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April 20, 2011

Jim Furyk


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Jim Furyk into the interview room, our defending champion this week of the Heritage.
Jim, tremendous success you've had at this tournament and finally to get the win last year, I know that meant a lot to you. Comment on that win.
JIM FURYK: It's a tournament that I feel comfortable at. It seems like feast or famine. I've played really well here, I've also missed a bunch of cuts here. But I think that's part of the golf course being so tough. And you have to be really on your ball-striking here.
But, yeah, it's on a very short list of my favorite events, probably my top three. I had a couple of close calls here, and an event I always wanted to win before my career was over. It was nice to close the door last year and finally get that done.
Like I said, I had a couple of close calls. Just a lot of fun. And last year I won three times; this was the middle event. My goal last year was to have a lot of fun, enjoy myself. Once I won Tampa and got the monkey off my back, I relaxed and I felt so much more comfortable and relaxed trying to win this golf tournament than I did at Tampa and carried that on through the rest of the season.
JOHN BUSH: Took a week off after The Masters, assess your season.
JIM FURYK: I started out slow on the West Coast like I did last year. I took a lot of time off in winter with my family. I didn't prepare very well for the start of the season and came out rusty the last two or three years. But I felt like once we got to the East Coast, got to Florida, I turned it around. Played well at Traditions and Arnold Palmer. I was disappointed at the Masters. But didn't feel like my game was that far off. It can go south quickly at Augusta if you're not right on. I made the turn Saturday with about 6-under, played one bad nine the rest of the way. I feel good about my game.

Q. What is it about this course that enables players of all different styles, bombers, short hitters, to be competitive?
JIM FURYK: I think it's all about working the golf ball. There's a lot of strategy involved. But you have to be able to control the golf ball. You have to hit high shots, low shots, curve it right to left, left to right. If you don't have control of the golf ball you're going to struggle at this golf course. You're not going to skank it around for very long, and eventually you're going to be in trouble. It's about hitting fairways, but a lot of times it's about hitting the proper side of the fairway, and that may depend on day to day, with the pin placements. Nine is a good example and 11 is a good example. If you don't hit the right side of the fairway, you have to carve a shot around trees and hit it low or hit it high or hit it around branches. It's actually a very fun golf course to play.

Q. With the way you feel about this course and this event, is it troubling for you that it is having trouble finding a sponsor and the future is kind of up in the air?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I think as I said, it's one of my favorite events. It's got a great tradition here. If I remember right, Jack Nicklaus was part of the design. Arnold Palmer won the first event here. It's been here since 1969. So from a selfish perspective it's one of my favorite events. But from the Tour's perspective it's got a great feel, it's got a wonderful support from this community.
I'd be sad, but I think that there's some positives. I've talked to the Tour and the tournament director, we had all the statesmen here, the mayor. There was a congressman here for opening ceremonies. And everyone seems very positive. I know they're working together and working very hard to find a sponsor. I'm not sure exactly what the hang-up is or what you can really find wrong with the area or the golf course. I guess it's got a little bit of a tight footprint as far as corporate hospitality, but it's just such -- this island, this area, is a wonderful place to entertain people. So hopefully they'll get it done.

Q. Do you know if there are any plans at the player meeting today to discuss what can be done to help the event going forward?
JIM FURYK: I'm sure it will be mentioned, but there was about 50 items on the bill tonight. It's an interesting time of year with a lot going on. I'm sure it will be mentioned, though. We'll be updated with what's going on.

Q. Does the tournament have a different feel at all based on the date change this year?
JIM FURYK: To me it doesn't. I've always said that I think the week after The Masters has been overplayed, with players coming in -- The Masters is such a stressful week, it's the first major, everyone is kind of geared up. You come down here and it definitely has a more relaxed atmosphere. It's still golf. I wasn't more relaxed on the 72nd hole of the playoff last year.
I love the event and I always said it didn't matter what week of the year it was for me, I always want to come here and play because I love the golf course. It's easy for me, too, because I drive to The Masters and drive home and I drive here from home, it's only three hours. For somebody that maybe lives on the West Coast, from Augusta, you fly home, it's going to be a pain in the rear end to fly back. For some of the European players or foreign players we drew a couple extra of them in the event. But I saw Graeme McDowell here and Ian Poulter here, so it didn't seem to hurt them from that perspective.
I love it and, you know, it simply is nice when you split up the Nelson and the Colonial, it makes it tough on those events, because guys aren't going to go back and forth for both. But you package them together, it's the same thing with The Masters, it's a quick drive down the road. They used to have tournament cars that would go from there to here. It's no longer the case. It made us real easy on us to do so. It's a good package to have together, but it doesn't bother me either way.

Q. Sort of a larger perspective, there's always going to be some sort of turnover on tournaments and so forth, but if you start losing tournaments like this, do you think that the Tour sort of overall loses not necessarily its identity but a little bit of it in a way because of the history and the continuity year to year of going to certain events and certain places?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I don't think it would be the case, but it sends a signal of weakness, if that makes sense, when you lose a marquee event, an event popular between players and fans. It sends a signal that there's a weakness or weak link or the economy is struggling. It probably sends a false message, in my opinion, that the Tour isn't as strong as it has been. Obviously every business or most businesses are struggling with the economy, and with corporate sponsorship. But I think we've held our own pretty well and have had some very good partners; we've been fortunate in that. But I think it gives a look of that weakness and it hurts the brand.

Q. You mentioned 50 items in the meeting today --
JIM FURYK: That's probably overplayed. There's probably ten that I'm excited about. And I honestly usually am not excited for more than about one.

Q. Are these run-of-the-mill, year-to-year, normal --
JIM FURYK: Well, I think we've got first and foremost on the bill is kind of talking about changing Tour school, got a couple of different ideas for the Nationwide Tour, how that Tour will play out. Will we start our Tour in the fall; will we not. That's probably the primary discussion. I wanted to talk about the South African Tour announced they were going to have a World Golf Championship. I've heard a little bit more about that, and maybe not so much what was announced last week, but I'm interested to hear more about it and what's happening and what's going on and when it will be. I don't really know much about it. I was going through a media Tour last week with one of the companies I represent, and that was on every golf or sports talk show that I talked to at Golf Channel, they wanted to know about this new event. I didn't know anything about it. So it was announced today and I found out it was the South African Tour announced it, and the PGA TOUR hadn't quite said anything yet. They still haven't quite said anything yet. That was one of my first questions when I got here, I wanted to know more about it so I could sound a little more intelligent about it, more than, that's the first I've heard about it.

Q. But the Tour is on board?
JIM FURYK: Yeah, they're on board. It's part of it, but it was in the talks, in the works, and it looks like something will happen. But no sponsor, no date, no nothing. But somehow there's a purse. Somehow there's a purse that was announced. It's hard to do that without a sponsor.

Q. A lot of former champions here have also won Majors, is there a reason, do you think, for that correlation?
JIM FURYK: Well, it's a strong field, that's a start. When you get all those guys that were playing Augusta that are good players and major champions and bring them down here. It's a good strong field, so the numbers are better off when you've got more major championship players in the field than other events. I think it's a good golf course. Good courses usually breed good champions.

Q. You mentioned talks about possibly changing the qualifying, what are your thoughts on that?
JIM FURYK: I need to hear more about it. At first I was confused, didn't understand why. Before I ever say yes or no my first question is why. Why would we go ahead and switch? And now that I've heard some of the reasons and understand a little bit more, originally I was probably very against it, and now I understand more about it and think that it could be a good idea.
You know, when we first were going to change the FedExCup again my first question was why? And that was explained to me later. I was very against it early on. And then I understood why. And I thought it was a good idea. But as a whole it was a good idea. I want to know particulars. I don't want to be sold on the general idea, I want to be sold on the actual product. And right now we're just in general idea discussions. It seems like it could be positive but I need to know a lot more about it before I could say yes or no. I'm not adamantly against it by any means, but I'm not sold, either. I like to ride the fence for a little bit.

Q. So what's the best "why"?
JIM FURYK: The best "why"?

Q. Yeah. Or at least that you've heard?
JIM FURYK: Growth. Basically, a way to grow our Tour. A way to -- a lot of it's going to be growth, I guess would be the -- eventually bring a stronger package to the PGA TOUR.

Q. Did you change your position on the FedExCup after last year?
JIM FURYK: No, actually I was wishy washy the first year. Last year was the fourth. By year two I was on board. I struggled in year one because our schedule changed so drastically. I didn't feel like a rookie again, but I felt like I've got to figure out how to piece the whole package together. Once I saw that -- basically from a player's perspective I get more time off in the fall, I get to play the same events I used to play, squeeze it in a little tighter area, may put more stress on myself in season, but ultimately we're playing for -- our purses are higher now. I'm playing the same events I used to for more money and I get more time off in the fall. I mean, sign me up, I'm ready to go. I can spend more time with my kids, they remember who their dad is, it's perfect.

Q. Just a couple of questions about PLAYERS Championship. Could you talk about the last three holes and what your thoughts are and what you think of the last three there.
JIM FURYK: They're exciting. I guess the best thing I can say, a lot can happen in the last three holes. It's not a place -- a three-shot lead is not safe, by any means. And I think that's kind of Pete's flair and his design and style is for dramatic, for exciting, double is not out of the question on any hole neither is birdie or eagle on 16. I think a lot can happen. It's exciting. It keeps everyone's attention. I live there and it's a unique style of golf course.
I'm not a target-oriented guy. I would prefer kind of the old classic designs more than our new age designs. But it's interesting. As I've lived there and played it more and more, I've kind of grown more accustomed to it, I understand his design a little better and I've learned to appreciate it more.

Q. What's going through your mind walking off the 16th over to the 17th tee?
JIM FURYK: I'm looking at the crowd saying, look at all the people that came to watch the car wreck, basically (laughter).
You just get to feel the buzz and the people and they're having a cocktail and they're waiting to see you hit it in the water. I'm focused on where is the pin, where do I want to land the ball, what number am I going to hit it, and trying to take the periphery out of play and just hit a good, solid golf shot. But that walk kind of just makes me chuckle, because you can hear it. You can hear the buzz and you know what they're looking for.

Q. It is the 30th year at Sawgrass. I think everybody would agree as a venue and as a tournament has grown, the vision for that place, and the tournament was pretty good?
JIM FURYK: Yeah. Who could have thought he could bring one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world to a swamp, basically. They really pulled it off. It's a difficult test. I think most of the players really enjoy the golf course. They have done some major, major upgrades and renovations since I've been on Tour, not only from the golf course perspective, it's gotten much better. The move to May far and away made that a much better golf tournament, because we can play the course firm and fast, as it was meant to be played, not soft and overseeded. The weather is better. But the outside, I think the fan involvement, the clubhouse, the way they've done the tents and sponsor relationships is very unique. And there's a lot of space. There's a lot of room to do it. It was a great vision. And I'm sure there's a lot of people that thought Dean was absolutely out of his mind when he put the Tour headquarters there and decided to build the golf course, but he was right. It turned out very well.
JOHN BUSH: Jim, thank you for your time. Good luck this week.

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