November 4, 2003
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We'd Like to welcome Jim Furyk to the interview room. Jim, thanks for joining us. Two time winner. This is your 7th TOUR Championship and you set the course record in 2001 with a 62. Obviously some good memories here. Can you just talk about playing in the Tour Championship for the 7th time.
JIM FURYK: Well, it's nice. Seven in a row, like you said. This is my fourth event here at Champions, so I think it's four here at Champions. I like the event. I had a chance to win back in '97. I played fairly well here last time in 2001. I like the golf course. It looks like it's in real good shape. I guess they changed the surface of the greens but you would never know it because they're rolling so well. They look great. I'm excited for the week.
Q. If Tiger or Vijay wins, or I guess maybe even Mike Weir, this week, it seems to be the three names being kicked around. Do they get your vote for Player of the Year? Is it that simple coming down to this or do you need to look at stats?
JIM FURYK: No, I'm not a stat guy. So I don't really look too much to stats. Unless you consider finishes and you look at wins, Majors, consistency, Money List. All those things in one. I think if -- going in there thinking that Tiger's won, I think has he won five events? Vijay's won?
JIM FURYK: Four. Davis has won four. I've got to think if Tiger wins he's got a really good chance of being Player of the Year. I think if Vijay wins, adding as many wins, more consistent, winning the Money List, I've got to think he gets it. Mike Weir would have four wins and a Major. That's awful nice. It could be that easy. But you never know. I think with Vijay and Tiger, I think the win will mean -- do they get my vote? Probably. With a win, Vijay win, he's got my vote. He's got the money wins, he's got the money list. If Tiger wins, he's got the most wins, I think that's important. Six wins is better, in my opinion, than three and a Major. Which I guess then if I won, I would have three and a Major, and six wins is still I think a little more impressive.
Q. What do you do if that Furyk guy wins this week?
JIM FURYK: I'm not voting for myself anyway, so it doesn't matter.
Q. But wouldn't that make you a pretty strong candidate also? Three wins and a Major?
JIM FURYK: I don't know. I've been asked that question. I was trying to prepare myself for that question before I walked in here. And I still don't really know how to answer it. I think I'm a very, very, very -- stress very -- outside chance. I think five wins versus three, including a Major, I don't know. Still five wins is a lot. I don't have a chance of winning the Money List. It would be a very, very, very, very outside chance. Nothing I can worry about. I just go play golf. I really wanted to have a strong finish to the year. I took a bunch of time off before AmEx Vegas, Greensboro, Disney, I wanted to really make an impact in those four events so I could sit up here and come to this event knowing that a win would really boost that opportunity. And that's why I chose to stay in the USGA. That's why I chose to play here at home and not take appearance fees around the world in the fall, where I had the opportunity to do that. And I wanted to give it a shot. It didn't really work out the way I would have liked it to. I would have liked to have won another event or two. But I gave it a chance and I played hard.
Q. It almost seems like if one of the top three, four guys wins, it makes it a lot easier to solve this. What happens if somebody, one of the 27 other guys wins, how do you look at it?
JIM FURYK: I think you'll see a very close vote, a very split vote. Which hasn't happened in a while. It's been mail in Tiger for the last few years. And there was no close second. I think you're going to see some guys are going to think that not only the number of tournaments, but the tournaments that you won, whether they were bigger in stature less in stature. Some guys are going to weigh in on the Money List as more important. It's going to probably be a very split vote and a very close vote. I would say Mike and Davis and Vijay and Tiger, they were all going to play poorly this year, which the odds probably aren't in that favor since they have all played well all year. If that were the case, it's going to be a very tight race.
Q. I'm assuming you know him fairly well since you guys are almost neighbors, in your view has Vijay been treated unfairly this year? And if so, for those of us who only see usually the bad side of him in here, what would you have us know about that guy?
JIM FURYK: Well, you have to also understand where you only see the bad side, as you called it. I never see the bad side because I've never sat in here with him and I've never really seen that interview. I have never seen what you all are writing about. So I've read what somewhat, you also assume that I read a lot. On the outside.
Q. Bad assumption on my part.
JIM FURYK: Well, I read some, but I don't read a lot. It's a little bit of an unfair question because I don't see that side. I'm not criticizing, I'm just saying I'm never in here when he's doing an interview. I don't hear it. I read some of the comments, but I never see the whole flow, what happens, obviously it's been a tough relationship this year. Vijay's very direct, very blunt, you-know-where-you-stand type of person. If he doesn't like you, he'll be more than happy to let you know. He's not going to shy away from the situation. If he likes you, you know it and I never had a problem with him. I don't have a problem with -- I do have a problem with a few people. But very, very few I've ever had issues. And I practice alongside of him. I think that we probably practice the most while we're home. He practices the most. There's no doubt. Undefeated champ of that. Gabe practices with us a lot back there. I had a lot of little chipping competitions. He's actually a very funny person, he likes to rib you, give you the needle, to the point where you can almost take it the wrong way at times. I get along with him fine. As far as has he been treated unfairly, he probably said some things that most of us, even if you had felt that way, which I don't think I always share the same opinions, but he didn't shy away from them. It wouldn't be worth the hassle for me. But that's Vijay's makeup. He says he won't shy away from that situation. He'll let you know how he feels. And if you don't agree with it, that's fine. I think he has to accept the consequences. There's a lot of articles out there that are opinion related. Vijay had his opinion, the writers have their opinion on certain issues, and that's the chance you take. And a lot of people won't step out. It's kind of a Catch-22, because we get criticized in standing up here like I'm doing right now, skirting issues. We get criticized for that. But yet if you have an opinion that not many people like, and you do speak out, then it can bite you in the rear end in the long run. Good for you guys.
David Duval is a guy very similar who will stick out and give you an opinion that guys don't really appreciate or don't like at times. But David's a very good friend too and he's very honest. If you ask him a question and he has a feeling, he'll let you know. I don't know. I guess now we're going to argue whether it's fair or not to do that. I don't mind arguing an opinion. I don't mind arguing your side. I think where players take it maybe a little harshly is when you kind of go after their character or their nature, rather than their opinion. Then guys probably take it a little bit more personally. I feel like I'm kind of like an innocent bystander and I probably have seen both sides of the picture and it's a shame that it didn't work out better. I don't think Vijay's a bad person. But he's definitely been vilified this year.
Q. Ever since you came out here you've been talking about your only goal is just to improve your game every year. That's pretty much been the case. Do you feel that progression has kept up? And if so, this year what were the areas where you maybe were able to improve a little bit more?
JIM FURYK: Yes, I obviously I think that I had an -- I don't know if it was a breakout season, but I had my best season to date. I was very consistent. I won two events. And one of those was a Major championship, where I had never won two events in a season. And to me. Winning golf tournaments is the most important.
What's improved? Overall I think there's just a maturing process in the game where every year you figure out how to manage your game and play the golf courses that we play on in a better fashion. The different parts of my game, I think that the last three, four years especially I've become a much better ball-striker. To the point where early in my career I was a very average ball-striker, had a very good short game. And that was the strength of my game. And then I became much more consistent to the fact that my ball striking stats and my ball striking by far outweighed what I did around and on the greens. And it never really shows up that way.
Not many people think of me as a classic ball-striker, a guy that hits the ball down the middle. So I think that this year it's kind of been a combination of both. I really made an improvement this year on my putting versus I'll say 2001, 2002, maybe even 2000, where they weren't poor years, but they weren't good either. My putting probably held me back a little bit from really breaking out. I'm definitely not whining about it or complaining about it because it was relatively solid. It's just that it was streaky in spots, where this year it was definitely more consistent throughout the year. And that's what allowed me to have a more consistent year and put myself in position, give myself more opportunities to win.
Q. Did you make changes with the putting stroke or anything?
JIM FURYK: Not really. I just learned a little bit. I always struggled a little bit with my setup. It's been a three -, four-year process actually of trying to learn a little bit about my setup. My poor habits are pretty similar. I know that when I'm putting bad I'm usually aiming left. And that I have a bad habit of aiming left with the putter. It's usually one way or the other for every player. I just had to get comfortable with the putter and find something I felt confident lining up. There's a lot of times where my eye sees myself right in the center of the hole and someone behind me says, well, you're left edge or just outside from say 8 feet. That's a big margin even shorter. It's a big margin of error. I just had to get comfortable to where my mind's eye and my eye and the putter were all lined up in the same spot. I've learned some different things in my setup and my posture and ball position, even some technical things with the putter that I have just been working on for a lot of years. This year I made a little bigger jump in learning how to correct some of those. And I worked real hard on it. I practiced a lot. Hopefully I can continue to learn more about that.
Q. How long have you done your unique pre-putt routine?
JIM FURYK: I don't know. It's been over a year. It hasn't just been this year. My reasoning for that would be easy. You ever watch, like, Bones with Phil, and Phil asks him to read a putt. You every watch Bones go up and, like, mockputt from the other side of the ball. The reason he does that and the reason I'm doing the same thing in my routine is that we have always -- you don't see guys on the putting green walking behind their ball and getting down from two different angles. You scrape a ball over, you say it's about a right edge or a cup out and you hit the putt there. We get so used to reading putts from over the top of the ball for feeling, where you think the ball is going to break, that I feel like I read putts from over the top of the ball in my setup position just about as well as I do from behind the ball. But it gives me two different check points. It also gives me a feel for how fast or slow that putt's going to be and for what speed I think I'm going to hit that putt on. So I get over the ball, put the ball down and I get over it. Maybe a couple practice strokes and get over it and say this is a quick putt I'm going to have to hit it easy and feed it down. Now when I go behind the ball I have that picture and also the speed in my head. I can get another look from behind the ball and then I go hit it. I do the same thing. I just do them in a little different order.
Q. You just basically read the putt from over the ball first?
JIM FURYK: Right. But a lot of guys put the ball down, they go behind it, they read the putt, they walk up, take a couple practice strokes and then in their mind's eye they're getting an idea where they have to aim and adjust from there. I do the same things, I just do them in a different order, which is pretty usual for me anyway.
Q. Does that have anything to do with your putting improving?
JIM FURYK: I don't think. I did that years ago actually too, back when my dad and I were working on that on the putting green at the PGA at Sahalee. That was back in '98, '96.
JIM FURYK: '98. So I can remember working that a little bit then. I was telling my dad that he was watching where I was aiming and reading putts and we started working on that a little bit to help me with reads and also with alignment. I change. My preshot routine changes in my golf swing, it changes in my putting, there's always some similar movements and similar things that I do. But you change things to try to improve or modify every once in a while. It's totally different what it looked like 10 years ago in '94.
Q. Since you so admirably side stepped Vijay's question, I'm curious about putting this to you: Do you have any sense of admiration for how he's able to perform this year a mid the turmoil or do you wonder to yourself, why he seems to sometimes put himself in situations like that. Seem to not care or put himself in situations where there is the turmoil and that?
JIM FURYK: Well I've sat there and listened to Vijay say just flat doesn't bother him. Kind of got to go with what you hear from the horse's mouth. If it doesn't bother him it doesn't bother him. But I don't think any of us, if you read. So things that are said about him and written, I have a hard time believing that there's anyone in the world that has that thick a skin that doesn't bother them even to the least bit. I think it's extremely, I don't know if admirable is the word that I would use, I would say it's pretty incredible that throughout the turmoil that he has played so well. And it hasn't seemed to phase his game. A lot of times in this sport you -- there's such a mental side to the game where you kind of need your full concentration or your full effort needs to be focused on golf while you're on the golf course. And if things aren't going well in your private life or if your family or kids are sick or you and your wife aren't getting along or something bad financially isn't going well, a lot of times it's difficult to focus on your task at hand out there on the golf course. And you'll see guys get side tracked through their careers for awhile. And you can almost put your finger on those reasons. Well he was having a hard time here or there on different things that were going on outside of golf. Vijay's been able to separate those two and I think in an incredible fashion. Although things haven't been very good and the relationship with the media hasn't been very good this year, it's seemed to not phase him on the golf course. There aren't many people that could do that.
Q. Is it possible you could feed off it? You said separate them. It's almost like he uses the chip on his shoulder to light a fire.
JIM FURYK: I read a few quotes probably along the way or you hear a few things along the way that definitely fire you up. I'm sure Justin Leonard wasn't too happy out there at the Ryder Cup in '99 after the things he read about himself Sunday morning. So I'm sure that was a, something he could feed off for inspiration. I don't know. Once in a while, yes, for an entire year, I have a hard time believing that I can keep reading the same stuff week after week and keep making me that mad that it would make me play well because of it. Once in a while, sure. But all year, I don't think so. But, again, it's another opinion and speculation.
Q. This tournament traditionally has bounced around different places, about to hit a stage where it looks like it's locked in awhile. Do you like that?
JIM FURYK: What is the contract there? How many years? Five, seven, 10.
Q. 11 through five with an extension to 11. They can extend it to 11.
JIM FURYK: 11 years or through 2011.
Q. Through 2011?
JIM FURYK: So through 2005 or 20011.
JIM FURYK: So we're looking anywhere from a two year to an eight year deal, somewhere in there.
Q. Right. Where obviously -- I just wonder if you like it moving around, do you like the idea of having a home?
JIM FURYK: Well, I guess I kind of like the moving around, but I'll say because I liked both of the golf courses so much. I played it on three courses Southern Hills, which is obviously a great golf course. That was my first one. And I came here to Champions, which I like a lot. And East Lake, is another beautiful course. So I guess the reason I liked it moving so much is I think all three courses are very good. Especially with the Champions, East Lake back and forth. That's great. We're in that day and age where last year especially we were in an area where sponsors were not hard to come by, but it was definitely a little more difficult. No one was beating down the door. And Coca-Cola was willing to step up and make a big financial obligation to the TOUR and they wanted that tournament at East Lake because it benefits them. I'll definitely miss coming here. Because I like the golf course here so much. But I understand the reasonings and it's not like we're going to a bad golf course. We're going to a great course. So it's something to look forward to. But I'll miss coming here to Champions.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Jim Furyk, thank you.
JIM FURYK: Thank you.
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