whether it was on the golf course or off the golf course. I did more stuff off the golf course last year. I went to concerts, went to ballgames, and went, I'm just going to have fun. I'm tired of beating my head against the wall and I'm going to enjoy it. I think a lot of that reflected in the way I played.

Q. When you said earlier about Augusta, how you think it's narrowed, the number of guys perhaps in the last several years, does that mean that when people refer to those changes as Tiger-proofing, that's the wrong term to call it that; if it made it so that it's maybe more for the long hitters, it's maybe hurting him -- or do you think it has made it harder for him?
JIM FURYK: No, I don't. Not at all actually. I'm trying to think of a good way without offending anyone. Tiger-proofing, I think you all would agree, was not the correct term to use.
They were trying to make the golf course -- when I started playing that place in, I think '96 was my first year, when I first started playing at Augusta, it was fun. I mean, it was a fun, fun, golf course to play. Not only was it pretty. Not only was it beautiful. The fans there, the whole experience difference, everyone minding their P's and Q's; they don't want to lose their tickets. The players are much different that week; they are more respectful.
It was just a fun golf course to play. You had short irons in your hand and these crazy greens going everywhere. You would take your shots with an 8-iron in your hand. You would say, you know what, I'm going to go at that pin and you knew the consequences if you missed. Quite honestly, it's not a fun golf course to play right now. It hard. It's very demanding both physically and mentally. It has a feel of more of a U.S. Open type of struggle, rather than going out there and blaze of glory and shooting at pins and making birdie or bogey.
I think guys are playing a lot more conservatively because there's no choice. That's the biggest difference to me. I used to -- I still look forward to the Masters. I still get very excited about it but it's a much different frame of mind than I used to have.

Q. Is it just the yardage?
JIM FURYK: There's bunkers out there, you can hide tanks in the bunk at like 5. It has a lot to do with the design. It's a lot tighter. Rows of trees put in, and they snuck them in. Like one year, a new row was down the right side of 9. And I mentioned it to Fazio when I saw him.
He goes, "You noticed that, huh?"
"Yeah, I noticed it. I'm in the damn trees now. When I used to be in the fairway, of course I noticed it." (Laughter).
They took a row out last year at 11, which was a great change; they had too many down the right side of 11 and they took out a whole row. Just little things have been tweaked. I don't think it's just length. It's the design if it. It's a lot tighter as well. You used to be able to set up angles better. You always used to be able to hit it down the right side of 11 so you could get an angle away from that lake where now, I've got to hit it up the left side of the lake and I'm kind of hitting away from the green, and it's just a more awkward angle to come into the green.
Plus I'm 30 yards farther back than I used to be. I used to hit 6-iron anywhere from 5-iron, 8-iron in there and now I hit 2-iron hybrid; if I can get a 6-iron there, I'm giddy. Used to be a long club.
So some of it's -- most of it is length, but a lot of it is design of the bunkers and they have really tightened the golf course up, which I like. And I'm not criticizing it, but it's changed significantly.
And if you would say is it a positive or negative change; I think it just depends on what you're trying to accomplish. Talking design anywhere, first question is: What are we trying to accomplish and what are we trying to do? Trying to make it tougher; yeah, it's really good.
COLIN MURRAY: Thanks for your time. Play well this week.

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