November 12, 2003
KIAWAH, SOUTH CAROLINA
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you Justin and Jim for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center. We appreciate you joining us, Justin. You played here in '97. Start with you making a couple of comments about coming back. And Jim, you're here for the first time and maybe you can make a couple of comments on playing here at the World Cup for the first time for the United States team.
JUSTIN LEONARD: It's good to be back. The golf course, I would say, it's probably been softened a little bit since '97. It's softer so it's playing longer than it did. The course is in good shape and we just tried to enjoy the weather today because it sounds like this is it for the good stuff for a few days. It's great to be here playing in the World Cup. I'm looking forward to playing with Jim for four days and hopefully we can keep the ball out of the wind and have a good week.
JIM FURYK: Well, it's my first opportunity to represent the United States in the World Cup, so I wanted to take advantage of that. And I had no idea, I had never been to Kiawah, never played the golf course before. I played 27 holes in the last two days and 18 today with Justin. He helped me out with some lines on the back nine, at least that's what I'm going with. It's going to be a fun week. We've always gotten along real well and I'm expecting to have a good time.
Q. What are your impressions of the golf course? And Justin, do you notice the difference in 18? Is that something that really stands out to you?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I didn't notice as big a difference on 18 than what I had expected. I can't tell you how much the green has been moved, but it wasn't as drastic as I thought it was going to be. I definitely saw the greens were kind of softened around the edges, it wasn't quite as severe as '97. I think they put some grass in areas where it was just waste areas, things like that. Some of the contours had been softened a little bit. I think all the changes look pretty good.
Q. How about the greens? They're new greens basically. They were planted in July. How were they?
JIM FURYK: There's a lot of grass on them right now. I think they're relatively decent speed. They're relatively firm. It's not like you're going to see guys spin the ball back too much. Downwind the ball is hitting and releasing a little bit, so you have to be fairly accurate with your iron shots in those cases.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Same. I agree.
Q. Jim, now you've got this week, next week, and you have to go all the way to Hawaii for the Grand Slam. Are you comfortable with the decision you made to come here? It's a great venue, it's a great event, but are there times when you're thinking, I have a lot going on here in the next three or four weeks?
JIM FURYK: Not really. The next week is going to be -- if I didn't play this week in the World Cup, I would still get on that charter and go to South Africa, and I'm still going to be extremely tired on Tuesday and Wednesday in those practice rounds, even if I took this week off. Like I said, I was excited about playing here and wanted to play in this event, and I'm happy I am. I have a week off between South Africa and the Grand Slam and I'll spend that in Florida. I'm not playing in the Million Dollar after the Presidents Cup just because of what you're talking about. The logistics of trying to get from there to Hawaii is very difficult, I have to go back through Florida, which that travel didn't seem like a good idea.
Q. How about the format for the World Cup now playing four-ball? How difficult is that to translate from what you normally do week to week?
JIM FURYK: The four-ball is not any different, you're still playing your own ball. There's some positions where you might want to play more aggressively because your partner knocks it in tight for birdie. There are some spots you might be more aggressive than you would be, but you're still playing your ball all the way around.
The foursome matches are a little bit different, but we've both played on Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams quite a bit, that format, hopefully the strength of our game is usually keeping the ball in play and keeping it in front of us, and hopefully this course, that would lend well to this golf course, keeping the ball in the fairway and putting it on or around the greens where you give yourself a chance. I've always been comfortable in that format and hopefully it fairs well for us. It will be a very difficult format around this golf course, though, because of the severity of the course. He was saying it's softened up, but it's still a relatively severe golf course.
Q. Whose golf ball are you using?
JIM FURYK: Justin's. I had a chance to work with his golf ball yesterday. He was flying in yesterday with another commitment and I had a chance to use his golf ball. The adjustment wasn't too major for me, so we're going to play his ball.
Q. Is it a Hogan ball?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No, Precept.
JIM FURYK: If it was under the Hogan umbrella it would be perfect because I play all their stuff. I can make that adjustment easy. I played that ball last year.
Q. Who are the top teams going to be here? What do you think about the strength of the field?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I think Ireland, I think they won here in '97, England with Paul Casey and Justin Rose are very good.
JIM FURYK: Australia, Appleby and Leaney.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Spain, those two guys have both had great years.
JIM FURYK: It's kind of tough just throwing it out there and not going off the list. If we had the list we could refresh ourselves on who was playing, not meaning any disrespect for who we left out there.
Q. You didn't handicap the field before you came?
JIM FURYK: I wasn't laying down the odds like Lad Brooks.
Q. What kind of learning curve did you expect and how much of a learning curve is it playing this course because it's not a venue you've been to before?
JIM FURYK: It's probably a little easier learning curve for Justin because he has more familiarity with the golf course. The locals are trying to say that he had the home-course advantage, like he had played here thousands of times.
JUSTIN LEONARD: There are a lot of people that think I used to live here.
JIM FURYK: I tried to say that he told me he played in '97 and maybe 7 other rounds. I don't know that that's home course. He's played the course 10 times. For me, it's a severe golf course. I think it takes some rounds to get used to. I think as the week goes on we'll get more comfortable with the course, see how it's playing and see how they set it up. Tomorrow we're playing a four-ball; is that correct? I'm comfortable with that because I have a partner, we're both playing the better of the two, I've got one more day to get comfortable with the golf course before we go out to the foursome matches. It's a tough course to really get your -- there are a lot of blind tee shots, you're hitting over hills, you don't know how much you can cut off and you're going to see a lot of different wind conditions.
Between yesterday and today, it played different because the wind was opposite. It's a tough learning curve with this golf course. There aren't too many Pete Dye courses that you don't have learning curves. You have to learn to love them and get used to them and learn where to hit them.
Q. What kind of a relearning curve was it for you?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I remember quite a bit of it, and there are other holes where I was probably more lost than Jim just because it's been a few years since I played here. It all came back pretty quickly. The main thing we were working on was thinking about more of a north wind the next couple of days and how that would affect the lines off of tees and things like that. That's going to be the biggest adjustment to make tomorrow and Friday, just where are you going to start the ball, versus the last couple of days.
Q. You talk about the difficulty of most Pete Dye courses. Do you like Pete as an architect? Do you think they're fair?
JIM FURYK: That's a lot of different questions all wrapped up into one. I wouldn't say he is my favorite, I wouldn't say he is my least favorite either. I live at TPC at Sawgrass. I play that course a lot. The first time I played the golf course, I thought it was one of the hardest golf courses I had ever played. Now that I've lived there seven or eight years I still think it's difficult but I've warmed up to it. I've softened my opinion. Now I think it's just a very tough golf course, but I understand how to play it and how to get around it now.
I think this golf course, the first time you look at it -- Justin mentioned to the Golf Channel earlier, it's got some very intimidating visuals. You look out and once you start getting to know where you can miss it, where you can't, where you want to put the ball in the fairway, you start warming up to it. The first time you're a little lost.
I played the back nine today and my head was spinning. I was trying to figure out, Jeez, where is my line. Today it's here but tomorrow if it's into the wind it would be 30 yards this way, where can I go through. And you get punished a lot when you miss shots a little bit here or there, you can get punished if you don't know the golf course well. If you're visiting the resort and came in and played the golf course one time, it's going to eat your lunch. Hopefully we learned the course well enough and hit the shots well enough it doesn't do that to us.
Q. Can you just expand a little on how much you know about the English team, I believe you had lunch with them yesterday, and whether you expect to see them possibly against you in the Ryder Cup in the future?
JIM FURYK: Absolutely. Justin is an extremely strong player and Paul Casey as well. I got a chance to talk to him, I played with him the first two rounds at the British Open. We played poorly and missed the cut. I liked his company. They're friendly guys. My guess is they get along well with everyone. I find them easy to get along with. They're both great young talents. They will be around in this game for a long time to come. Absolutely our team is going to have to play against them in a lot of Ryder Cups, I would say.
Q. Talk about what it's like when you go to a different venue after winning a Major, the reception you get, people talking, following you around that really support you and are happy for you. Do you see that everywhere you go?
JIM FURYK: Yes, I would say so. Especially you get the support part, I think no matter where you go here in the United States it's nice to be our country's champion and that will -- I was asked before is it tough to get used to the fact that you'll always get introduced as the U.S. Open champion. And my quote was, "I think I can get used to it." It's nice, it's fun. Justin has been in that same situation, winning the Open Championship, and it's a great feeling. Our names will be on those trophies. They can't ever take that away. That's the most important part about it.
Q. Could you speak about how playing an event like this World Cup gives you experience for playing in the Ryder Cup, how much that helps you?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I don't know. I think just with the format, playing foursomes helps a little bit, just from a strategy standpoint. Everything is very different from a Ryder Cup. It's two different animals, when you're talking match-play versus stroke-play. Other than getting to play foursomes for a couple of rounds when it counts, that's about the only help it is.
Q. What's your most memorable encounter with a fan that you can recall?
JIM FURYK: Well, you're giving me the easy way out there because it's recent. For me, though, that was more shocking than memorable, trying to win a major championship and she walks out topless onto the green on national television. It's something you don't expect. There's a little guy in Orlando named Alex that I started playing with on the putting green at Bay Hill I guess back in '95. He was three years old and every year -- I haven't played Bay Hill, but now when I play Disney or nearby, his dad drives him up to THE PLAYERS Championship, I see how he's doing, ask about his interests and what sports he is playing now, different things. I've seen him grow up. He's like 11 or 12 now, and he was still falling down walking the first time I saw him, he was watching me chip and putt to the putting green. That's cool. Every time I go to Orlando I get to hang out with Alex and I let him caddie for me every once in a while.
JUSTIN LEONARD: I'm still thinking. You go for tournaments different places and after you play the same events for a while, you get to know, maybe it's a kid that works on the range -- actually, there is a kid that works on the range at Hilton Head every year. The first year I went there, he was about eight years old and about yay high and now he's 14 or 15 years old, he can hit it further than I can. It's little things like that. The same guys in the locker room most of the places we go, and you kind of get to know those guys a little bit. I would say there's somebody about every week that you remember from the previous years and you kind of befriend people a little bit like that.
Q. You guys are both voters in Player of the Year. Have you gotten your ballots? Have you thought about it and voted already?
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Ballots go out Monday.
Q. Have you thought about it at all from The TOUR Championship to now?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I've thought about it, yeah.
JIM FURYK: I haven't.
Q. Let me put you to the side.
JUSTIN LEONARD: I played an outing Monday. There were eight people there, I was asked eight times.
Q. There are more here, but I'm the only one asking. There is no criteria written down. When you thought about it, what has gone through your mind with regards to what you thought was most important?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, I'm not going to tell you what I think is most important. I would think that that's the criteria, is what a player values as most important. Is it the number of wins, is it a matter of consistency, is it stroke average, is it the amount of money won, it's probably different for everybody. I would think it would be pretty close.
JIM FURYK: It's always going to be that four, but the order will probably change.
JUSTIN LEONARD: It's different for everybody. In Major Championships, it depends where a player finds his goals and his most important results from the golf course and that probably will translate into how the players vote. Is that vague enough?
Q. There was a baseball writer -- words are starting to come out, yesterday there was some discussion about two baseball writers that didn't vote for Matsui out of New York because he didn't feel he was a rookie, and we know exactly who they were because the ballots are open. There was some discussion if your guys ballots should be open in the future. Do you think you would have a problem with people knowing who you voted for?
JIM FURYK: Let me get this straight. Who votes for the baseball Player of the Year and rookie of the year?
Q. The writers.
JIM FURYK: And the ballots are open?
JIM FURYK: It's about time you're held accountable. (Laughter) I'm just kidding. Slipped that one in there. Hopefully everyone knows that. I don't think it matters. I like it better if it's a blind vote because I think people can maybe be a little bit more honest and don't have to think about the repercussions of their vote, but I have no problem.
In saying that, I don't have a problem if you know who I voted for. Then I have to sit down and explain to you for 15 minutes every week why I voted this week way. It's just the way I feel, it's the way I think. Obviously, to me it's obvious. It may not be to everyone else. It's going to be Tiger or Vijay, and it's going to be cut pretty close.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Justin Leonard feels the same.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you for joining us today and play well this week.
End of FastScripts.