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June 14, 2003

Jim Furyk


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to be joined now in the interview area by Jim Furyk. You've established a new 54-hole scoring record for the Open at 200. Could you talk a little bit about your emotions and feelings going into the first tee this morning, what your expectations were for the round, and if you accomplished those?

JIM FURYK: I don't know if I had any expectations. My goal was to go out and play a solid round of golf, and I put myself in position for Sunday. I did that. Mission accomplished. The day before I teed off a lot of guys were definitely making a bunch of birdies early. And it made it maybe a little more difficult to stay patient. The first four holes I didn't really have a good birdie putt. I had a couple of really long putts, maybe two 25-footers, and it was -- I'm watching Nick Price birdie five of the first six. And watching guys make a bunch of birdies out there. And I just had to remind myself that slow and steady at the U.S. Open always works. I was still hitting fairways and hitting greens, and 2-putt par.

Actually on No. 5 I hit a great -- I believe it was a 7-iron to about four feet and that just seemed to calm me down. I just hit a great shot, knocked in a very tricky little putt and turned around and birdied 6. And there you go. It turned into a -- seemed to calm me down a little bit and I played very solid the rest of the day.

RAND JERRIS: Just walk us through the rest of the birdies and bogeys.

JIM FURYK: No. 6 I hit a driver and a 5-iron in the front right bunker. I hit a bunker shot to about 2 feet and made that, then birdied No. 9. I hit a driver and a pitching wedge to about 6 feet.

I bogeyed 10, I hit a driver left in the fairway bunker. I had kind of a poor lie, and I hit it fat out of that, short of the green. I had about 40 yards to the pin and hit a decent wedge about 8 feet behind the pin, and played a little too much break.

15, I hit a 7-iron off the tee, kind of got trapped between the clubs, left a 7-iron short and right. And made a very long putt up over a ridge from about 40 feet, I would say.

17, bogey. I knocked a 3-iron -- I got kind of caught in between clubs, a hard 3-iron, it bounced to the back, I had a very long putt. I hit a decent putt five to six feet by the hole. And I don't know how you leave one of those short, but I managed to do it. I got so caught up in the line, I had a perfect ball mark that I fixed that was perfect to aim at and I just forgot to hit the ball. So I left it short of the hole.

18, driver to -- I felt like I could carry the right bunker, where I said I couldn't do that the last couple of days, because of the wind. But I pulled it a little bit, and I got a good break and it bounced over the left bunker instead of going in it. And I kind of just lashed at a -- I have a gap wedge in my bag that's 50 degrees, lashed at it, and knocked it up on the green 20 to 25 feet and made the putt.

Q. In your previous interview you mentioned that after ten years on Tour, you have a specific method of preparation for final rounds. Can you walk us through what you might do tonight and tomorrow afternoon to prepare to win the U.S. Open?

JIM FURYK: Not necessarily final rounds, but just for the entire week. I have pretty much a set routine that I like to go through, whether I've played the golf course before, like next week, I've played Westchester. I'll play nine on Wednesday, and the Pro Am. If I haven't played the golf course before, I'll come in Sunday night at the latest, and while I'm there I'll evaluate how much I want to play.

I played 18 on Monday, and felt very comfortable with the course, and felt Tuesday and Wednesday was enough to see the course. But tonight really it's awkward that we finished this late. We're normally on a 6 o'clock finish rather than a 7. So by the time I get out of here and get home, it's going to be 9 o'clock before we're even eating dinner. Tonight is kind of shot. It will be pretty easy. Hopefully we'll get my daughter down nice and early and we all get a good night's sleep.

And tomorrow -- last night we watched a movie, everyone stayed up and it happened to be a very long movie, it was three hours. We watched two hours last night and an hour this morning and killed some time. I'm a pretty good sleeper, so I'm expecting to go to bed, maybe a little later tonight, sleep in a little bit and kill some time in the morning with my family or TV or whatever it might be.

Q. Earlier Tiger Woods said the greens today looked faster, but played a lot slower than yesterday. What did you think?

JIM FURYK: For me, I would say -- I would actually disagree, but I think there's a reason for that. Tiger played late yesterday afternoon, I played in the morning. He turned around and played -- he played a round late in the afternoon, they might have gotten quicker and firmer in the afternoon. I played in the morning with cloud cover, it was damp out. So today with them drying out and getting a little firmer and faster, I thought they were more difficult this afternoon than they were yesterday morning. And they -- we may both be right, actually, just because we played at different times yesterday.

Q. Can you talk about 16? It looked like it could have been a swing Vijay's way, you're in the bunker, he's putting for birdie and what happened after that?

JIM FURYK: I hit a great drive and just didn't hit the wedge. I left it in the bunker, had a good lie, popped it out, I wanted it under the hole, that pin position was in a tricky position, and from behind the hole it was very easy to knock a putt way by. I think Vijay was surprised on his read that he was definitely talking to his caddie about misreading the putt. I couldn't believe how quick it was, and was happy I kept my bunker shot under the hole. It's Saturday, it's not like -- I don't know if you're looking at momentum swings.

Had we been on Sunday trying to finish a golf tournament, that would have been a huge swing and given me more cushion. But when there's still a whole day of golf left, I'm focused on getting the ball in the hole the best I can and trying to get in position for tomorrow, not worrying about where I stand and how many I'm within the lead or how many I'm leading by.

Q. You've had a number of top 10 finishes in majors. I'm trying to remember, though, have you taken a lead into a final round of a major? Have you played in the final group?

JIM FURYK: Final group, no. Within a couple of groups of the final group, yes. But never right there in the final group. And I have never taken the lead into the final round. I've been within a couple of shots. And I've had the lead during a final round, but I never took it in overnight, Saturday night.

Q. Where did you have it?

JIM FURYK: I think I led for a while at Birkdale for the British Open in 98, the one O'Meara won in a playoff. I think there was a while in the backside I had the lead.

Q. To follow up on that, I counted 11 top-10's in your major history, yet you three missed cuts last year in majors. Is there a simple explanation for feast or famine kind of performances?

JIM FURYK: Last year was actually the one year that famine was a definite key. Yeah, there actually was a very good explanation last year. I wasn't healthy coming out of March, I wasn't prepared for The Masters and played poorly. And I was actually going through a time where throughout March I had vertigo. I was off the Tour that entire month. And I tried to play a couple of events, getting ready for The Masters, but my game was in awful shape. I played poorly there. And I was back and forth with my game.

The U.S. Open I have no explanation for. I was playing well. I played well at the Memorial and won. I played okay at Westchester, went in there and just Bethpage ate my lunch, I'll say that. I didn't play well.

Right after that I took a bunch of time off from Tour, my wife had a baby. I spent six or seven weeks at home helping out, and I left for the British Open in the middle of that, really unprepared, and it showed. I played poorly. So that's kind of my explanation. I played bad at the U.S. Open, but I was ill prepared for The Masters and the British last year, and just other things -- definitely the birth of my child was more important. And I wasn't particularly all that healthy going into The Masters, but that's no excuse, I didn't play well. Other than that I haven't had a year -- I've had years where I missed a cut in a major, but I haven't had the bad years like that, at least I turned it around and I had a good solid PGA last year and finished off the year very well.

Q. At Riviera they had you shooting that TV commercial out there under the trees for a while, I think the cue cards said something to the effect they say I'm one of the grittiest guys on Tour, whatever that means. What does that mean?

JIM FURYK: It means someone from ABC wanted me to read the card that said I was the -- a gritty person (laughter). I definitely didn't write that. It said something about a wheat field. Putnam parking lot and all kinds of junk. It was a promo they asked me to do and I did it.

Q. I mean the grit thing.

JIM FURYK: I consider myself a very hard worker and a guy that can grind it out in tough conditions. And if things turn bad, I'm a guy that doesn't quit. So I guess I won't -- if I get over par early in the tournament, I won't just throw the toll in and make a plane reservation, I'll try to come back, squeak it out and make the cut. That's just me, that's how I grew up. And I don't know. I work hard and I'll grind it out. But those are someone else's words, not mine.

Q. Being in a position that you really never have been before, three shots up, 18 holes to play, a major, U.S. Open. Let's talk about your emotions and what your thoughts are going to the final round.

JIM FURYK: I'm hungry, how's that? It's been a long time since I ate. I'm excited about the day tomorrow. I would always rather -- I'd rather always have the lead. I have to shoot that much less tomorrow to go out and win this golf tournament. I've never had a 3-shot lead in any tournament going into Sunday, from what I told people earlier. I've slept on the lead before, and I'll try to use some of those past experiences, whether good or bad, I'll try to learn from those, and try to use that experience tomorrow.

Q. How big was that birdie on 18 to finish out the way you did out there today?

JIM FURYK: I think it was important, not always to just birdie the hole, but it was important to finish -- for me to finish off the hole well. I just made bogey on 17, felt like I could have made that little putt. I hit some good golf shots, make a 3, make a 4, end on an above note and go home tonight really happy about it. So it was important to have a solid hole, I believe.

Q. What is the name of the movie and the yardage on the gap wedge you hit on 18?

JIM FURYK: Name of the movie?

Q. Last night.

JIM FURYK: I watched Pearl Harbor, two hours last night and an hour this morning, that's a long movie. It's a good movie, though.

What did you say about the gap wedge?

Q. The yardage?

JIM FURYK: I was -- I was a long way. I was 125 to the front and whatever the pin was, I think it was another 21. So 146, but more than anything I was trying to -- it was downwind, I fly that club about 115 yards comfortably, so downwind I'm thinking is playing 115 to the front, and I'm trying to land the ball on the front of the green, because I know it's going to release and run 20 yards after it hits. I landed the ball short of the green and it took a good hop up and rolled about 30 yards after it hit.

Q. You've come close in a lot of majors. Has it weighed on you like it has some other players, not having won a major to this point?

JIM FURYK: Not at all, actually. Obviously we all show up every week trying to win golf tournaments, and that's the ultimate goal, and ultimately that's how we're judged. And sure, I've always wanted to win a major championship, but as far as as a weight on me or has it been taxing for me, absolutely not. I'm out there working hard and doing the best I absolutely can. I still feel that I'm very young in my career, also. It's not weight on me, but if it never happens I'll know that -- if I'm standing up here ten years from now at 43 and I'm done and retired, not that everyone at 43 is, I'm just saying there's a good chance I may be. But if I'm standing here ten years from now and haven't won, I can accept that and I'll be fine. But obviously our goal is to go out and win golf tournaments and win major championships. That's how we're judged. That's what I work hard for, that's what I've wanted to do since I was a kid, just like everyone else.

Q. Did the wind on the backside make this the golf course more like an Open level challenge, and can you give some examples of its difficulty?

JIM FURYK: The tough question is obviously the scores. I'm 10-under, which is rare at a U.S. Open, so I'm kind of stuck in a bad spot, either I still think the golf course is tough, then if I say that then it sounds like I'm arrogant that I'm playing well. And if I say the golf course isn't hard enough -- I'm definitely never going to say that. It obviously picked up -- you understand what I'm trying to say. I'm kind of between a rock and a hard place there.

But the back nine, as the sun gets on those greens, as the wind blows, the greens definitely started to get a little bit firmer, a little bit faster, getting a little trickier. If it continues they could definitely let it get as firm as they wanted to tomorrow afternoon, if we get the same wind and same sun. So I'm looking forward to it, but I'm expecting tomorrow to be a very difficult day, golf course-wise.

Q. You were getting a lot of support from the crowd coming down the stretch, shouts of "it's your turn, Jimmy," and stuff like that. But you seemed to keep your head down. Do you try to feed off of that at all or do you try to block all that stuff out?

JIM FURYK: You can't block it out, because they're screaming at the top of their lungs at times about ten feet away. No, it's a positive. There's people pulling for you and cheering for you. I think this has been a very friendly crowd throughout the week. I felt a lot of support. And yeah, it's nice to have. I don't know if it's going to make you make a bunch of birdies, but I'd sure rather have that support out there than no one saying anything at all or rooting against you.

Q. I was looking at one of those major championship highlight reels from about five or six years ago and your golf swing was quite a bit different than it is now. Same basic concept, I'm wondering if you have gone out of your way to sort of homogenize your golf swing or if it's just sort of happened naturally?

JIM FURYK: Naturally. We talked about this yesterday, I haven't made any definitive swing changes. One major -- not major, but one thing different is I draw the ball more now than I used to, especially from five years ago. I've done that the last year, year and a half. But relatively if you look at my swing ten years ago to five years ago to now it's slowly changed a little bit. I think it's a lot -- in order for me to become a better player, to become a better ball striker, to become more consistent.

When I came out on Tour I was a very average ball striker, and the last few years I've been up on greens in regulation. So as my swing -- the better player I've become, my swing has slightly changed every year. It's not something that's happened intentionally, it's something that probably -- I don't know if I want to use the word homogenized, but I'll credit you for it, how's that? It's slowly evolved.

Q. More traditional?

JIM FURYK: Yeah, I'm definitely not traditional, but it's working back that way. Another 50 years I'll be there.

Q. Jim, you talked a moment ago about being hungry in the literal sense. Could you talk about your hunger for a major championship?

JIM FURYK: Man, you guys are good, I'll tell you what.

Q. Talk about your hunger for a major championship, what level is that, and also have you thought about what a major would mean to you, how you'd be judged and then et cetera?

JIM FURYK: Well, have I thought about it a lot? No. I don't like to put the cart before the horse or -- I've heard questions from 18 to here now, what would it feel like to hold the trophy, it would be a special moment. It's something you work hard for all your life. You dream about it from when you're kids. Pretend go you're Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer, and winning The Masters, British Open or PGA, it would be a very special moment. But I still want to stress to myself, it's nice to think about things. It's nice to dream about what it would be like and put yourself in position.

But it's also important to remember why I'm sitting here, what I've done so well in the last three days, how I've attacked the golf course, played the course and focus on one more day of golf, and focus on playing the same way I have before. And ultimately, like you said, that's how we're judged, by how many golf tournaments we win, how many major championships we win.

But I'm not sure any of us is playing golf just so we can be called a great player. You play golf because -- I enjoy it. I enjoy the competition. I enjoy going out there every day and testing myself against the golf course and against the field. And basically you show up every day because you want to win, you want to win golf tournaments. It's a humbling game, because you can't win every week.

Q. When you were a kid and you were pretending to be Arnold or whatever, was there a particular tournament that you were envisioning winning? Was it the Open or was it any tournament?

JIM FURYK: Well, that specific question, I'm not sure. I want to say I wouldn't be that greedy. Any major will do. But now that we're here at the U.S. Open, that sounds good.

End of FastScripts....

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