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June 13, 2003

Jim Furyk


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Jim Furyk to the interview area. Jim had rounds of 67, 66, 133. You've set a new 36-hole scoring record for the U.S. Open. Maybe you could start off by talking about the playing conditions out there today compared to yesterday.

JIM FURYK: Actually very similar. I played in the morning, and possibly a little more damp, but the wind blew from pretty much the same direction, and maybe -- it was obviously a little less this morning than yesterday afternoon for me. But the conditions are very much similar, I think. I thought the course -- I thought the pin placements in my opinion were maybe a little tougher today. Yesterday there was a few more holes with some flatter areas, and today maybe a little more defensive putting at times. But overall the golf course played very similar, in my opinion.

RAND JERRIS: Take a minute and walk us through the birdies and bogeys on your card, please.

JIM FURYK: Okay. It was a good day in that respect. Four birdies, no bogies.

Started on No. 1, 3-wood off the tee, 3-wood short of the green, and I was probably about 40 yards from the pin. I pitched up to about 2 feet and knocked that in for birdie.

The other birdie on the front side was the par-5, No. 6, where I hit a driver and a 4-wood on the back right of the green, probably about 40 feet from the pin. I lagged the first one down about four feet past the pin, and knocked that in.

And then on the backside I had back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14. 13, I laid up to the bottom of the hill with a 4-wood, hit a pitching wedge to about 10 feet.

14 I hit a 3-wood and 8-iron to about 8 feet.

Q. How far on 13?

JIM FURYK: How far was I? I'm going to say -- I believe it was 147, just happened to be a little downwind. That sounds long, but I wanted to land it -- I wanted to land it in that 139 area to keep it below the pin, and that was playing downwind. We're thinking it was playing just over 130, where I wanted to fly the ball to. So that's a pitching wedge, good, hard one. I got a funny downhill lie there.

Q. You spoke about the way the course is playing. What are the characteristics of this golf course?

JIM FURYK: Such as?

Q. You've told me earlier this week you liked this golf course. Some people say they don't like this golf course. Apparently you have reason to like it, you played it very well.

JIM FURYK: Well, have you had players tell you they didn't like it?

Q. No, I won't say that, but --

JIM FURYK: We're the only ones out there playing. (Laughter). So I know that there's some of you all out here that probably don't like it. I heard there was some negative articles about the golf course. But at least now in good position after Friday, it doesn't look like I like the golf course just because I played well. I have proof over here, I talked to him on Tuesday about the golf course. And I said it was a good layout, and I do like the golf course, for the reason that I think it's very straightforward. There's one hidden tee shot off the 12th tee. Other than that the golf course sits in front of you. You can see where you want to go. There's not a heck of a lot of doglegs, where you don't know exactly where you want to hit the ball on a certain time. I like it for that fact.

We're only here for this one week. A U.S. Open hasn't been played here for 75 years, so no one has really seen the golf course. A lot of times when we play the old, traditional style U.S. Open courses, which I really love, there's a lot of quirkiness to the golf course, there's a lot of doglegs, and with the fairways being pinched in and tightened, it's hard to learn the golf course in two or three days. You know exactly where you want to hit it here, it's just a matter of hitting some good, solid shots. I appreciate that fact.

Q. You were talking a little earlier about Johnny Miller suggesting that you made some sort of swing change. Despite all your success, do you still find people recommending that you make changes to your swing?

JIM FURYK: I never actually ever had anyone recommend that I make swing changes, probably for the reason that you'd have to be pretty cold person to walk up to a 15-year-old and tell him his swing stunk. So I don't think there were too many people -- my dad was my teacher, so he heard it a little more often. He took some criticism, he took some blame that my swing was awkward and they didn't feel it would hold up. And once you arrive on Tour and you're a pretty good player, people leave you alone by that point. They realize that -- you're pretty much set in your ways by that point, and you're an accomplished player if you've made it on Tour.

So I really never heard too many negative comments. I know there were some out there. I know my dad took some heat. And I know he was criticized for the way he taught me. But overall, that's all I used to talk about for the first two or three years on Tour. I'd go to the media room after shooting 65, I'd spend 18 minutes talking about my swing, two minutes talking about the round, and I used to get the biggest kick out of it and laugh. I used to basically push the recorder and talk about the same thing any week that I played well.

Now, I haven't talked about my swing for the last six years, I haven't talked about my swing, other than it looks like you've made a swing change. That comes up about every two years.

Q. Is it implied in that question, it looks like you made a swing change, that like a Johnny Miller is hoping you're changing?

JIM FURYK: He may have seen something different. My swing didn't stay the same for ten years, it has slightly changed, but it's not a -- and this is -- I'm not criticizing Johnny for what he said. NBC covers so many events by the end of the year, they're cut off, they don't see me -- he might not watch me swing for six, eight months at a time. If I'm not playing well, he might not see me for a year.

So the jump might look a little more drastic to him, over a two- or three-year span, he might see me play six or eight times, whereas it might be a slow, gradual -- my swing obviously was very unconventional, and it's still unconventional now. So let's not get overboard. We're not straight back and straight through yet.

Q. 36 holes is a lot of golf in a major championship left to go, but you said you like the course, it sets up for your game. The galleries seem to really be behind you today. Do you start to wonder, is it my turn for one of these things?

JIM FURYK: Well, I don't really let that -- that's not really my mindset. I think that obviously in our group Phil was the fan favorite. He's -- on the first five holes it was come on Phil, come on Phil. I started playing well. Darren had a lot of support. It was a friendly crowd. But as we were finishing, I heard my name mentioned a lot more, and people cheered me on. The fact that I was leading coming down the stretch, it was nice to hear that.

But I think the crowd's been very friendly, and there's been a lot of support out there. As far as trying to win, I have the same mindset as you. We're only at the halfway point, there's still 36 holes left. The golf course is going to get more difficult, like everyone has talked about. I have to keep focusing on what's got me to this point. I've been striking the ball very well. And trying to figure out what things I can improve on over the weekend to get a little bit better.

Q. Two questions, Jim. First, guys like Weir and Toms win majors recently that maybe have the same or similar styles of play to you, does that give you any sort of inspiration that there's room for guys that don't hit it 300 yards to still win majors? And number two, if you're in the win, still have the lead today, being known as a good wind player, would you like to see some bad weather come in, a little wind?

JIM FURYK: I never root for bad weather, that's for sure. If that comes, I feel comfortable. I've had some success in the wind, but I never root for real bad conditions. I just kind of take the day as it comes and go out and play. And actually I like David and Mike a lot, I have a lot of respect for their games and for them as people, they're regular guys. I don't know if it's any extra inspiration that a long bomber didn't win or didn't win those major championships. But I've always had a lot of confidence in my game and feel like I have the game to win a major championship. But it's a matter of going out there and doing it.

I don't really get -- I never have sat down and said, geez, when is this going to happen to me? That's kind of the same question. I just prepare the same way I prepare every week and try to get myself to peak at the right time and play well and just really keep plugging away. That's my style of golf, and that's how I prepare and get ready for tournaments, and that's my mindset.

Q. You've obviously had a litany of strong finishes in majors, should we start referring to you as the best player not to win a major?

JIM FURYK: I wish you wouldn't (laughter). I'll say that probably three or four people led in with that question when I stepped on the grounds this week. It always makes me laugh, because there's really nothing you can say about that. There's no answer that we could have. I'm sure -- my answer would be I think there's some players that have had better careers than me that have not won major championships and they're playing in this field, and it might be an injustice to them. But ultimately, instead of looking at the negative connotation, in a way it is a compliment. You're telling that person that they're a very good player.

I don't really get caught up in that, where I rank. I'm not really a big world rankings guy. I look, and I know where I'm at, but it doesn't mean that much to me. And it doesn't mean anything come Saturday or Sunday.

Q. Since you've labeled your swing unconventional, when you get -- is your dad still your best teacher, and if you get in a rut, is he the best guy to help you or do you have other people that can help you?

JIM FURYK: I've seen a couple of other people throughout my lifetime, usually under his supervision, almost always under his supervision or people that he's taken me to. A lot of times he said it was a checkpoint for him. He wanted to make sure he was in the right direction. There was a lot of times earlier in my career. Since I've been on Tour, I haven't seen another teacher, he's still it, he's here with me this week. He comes to about anywhere from six to ten tournaments a year. And he likes Monday through Wednesday, because we get to work, my mom likes Thursday through Sunday, she gets to watch golf. He'd be happier going home by Thursday and watching it on TV. And she'd be happy coming in Thursday, so we can walk outside the ropes and watch the golf. Yeah, he's always been my teacher, and always will be right now. We've gone through too many years, and we speak the same language, and it's worked to this point.

Q. Would you recommend your swing to anyone else?

JIM FURYK: I wouldn't. And I wouldn't really -- I've always said in the past, I think that you have to take -- my swing was naturally outside. I naturally rerouted the club, it's nothing I tried to do. And I don't think that -- I was fortunate, that opened up a lot of can of worms right there. I was fortunate that my dad realized I wasn't very mechanical, he let me play by feel. And we took my positive traits in my swing and kind of built on that. We took some of the bad habits out and worked on it as we went.

But I never really -- I don't think it's a good idea to try to emulate things exactly. I think the average golfer, if you're built like Corey Pavin, and you want to swing like Greg Norman, there's probably not a real good chance. I think trying to find someone with your body type, similar height, similar weight, similar muscular build, and maybe trying to emulate some of their positive traits is a good idea.

When I was a kid, everyone wanted to swing like Freddie Couples, and it was a little unorthodox in spots. He has a different move at it, but gets the club in a good position coming down, he has power, he's flamboyant, popular player, every kid would want to swing like him. I would play junior tournaments, and you could pick out half a dozen that wanted to look like him. If that wasn't natural, it was hard to trust under pressure.

And I would say to take your natural abilities and your natural talents and even some of the things you do that -- as long as -- there's no secret, either. I still have to get my swing in the right position. The club head has to be square, and my path has to be coming relatively straight down the line to hit good, solid golf shots. The ball is not lying. If you can do that repetitively, it doesn't matter how it looks. That's what's important.

If I took my swing and made it look like the textbook, perfect swing when I was a kid, I may not be sitting here today, I may not have turned out to be a good player, because that wasn't comfortable for me.

Q. You had two or three pretty good U.S. Opens a few years ago, and then last three years results haven't been so good. Have you changed anything, as far as your preparation for this week, any kind of changes whatsoever, not related to the swing, but how you've prepared?

JIM FURYK: A little bit. I didn't really come in any earlier. I came in Sunday afternoon. The weather was pretty poor Sunday afternoon, I hit a few balls, chipped and putted and went home. I played less golf, I think because the golf course was straight forward and I saw that on Monday, I played 18. I just played 9 on Tuesday, and 9 on Wednesday, and felt like that was enough preparation. So I played less golf to try to save energy, where I would have played more in the past. And I came in with maybe a little better mindset, knowing that it was going to be a tough week, that you have to be patient, just really coming in with a mindset that I would grind it out and no matter what was thrown at me, what happened out there, I wouldn't lose my patience. And I have lost my patience, and I have got upset with myself. The U.S. Open, especially last year at Bethpage, was set up extremely difficult, and I let it get the best of me at times.

Q. Because -- possibly because, as you say, the course is straight forward, the conditions have been soft, guys have been able to advance the ball out of the rough, the word that's come up this week is that this course is easy. And I don't know if any U.S. Open course is ever easy. But in your experience -- is it easier than what you've played --

JIM FURYK: Less difficult. There isn't a player in this tournament that would call a U.S. Open course easy. I think that I would liken this golf course to -- I'll take three courses, for example -- or compared to in the past. I think Congressional, in my opinion, is one of the harder golf courses I've ever played. And I think the setup at the '97 tournament was -- I thought it was a pretty good setup in the fact that the greens were probably less quick and less firm than any U.S. Open I've played. A lot of that had to do with the rain, but before it even rained that was true. I felt like that if anything, they had to kind of pull the rains back and tone that golf course down, because in U.S. Open conditions it was almost impossible. And four guys broke par that week, but the scores were quite high, still. And then last year I look at Bethpage as probably one of the most difficult golf courses I've ever played. And I felt it was a very difficult setup. The scores were obviously not very low at all, they were very high. And I feel like when we come in here, I think it's a difficult golf course, I think it's a tough course. I think right now, like I said, the greens have been a little on the softer side. They're not brick hard. I don't know if that's due to the rain early in the week, the cloud cover, keeping the moisture in or if we're going to see firmer greens tomorrow, I don't know, we'll see. But I feel like there's a lot of room out there where this golf course can become a lot tougher over the weekend. And those greens can firm up quite a bit and they can become a lot faster. It won't be very difficult to make the course that much harder. I think we're all expecting to see a little tougher course. But you have to go out in the morning and judge it and play the course that way.

Q. I just wanted to follow up. Does everything ride, then, on what kind of condition the greens get in over the weekend? If they stay like they are, are guys going to be shooting 65, 66 every day?

JIM FURYK: If the golf course stayed the way it is right now, then I think you have to look at someone's probably going to go out and shoot a 65 or 66. I'm not sure it's going to be the same person every day, obviously. But that's possible. In the history of the U.S. Open, probably -- that's probably never happened. So I wouldn't bet on it, how's that?

Q. Even with the conditions a little less difficult, lights aren't being shot out here, and you did set a 36 hole record, and you're three shots ahead, so what does that accomplishment feel like, in and of itself?

JIM FURYK: It's nice. I didn't know that until after I finished. Next week no one will ever know that, either, until it happens in the U.S. Open again. It's nice. It's really not all that important. More importantly I put myself in great position, and I've got to get ready to play tomorrow. But more importantly I'm in great position for the weekend. I need to go out and keep doing the same things. Now my goal is to get myself in a good position for late Sunday.

Q. You said over the years as you became successful, people talked less and less about your swing. Do you think if you win a major, people will stop talking about your swing, period?

JIM FURYK: They pretty much have, actually. This week -- this week is the first in a long time. But, no, I think people are just used to it now. It's still unconventional. The better I play and the more often people see me, now it just everyone expects me to swing different. I think just the fact that I've been around for ten years on Tour, it's not a big deal anymore. I don't take any of it personally. David Feherty used to love to make the comments, and he had looks like a man trying to kill a snake in a phone booth or something like that. I didn't take that personally, I thought it was funny, also. If you can't poke fun at yourself, it's no fun.

Q. Jim, you mentioned the greens. Is there still enough room out there for them to say bump them up without there being too much controversy by Sunday?

JIM FURYK: What do you mean by controversy? There's obviously a lot of room for them -- there's still some moisture in there. There's a lot of room for them to get quicker. I don't know how the course is going to be set up or what's going to happen. But the room is there.

Q. Controversy meaning we're going to have balls --

JIM FURYK: The greens have too much slope to be able to do that is what you're saying?

Q. Right.

JIM FURYK: See, my job is just to play the course, not set it up, how's that? I would say we're real good at giving them a hard time if it gets overboard, but we don't have to set it up. So I would say there's probably a little room for them to get quicker, and I expect it's going to happen. And yeah, there's a point where I think -- what they're trying to do in U.S. Open and most major championships, they're trying to set the golf course up where it's very difficult, but not unplayable. And they're always treading that line. Some weeks they're treading that line, and getting close, and they're trying to test us. And if you do it for enough years, you're going to get a pin placement that gets a little goofy or something is going to happen once in a while. You can't help it if you're trying to get close to that edge, where it's really tough but still playable. You're going to go over the line once in a while. I expect that they'll get a little quicker, and a little tougher, and it will be a tough weekend.

RAND JERRIS: Jim, congratulations on your fine playing. Thanks for your time.

End of FastScripts....

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