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June 15, 2004

Jim Furyk


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome to the media center, defending United States Open Champion, Jim Furyk. Jim, start us off by talking about your feeling and your decision to go out and play this week.

JIM FURYK: Well, it seems redundant. I think I've talked to everyone out there, at least once this week. But it's quite a difference between a year ago. I've told a lot of you that last year I came to this event trying to win the golf tournament this year. I'm showing up trying to start the golf tournament. A much different spot. I'm happy trying to give it a chance, giving it a shot as a positive move. I wasn't expected to be at this event, never really thought it was going to happen. So I'm looking forward to trying to tee it up on Thursday. So far so good. Everything looks good. It's going to be a challenge. I haven't played tournament golf for six months. This week is going to be a big challenge for me as far as playing wise. My game is a little rusty, it's not in shape. I'm going to have to hang in there and do the best I can.

RAND JERRIS: Take a moment and talk about this golf course and how it sets up for your game, maybe in comparison to how Olympia Fields did.

JIM FURYK: I really like this golf course. I don't think you're going to talk to many people in this field that have anything bad to say about the golf course. It's a fantastic course. It's an unbelievable condition. I really, I think, setup wise, I think the way the golf course sets up. It's obviously not a very long golf course. And it's also playing very firm and very fast. And puts a premium on placing the ball in the correct spots, placing the ball in the fairway, placing the ball in the green with very precise iron shots, to really allow yourself to putt.

The greens are severe in some cases and I think the penalty for missing the greens, I believe it's going to be very difficult to get the ball up-and-down from a lot of places around these greens. It really putts a premium on striking the ball in play, putting the ball on the green. And I still think getting the ball up-and-down is going to be very, very difficult.

Q. Any concerns playing out of U.S. Open type rough with your wrist?

JIM FURYK: I think there's no concern playing out of the rough. The rough here this week isn't six, seven inches long and extremely dense. It doesn't have to be on this golf course. This golf course doesn't need a whole heck of a lot of protection. It's a difficult course in its own right. I think there might be some concerns going in and taking a big lash out of the heather. But that may be so for everyone. So there's going to be some spots out there where you're going to have difficulty finding the ball and playing the ball out of the heather. There's going to be some spots where we can get the ball back into play and advance it forward, get the ball back in play and give ourselves a chance to move on. So there's really -- if I felt that I couldn't play out of the rough, then obviously I wouldn't be here, but I will be here playing, because it wouldn't be worth it, but -- you spend enough time on this golf course, you're going to hit the ball in the rough you can't hit it that straight.

Q. You had an opportunity to play with Vijay for a practice round; I wonder what you saw with his play on this golf course?

JIM FURYK: I think that you obviously look at the top players in the world, Vijay being one of them in the top three. He's been playing very, very well. Yesterday was a little bit -- for me to do that practice round probably a little more seriously than myself, because I haven't played golf in six months, I haven't played competitively, I was grinding it out a little more because I need to sharpen up a little bit. For Darren and Vijay and Adam who have been playing golf, Monday is usually a day off, they were churning it more for a day to visually see the golf course and feel their way around, what different shots to hit, how they feel the best way to get the ball in play for them is. I practiced along with Vijay quite a bit at home and he's been playing well, and the way he's been playing his game will fit on any golf course.

Q. Can you just take us through how things did turn around so quickly for you, I think eight days ago at your charity tournament I saw you ready to play at about 5 percent, and a week later you're in the field?

JIM FURYK: Well, I had a very good week of practice afterwards, I stayed up there in Pennsylvania Tuesday after the event and played about nine holes in an outing, which had been about what I'd been doing before. And then Tuesday night I decided to give it a good test and I was pretty surprised and then pretty happy. I played 18 holes Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and was able to practice a little bit. And I really was waking up every morning and feeling well, feeling strong and feeling ready to go. The one concern I had was that I really haven't had a day off in seven or eight days, where I was usually playing for about two or three days in a row. I played nine holes in practice, and then I would basically take a day off and give it a chance to rest, because when I first came back that's what I could do, I could hit balls two or three days and then I had to give it some time.

My concern right now is I haven't had a day off since Monday, since that charity event. And hopefully not for the rest of the week. But I'm wanting to know if it can hold up for that period of time.

Q. Will that affect your upcoming schedule regarding say the Western; will you need to take more time off between events?

JIM FURYK: I think everything is going to be -- everything right now for me is going to be playing by ear and seeing how I feel. I was scheduled or was playing to schedule Western as my first event. I would very much like to be there and play that event. I'm planning on playing, if all is well and -- in a perfect world, which never turns out to be that way -- in a perfect world I would probably play the Western, take a week off, play the British, take a week off and then I believe the Buick in Flint, Michigan would be the next event, play there, take a week off and then probably get ready for maybe PGA, World Series, two weeks back-to-back for the first time.

I was planning on just the events I've played in the past and kind of playing a schedule for picking and choosing one event on, one event off, to see if I can get rest for a while, and I hope that works out, but I don't know what the schedule is going to be.

Q. A couple of weeks ago you said that your doctors were concerned about your wrist and how it would be ready for right now. Has something changed dramatically in the last few weeks, that you and your doctors feel that this is the right time to get on the course?

JIM FURYK: In hitting balls basically I've been speaking to the doctor that did the surgery about once a week and I give him either the beginning or the end of the week I give him a checkup how my wrist feels, how much I've improved or not improved through that week and before I headed to my event in Philadelphia last week we talked and I said, hey, I'd obviously like to really go to the U.S. Open but I've talked to him about being healthy is the first priority and being ready to play. And I was talking about the Western, really. And he thought that, hey, that sounds great. I think you're right on track, with your schedule you should be doing well. Like I said, the practice went real well for the week before, making the decision to come up here, I spoke to him and kind of on a trial basis, come up here, give it a chance, see what it feels like. And I noticed that what has happened a lot with the recovery and what's pretty typical when you have an injury is it's not like every day you make a real gradual, slow gain. I think that I go for a week at a time and feel like I made no progress and get frustrated. And the next week I might make a huge leap and jump in that I'm able to do so much more in my rehab. And then I make a huge jump in the game where I'm able to pick up or whether it was increased weight or increased motion or what it would be, what I was able to do.

I think last week was one of those where I'd seen some pretty moderate, for a week or two where I wasn't moving too much forward, I wasn't pushing it too much; last week I saw where I was getting a little bit closer. And I wanted to give it a try. Like I said, right now it feels pretty good, but I'm not stressing, I'm not putting the pressure on it that I would be in a tournament week, usually, I haven't been hitting a ton of balls. I've played nine holes. I've had some light to moderate practice every day. I really was hoping to come back strong where I could say, yeah, I'm a hundred percent, I'm ready to go physically. Now I need to get my game back and get the rhythm of things. I pushed the envelope trying to come to the U.S. Open and had a lot of good memories here from last year and I wanted to show up as the defending champion if I could, but I want to do that knowing that it's not going to cause me problems for the future. I don't want to play here and then cause my recovery to slow down for another month or something like that. I want to make sure that it's all in good health for me and hopefully that will be the case.

Q. Is there any chance you won't play Thursday or what will cause you to not go?

JIM FURYK: I said all week that I'm -- the plan is to basically I'm again going to play nine holes tomorrow, go through my moderate practice and basically -- my wrist feels great when I'm out there playing, I'm out there moving it, it's loosened up, I feel good. Where it starts to stiffen up a little bit is in the evenings or in the mornings after sleep. If I feel any pain, if I go out tomorrow and feel any pain or I wake up Thursday morning and try to hit balls and feel pain, then it wouldn't -- from talking to my doctor, it wouldn't be in my best interests to be out there playing golf and at that point I'll withdraw and at least know that I came and gave it a good shot.

At the very, very least being here has helped my game a ton for the fact that I'm just getting to play this golf course and under these conditions and really test my game more than you can do at your home course under normal conditions, under regular play. It has really made me step it up a little bit. I'm in obviously no condition -- my game is not the same condition it was last year when I came to this event. But it's helped me improve. It's helped me get closer to that level.

Q. You've obviously healed rapidly, maybe even quicker than you thought. Do you still have to ice the wrist or do any sort of physical therapy between practice sessions?

JIM FURYK: The therapy right now is basically -- is the golf. I put enough pressure on it and doing enough out there that it's getting stronger for the golf.

As far as ice, I think it's probably always a good idea for me right now to heat it up in the morning and get it loose and ice it when I'm done, like you would basically with any injury. But as far as the physical therapy, I think I've advanced through that and I'm able to play golf now and get through it. I think what I do golf-wise now is more strenuous than what the therapy was.

Q. Has the injury forced you to mentally change your approach; has it made you more tentative or anything like that?

JIM FURYK: At first, absolutely. I think that while I was trying to hit balls, while I just started out basically putting, hitting chip shots, worked to pitch shots, worked into full swings and built my way up, making those first full swings it actually -- there is a mental barrier that you have to get over and realize that my wrist is healed, it's not going to hurt and then go ahead and let it go. But I'm pretty much past that barrier now as far as -- I'm not in an area where I'm going to make a swing and damage my wrist again or that -- I was told in order to hurt myself or reinjure my wrist I'd have to do something violent. That might be taking a lash out of the heather with a hard 7-iron, which I would like to think I'm a little smarter than that. That would be a violent action. As far as hurting it again, that's probably not going to be the case. It doesn't mean it won't get sore or painful, but at that point you have to be realistic and know that I can't play the tournament if that's the case, and give it more time and make sure I'm a hundred percent.

Q. Obviously when you have been a hundred percent you're a guy that shows up with expectations of having a good chance to win the golf tournament. What are your expectations this week? Obviously you're not quite at a hundred percent; how close do you feel you are there, and what would be a good week for you, assuming you could play 72 holes?

JIM FURYK: That's a really good question. I'm not sure. I don't know. Right now I want to just go out there and compete, do the best that I can and play well. It is nice showing up at the golf tournaments, preparing and thinking about winning the golf tournament. It's going to be a while for me to get my rhythm and get back to the flow of things before I get back in a mentality. One of the reasons I'm here is that I'm trying to get back to that quicker, as quickly and efficiently as possible. And right now I probably expect more out of the myself than anybody else, but I also know that I have to be realistic, that it's been six months. I'm throwing myself into the fire this week, coming to the U.S. Open and not playing for as long as I have and playing a difficult golf course set up this tough. It's going to be a tough week, it's going to grind out.

Q. How many holes have you played the last few days, and have you taken swings out of the Heather at all?

JIM FURYK: How many holes have I played the last two days? I've played nine the last days I've been here. How many times have I gone to the heather and taken a swing out of there? Now it doesn't make any sense for me to go in there and take a lash out of the Heather grass so I have not.

Q. You and David Duval are somewhat in a similar position, coming back after a long layoff. Have you had any conversations?

JIM FURYK: We have not, not here this week. I've seen David -- I talked to him once on the phone, and I've seen him in Florida a little bit around the time of his wedding and we really didn't talk too much about golf. He asked me how I was feeling, how I was doing, and when I thought I might be back. And I said I wasn't sure. I asked him when he was going to return and come back to the Tour and he said he wasn't sure and we moved on to other things. And that's about all we talked about golf.

Q. Would you say you have a better perspective than others just about coming back into this type of environment, given that it's the U.S. Open?

JIM FURYK: Well, I think that -- do I have a better perspective about taking six months off and coming back to play? I think so, because I'm doing it. Anybody that's gone through an injury and taken time off and come back. Sometimes -- the biggest layoff I ever had in my career is probably just a couple of months between tournaments. And that seemed like a pretty long time where I felt a little uncomfortable and a little odd. I've never had a six month -- six months like I have now or longer like some people. In due time I think you have to have some patience and realize it's going to take a little while. And that might be a couple of weeks, might be a couple of months, I'm not sure how long it will take. I want to be patient and get my game back to the same condition it was and get back into the rhythm it was.

Q. Considering what you want to do, do you think you might be more nostalgic this week or push those feelings aside thinking about where you want to get to?

JIM FURYK: I think a little bit of both. Obviously there's a lot of -- there's a lot of my friends, the players, there's a lot of fans out there that are saying welcome back, it's nice to see you, we're glad you came, who also have great feelings. There is a little warm feeling about it. And, you know, that's again, one of the reasons I wanted to be at this event. But also like you said, I'm not one that's always sat around to smell the flowers too long anyway. And I push myself pretty hard. And I realize that there's a tough task in front of me. My practice schedule is limited. I really have to focus and be prepared, with what practice I do get I really have to work hard and I'm trying to do that so I can be somewhat prepared for the event and for getting back, like you say. After this week all that nostalgia will be over with and everyone will forget and then it will just be about me getting my game back in shape.

RAND JERRIS: Jim, thanks for your time, we appreciate it.

End of FastScripts.

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