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July 28, 2004

Jim Furyk


JOE CHEMYCZ: Jim, we appreciate your time. Last year, all four rounds in the 60s on this golf course, and today a 65, so something is still going well with you and Warwick Hills.

JIM FURYK: Well, today isn't real important. I don't really care if the number is a 65, 72, as long as I feel comfortable with the way I'm striking the ball, hitting some good putts. I have a few things to work on.

Since the British Open, I've been working hard trying to get ready for this event, some events in the future. And some of it made sense today, hit some better shots, kept the ball in the fairway pretty well and knocked some putts in. It was a good feeling. I feel like my game is in pretty decent shape and hope I can continue that. I wasn't real happy with the way I struck the ball or the way I played the British Open, and I've been working hard to improve upon.

Q. What are a couple of things that you've been working on since the British?

JIM FURYK: Well, trying to get the ball in the fairway. (Laughing).

Second day at the British just didn't hit a lot of fairways, didn't hit a lot of greens and really put stress on my short game. Got the ball up and down quite well putted quite well, but wasn't really striking the ball well enough and didn't look like I was going to make the cut and laid down and ended up barely missing it. So just really just got into a couple of bad positions with my setup and caused some poor swings and trying to work my way out of that and really gain some confidence.

This is still the beginning of my year, my fourth event basically is what it feels like after the U.S. Open, the Western and the British. Other than that, I haven't played since really January. For me it's the beginning of the season I've been working hard, practicing hard, trying to get my game in a good rhythm, good groove and I'd like to see some positive signs come out of that.

Q. How is the wrist, can you give us an update on that? And secondly what's it like starting your season with three majors in like a two month span?

JIM FURYK: It's awkward. It's awkward to do that. My wrist is very healthy, I'm feeling very well. I still have to be a little careful with the amount of practice, amount of time I put in. I'm not going to go out there and hit five buckets of range balls and test it too much, but I go out there and practice, play 18 holes, warm up 18 holes, practice a little bit and I feel comfortable.

Yesterday I played in the cold, wet weather a little bit. Without much warm up it felt fine, it's doing quite well. Really, like I said, I'm trying to get my game feeling good with a lot of confidence and the confidence really builds from tournament after tournament after tournament. You start hitting some good shots and you build upon it. You get a lot of confidence, and right now what I need is that time, I just need to play more tournaments and build the confidence. I feel good about my game, but it is awkward. The first three events coming back, two of them are major championships in the first five, three of them were major championships.

I'm happy to be in those tournaments and I've got a chance to play more golf than I thought I would have this year, and play it relatively play it very healthy at the same time. Fortunate for that.

And it's fun. It's fun to be out here working and grinding and trying to improve.

Q. The long history of this tournament only once back to back champions, '64 '65.

JIM FURYK: I keep hearing that today.

Q. Why is it so hard to win back to back here?

JIM FURYK: I think obviously the field depth, I think we have there's a lot of players on TOUR now as opposed to maybe I've always said, I don't think the players of today's era are any better than a generation ago, two generations ago. It's kind of a tough point to compare Tiger versus Sam Snead versus Jack Nicklaus; they are all great players. I think right now, Tiger probably competes against a little deeper field than maybe some of the generations in past.

We have a huge talent pool. Guys, there's a lot more guys in the field that can win golf tournaments as probably many people know. But this tournament in particular, it's probably there's a lot of low numbers in here. There's a lot of 18 unders, 20 unders. It's a shootout. You have to make a lot of birdies. It's an exciting back nine. Some short irons in your hand sprinkled in with some really tough holes. I think the back nine can get really exciting because a guy can go out there and fire a 30 or 31 pretty quick. If you don't take advantage, there's sometimes on those wedge holes you feel you have to make birdie, you put a lot of pressure on yourself and you get a little impatient. 15 is a great golf hole, the par 3s are all very tough holes, and you can be a little impatient and not birdie the short ones and make a couple mistakes on the tougher ones. And all of a sudden that guy goes out and shoots a little 30, 31 on your back catches you. I don't know if any lead is really all that safe on this golf course.

Q. I know you played Oakland Hills yesterday, even though the tournament is still a month and a half away; is it safe to say the Ryder Cup is already on your mind a little bit?

JIM FURYK: Well, yeah, I think it's always on my mind. The last time we were in this situation, I was sitting in the hot seat, No. 11, and I answered the question a hundred times this week about whether it was on my mind or not. I said I don't really have a choice I'm getting the question every ten minutes from someone. I had the fans coming in Sunday chanting "USA" as I made a couple birdies rooting me onto make the team.

It's a wonderful event. It's my favorite event. It's one I look forward to. I really keep an eye on the points because I've had the ability to this year I haven't had the ability to really earn a lot of points. I thought I was really going to fall from the standings at the start of the year and I expected to be 6, 7, 8, 9 when I came back and I was fortunate enough to still be in fourth and be pretty solid. When I came back from the U.S. Open, it looked like I was still pretty much a lock for the team, which I was happy to see. That took pressure off me because that event is very special to me, I want to be there and represent my country and play with those 11 other players.

So, I can't imagine an event that has more pressure, but it couldn't be more fun than that event.

Q. You played the monster yesterday, to reacquaint yourself with the course?

JIM FURYK: I played the U.S. Open there. I really like the golf course. That was the first U.S. Open I ever played real well, and only my second U.S. Open. I like the golf course. I forgot how severe the greens are. I got reacquainted really quick on 1 and 2, 3, it all hit me again; "oh, yeah, I remember." I just kind of getting an idea of the routing. And yesterday wasn't a real good practice round as far as hitting shots and seeing like where your driver ends up because it was cold and wet and getting no roll.

Of course the course is playing really long. I was more or less looking at the yardage book, and by the last few holes, it was, let's get in, because there was dumping; it was coming down too hard at that point. But it was really just look looking at the golf course, maybe it wasn't like a hard practice round. It because more just acquaintance, knowing things I need to look for when I do play my practice round in September.

Q. Talked about shaking off the dust, this is like the beginning of your season. How much does it help to come to a tournament that you've won before?

JIM FURYK: It's nice coming I don't need a lot of practice rounds around this golf course. I think this is my 10th time here, so I've played a lot of rounds around it. I know the golf course well. I'm comfortable. My caddie is comfortable. I know how I want to play the golf course pretty much in all conditions. So it was nice having it's a tough thing about coming back to Shinnecock for my first event. Actually I had never played the golf course, I played the golf course once. I didn't remember because it's been so long ago, not really knowing where to place the ball. Not only was I trying to find my game a little bit in those practice rounds, but I was trying to learn the golf courses.

The Western being my second event was a lot more fun. I'm very comfortable at Cog Hill. I've played real well there. I know that golf course very well, as well, and I didn't have to spend my time really studying the golf course. I could just worry about getting my game in shape and trying to play well and that's kind of the same attitude I have here. I know the course well and really the a matter of trying to get my game in shape and get ready for the event.

Q. How did the water affect the course today and what do you anticipate it playing like the next couple of days?

JIM FURYK: I was shocked how playable it was today. We played the ball down. I got maybe just a couple of shots that I thought maybe squirted a little bit from the water, but it drained extremely well. The golf course was more playable than I could ever have imagined. So I think that although it's going to play very soft and the greens are going to be firm, or very soft, I think we're going to have to be careful if you get caught with those short holes with like a full wedge in your hand.

It's going to be really you're going to see guys spinning the ball back too much, especially a hole like, for instance, like 13, the par 5, when you get those pins that sit up on those shelves, it's going to make some of those shots difficult. Because if you go in there, like me, 95 yards with a sand wedge, I can fly to the hole but I'm going to back the ball up 30, 40 feet on some of those holes with the big rides so you have to take more club and choke it up and knock down, which if you fly it pin high it will stop; but then that makes it real easy to hit it through a green or hit it behind a pin.

I think at times it's going to let us throw darts on some holes. When you have a 5 or a 6 iron in your hand, it's going to let you throw a dart and not worry about the ball releasing or bouncing as much but sometimes it makes sometimes it makes a shot most of the time it makes a shot easier. Every once in a while it makes the shot harder because you would like to skip it back sometimes to take long out of play and you're not going to do that. If you want to force it and get it back to the pin, it could be difficult.

Q. Home crowd is an advantage in Ryder Cup, but in this day and age of international, all the Europeans that play over here, is there such a thing as a course setup that would favor the Americans more than the Europeans? And specifically, can you see them setting up Oakland Hills in a way that would favor American players more than the Europeans?

JIM FURYK: Well, I'm sure that I think the Europeans did a good job setting up Valderrama. They did a good job setting up The Belfry. Although I'm not long, our team, especially at Valderrama was a very long golf team. We had seven guys, eight guys that could just bomb it. That golf course is kind of situated and is also set up with the way the rough was cut to where a lot of fairways ran out at 275, pinched so much that it made it took driver out of a lot of guys hands.

For me it was still driver, 3 wood a lot of times, but for some of our longer players, they are hitting 3 wood, 1 iron to the same spot and it was kind of making everyone play from the same position. From that case, I think I did a wonderful job setting up the golf course. Took away maybe some of our strength.

As far as Oakland Hills, it's a wonderful golf course. I don't know. I'd say, you know, a lot of Americans seem to win U.S. Opens so maybe set it up in a U.S. Open fashion, and sometimes you have to be careful what you ask for. It can jump up and bite you. So ultimately what it boils down to, I think a lot of that is Hal's decision. That's something of the things that the captain does behind the scenes.

Ben was adamant; he wanted the Country Club setup a certain way and thought it was good for our team. But it boils down to we need to go out there and hit the good golf shots and play better than any other team if we want to win. Not really much I can control there. That's more of our captain's duty. He's going to take a look and try to give us every even if it's a minor advantage, he's going to try to do that.

I think the fact that the golf course is relatively close, a lot of it. I'm going to say probably half the guys on the team might have played that U.S. Open. A lot of our guys, we're going to be not that far away after the PGA. We're not that far away right now.

It's nice to get up there play a round. I'm very comfortable. I think it's a wonderful golf course. I like that old style of course. It's not there's a few holes I think you want to play, you really want to be familiar with the greens, but the holes, those old courses are framed very well. It kind of shows you where you're supposed to hit the ball with trees and bunkering. It's not like you need 100 rounds to get around it. Those greens are at times very big and extremely sloped. I had forgotten that somehow. I don't know how I let that escape me, but wow, I was impressed by the greens yesterday.

Q. You talk about the passion you have and representing your country, the opportunity to play in the Ryder Cup, it seems as though with the popularity of golf really expanding over the last several years or more, the nationalistic approach, the real interest on both sides of the ocean in this event has become even more heightened. How much of that do you like and do you feel it's gone over the top, or is it something that's good for the game and good for the Ryder Cup?

JIM FURYK: I think it's actually probably, as you call it, nationalistic approach, that probably came to it's head at Kiawah and through it's a heated rivalry. I think that's toned down, personally, in the last couple of years, because of so many European and foreign players coming and playing in the States, doing so well in the States. It's hard. I know Ernie Els and I'm trying to think of a lot of players. Ernie Els, he just doesn't seem like a foreigner to me because he lives in Orlando, he plays our tour full time, he's done it forever. He's been a friend of mine for eight, ten years now. I just don't really see where he's South African and I'm American and there's going to be a clash in the Presidents Cup. We're friends and we're always going to be friends.

It doesn't mean we can't be intense on the golf course. He wants to beat me and I want to beat him if we're playing against each other in the Presidents Cup too bad he beat me last time.

But I think that the fact that more Europeans have come over here, have played our tour full time, the Darren Clarkes, the Lee Westwoods and the Thomas Bjorns, you've got Sergio and Jesper, you really become friends with them. My wife hangs out with their wives and we're friends and we go to dinner. So, I think it's maybe become a less heated than maybe it was back in like the Seve/Ray Floyd where there was a lot of clashing and guys going out. But a lot of the Europeans didn't play our tour full time and only came over for a few events. That friendship wasn't there so maybe that rivalry got a little more heated at times. There's still some heated things that happened, but afterwards we all kind of pat each other on the back and have a beer and we get over it and we move on. It's a better tournament for it, I think.

Q. Inaudible?

JIM FURYK: Well, absolutely not. But I think the spirit of that event and the spirit of what our country is supposed to stand for. Even though you're proud to represent your country you want to do it in a classy and professional manner.

Absolutely not. I'm representing the United States and I want to beat the Europeans in the worst way, but I want to do it in a fashion that they are still my friends. But, yeah, representing your country and playing the Ryder Cup is the ultimate to me is the ultimate and etc. The ultimate pressure, the ultimate fun, that's the way to test your game under the most intense light. That passion will never leave.

I just think the event was set up originally to, it was set up to be a very intense rivalry but it wasn't for a long time because the Americans seemed to win for so long. Afterwards it was supposed to be a friendly match and it lost that for a little while. I think that it's probably I see it because of golf becoming more worldwide and the players intermixing so much now I think that probably returning a little bit.

Q. Have you played Whistling Straits?

JIM FURYK: I have not.

Q. If not, what kind of buzz are you getting from the players about it?

JIM FURYK: It's hard.

Q. From what I've heard on Media Day, they said that it could be likely that double digits over par could be the winner if there's that type of wind.

JIM FURYK: I don't know anything about scores like that. I've heard that the way the golf course was set up this summer for a few of the people that went out and played it, I heard it's very narrow, the golf course, even though it's long it's extremely narrow. I heard that if the wind blew, the golf course was going to be extremely difficult to play. I heard a lot more crying than that, but I'll tone it down for you.

I've heard that they have gone in and blown out some of those landing areas. They have cut down some of the hay and made it more playable. Again this is all what I've her. I haven't been there, so take it with a grain of salt. I heard some frustrated people, so I'm trying to go in there with a good attitude that will help me out. I third of them are already frustrated. It's a difficult, difficult golf course.

Pete Dye designs difficult golf courses. He doesn't give you a lot of places to miss the ball and as a knack for being able to set up a golf course to where it looks intimidating. Not only is it tough, but he makes it look even more intimidating than it is. It's a tough visual at times and it's good to learn those golf courses a little bit.

With my injury and the way I've been playing, I haven't had a shot to get up there but I'll get some rounds in and get to know the golf course before the event.

Q. Often players say that Ryder Cup pressure is different than, say, major championship pressure. Curious if you found it to be true and if so in what way?

JIM FURYK: I think it's easier to play for yourself. We've all knocked in putts, missed putts, we've all had these ultimate highs and lows in this game. And ultimately, when it's yourself you know, it's actually probably more special to share the highs with someone else. It's probably more difficult to spend the lows with someone else because you don't want to feel like you let people down.

And I think for people playing in their first Ryder Cup, younger guys playing in those events, at times you'll hear guys saying, "I'm sorry." You blow it out in the tree, "sorry about that." I've never been mad at someone for putting it in a bad position where we're going to lose the hole. Just let's get over it; let's go win the next one.

I think you have to view those situations as, hey I'm not letting another guy down. Hey, I've got another guy in this with me that together, we are going to bail each other out and we are going to pull through this. I've got another guy rooting for me even harder than I am probably for myself. I think you have to view the positive side of it rather than the negative. But it's pretty easy at times especially when you're young, first time there, you can get down on yourself and you feel like Hal told us one time in his first Ryder Cup he felt like he didn't want to go and screw up for the team; rather than going out, he said at Brookline: I'm taking a totally different attitude. The first time I got it one of these I went in there saying, "geez, I don't want to go in there and play bad." Instead of going in there saying, "I want to play good, I want to win some points for this team" and not worrying about the consequences, he went in there worrying about what bad could happen.

I think that happens in all sports to younger players you lose your aggressive nature and you get in there trying not to mess up rather than trying to do well. I think you have to view it as a positive.

I've played in quite a few international events. I enjoy them. I've really gotten to know my teammates so much better than I ever would have. It's more individualistic out here. I have my close friends, but I've made more close friends in those events. You get to know other people better and they are out there pulling for and you vice versa.

And my wife walks, whether I'm playing 36 or not she's walking a minimum of 36 holes because she's walking around with all of the other girls and pulling for the other guys. I see her in the morning and evenings, and she's out there watching a lot of golf and getting into the spirit of things. So it's really become a lot closer with a lot of those players and I cherish that from those events probably even more than the competitive part.

I have a hard time believing I'm saying that but I really we were always early on when I played in those events, '97, '98, '99, our team was always criticized. We were 12 individuals, and that kind of lit a fire under one of those at the Presidents Cup one year. I got tired of hearing it because for me that was the most special, because no one was back in closed doors hearing what we were talking about and how much fun we were having. Just because it looked like on paper in a couple of those events, we were the better team and we didn't win, made us not care about it and that's not the case. I see a lot of passion behind closed doors, I see a lot of guys really enjoying themselves and having a good time. I take those memories with me. That's what I really enjoy about the event.

JOE CHEMYCZ: Jim, we appreciate it. Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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