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August 23, 2001

Jim Furyk


TODD BUDNICK: We'd like to welcome Jim Furyk to the NEC Invitational press room. Jim, 5-under 65 today. Let's go through your score card first, starting with your birdies on 4 and 5.

JIM FURYK: 4 is obviously a nice birdie. I hit a driver and was kind of caught in between either hitting a 4-wood or 3-iron and I chose the 4-wood up the hill. I hit it about 15 feet from the pin and made birdie there. With how long that hole was playing for me today, I definitely enjoyed making birdie there. No. 5, I hit a 5-iron to about 15 feet, again and knocked that in for birdie. On the back nine, I birdied 13 with a driver and a 6-iron to about 15 feet. I birdied 16, which was kind of interesting. I drove it perfect and then hit 4-wood to lay up and I hit it a little bit left, about five -- four or five yards into the left rough. Caught a little bit of a squirrely lie, protected a bit and laid left of the pin and it went a little farther than he thought, so it was pin-high, about three or four yards off the green, left, in the short cut of rough and chipped it in -- or pitched it in. So I was excited do that. I missed a short birdie putt on 17 from the front fringe about 13 feet. Then birdied 18, hitting driver, 7-iron to about -- it was probably about 20, 25 feet.

Q. How long was the chip on 16, for those of us who haven't made it out there yet?

JIM FURYK: I would say that the pin was probably only cut four from the left and I was, like I said, three or four yards off the green so I was probably only about seven or eight yards from the pin; it was relatively short. That's 21 feet. (Laughter.)

Q. I'm going to make it 20, if you don't mind.

JIM FURYK: Maybe it was something else.

Q. I was wondering what time dinner was being served, but whatever. (Laughter.)

TODD BUDNICK: Go ahead and tell us about today's round. You've got to be happy with the way you played today.

JIM FURYK: I'm obviously very happy. 65 is a great score on this course. Someone may go out there and maybe one more than one guy might go out and beat that. It really doesn't matter to me. I'm happy to shoot a good, solid score and get myself into pretty good position. I'll be trying to -- I played well the last couple weeks. I'll be trying to continue it again for the next three days and hopefully put myself in good position come Sunday. Right now, I think the course is definitely softened from the rain last night. It is softer than what it was yesterday in my practice round. I think the golf course is going to play longer; you have to hit more club into the greens because we are not getting much roll in the fairways off the tee. The greens are fairly receptive. One thing out there, I don't wear metal spikes, but I noticed where I stepped you could see a heel print or maybe an indent from a spike imprint. I'm not sure what the guys late in the afternoon are saying, maybe they will get a little bouncy or not be quite as smooth. The greens -- the course is in perfect shape. The greens are in great shape. They are just a little soft from the rain and maybe those guys also say they were a little bumpy, but for me they were absolutely perfect. With three guys out in front of me, there's no spike marks to get the ball off line, except for me.

Q. People have said that when they are going into the PGA and other tournaments before that, they were not necessarily playing to make the Ryder Cup team, they are going to play good and let the Ryder Cup take care of itself. Was that your thinking or was Ryder Cup clearly on your mind?

JIM FURYK: Well, both. The way I would explain that is that it's obviously on my mind. It's a goal for everyone. It's an honor to represent the United States and it's an honor to be on that team and I have some great memories from the last two, so I definitely wanted to make sure I was on the team. Also, if you focus so much on what position you're in or trying to finish in the Top-10, I think it can come -- it can become -- it can definitely work against you. It can become a negative. You really do have to try to focus on your golf game and exactly what's going to -- attacking the golf course, what's going to make you score the best that week. As far as forgetting about it, and I said it there and I'll say it again. It was absolutely impossible. It was mentioned to me, 150 times is not an exaggeration. Whether it is from the gallery, whether it is people in the locker room, whether it was from friends I talked to on the phone, ten questions in the media room a day; it's impossible to forget about. So, I put a lot of pressure on myself and I definitely felt a lot of pressure going into Sunday's round, you know, being the last day and having such a great opportunity to earn a lot of points. I was out there trying to win a golf tournament, too. I didn't want to -- I'm not out there trying to finish just in the Top-10. I wanted to go out and try and win the tournament. I knew if I did that and played well, the rest would take care of itself. I tried to forget as much as I could, but even on Saturday, I got to the 17th green, the crowd started shouting USA, rooting me on in points. It's tough to forget about. I'm very happy to play and I'm happy to be on that team.

Q. This seems to be a continuation of two weeks of really good weeks of play by you and before that, I think it had been May or June before you played to this level?

JIM FURYK: It was April back at the Masters and Greensboro I played well.

Q. I was trying to be nice?

JIM FURYK: I'll be honest. It wasn't that I played poorly. Like the U.S. Open, I was playing very well and I shot something like 83 on Sunday. It wasn't that I really played poorly. I hit the ball and played pretty well at Westchester. I played decent at Memorial. I went to Hartford and I felt like I was playing good. I just was going through a stage where I wasn't scoring very well. Some weeks it was I didn't putt very well. And some weeks, I didn't feel that maybe my irons were real crisp, I just wasn't getting the ball real close. Overall, I was confident in my game. I was making cuts. I was hitting good golf shots. I felt good about my game but I kept finishing 35th, 25th, 40th. I never got over the hump and played well. I just wasn't scoring. A lot of it was not getting the ball in the hole, making putts and making birdies, getting into a rhythm. The reason I played all those events, U.S. Open, Westchester, I added Hartford to my schedule and went to Chicago, I felt my game was in pretty good shape and I knew I wanted to keep playing. I had not played a lot this year, I wanted to play and keep going and trying to find that rhythm and in the process I ended up wearing my wrist out a little bit and it became a negative, also. When I went to Buick, you know, I didn't -- I had only played one in the last five weeks and I didn't play well at the British Open, missing the cut and for some reason that week when I was home, I worked on my short game a lot. I worked on chipping and putting. I had some cousins, some younger cousins that are in high school in Pittsburgh come down and I took them to the course a lot and we chipped and putted and we played just a few holes a day but mostly I was helping them and goofing around with them and we were just chipping and putting having little games and I think that carried over into my game a little bit because my short game has been real well the last few weeks and I've made more putts. I really don't think there's a huge difference between the way I'm playing now and the way I was playing through the summer other than I am scoring real well. That's part of the game. That's part of some different things that you go through. You are not going to get the ball in the hole all the time and it is frustrating. I was very frustrated by it and I knew that time was kind of ticking away on the Ryder Cup, but there's not much that you can do about it. Hopefully, it turns around.

Q. Do you find it a jolt to be hitting 4-wood into a par 4? I know it happened in Atlanta?

JIM FURYK: I hit a 3-wood in there. I'm an average length hitter. I average about 270 off the tee. I don't think I've ever broken into the Top-100 on driving distance on TOUR. That's part of it. I know when you come to Firestone you are going to hit a lot of 3-irons 4-irons and every once in awhile you are going to hit a fairway wood into a green. I don't know if it is a jolt. I think that the courses are just, you know, the players -- the players, the equipment, everything is getting so much longer in this game, it is becoming such a power game, all of the golf courses are trying to lengthen themselves. They are trying to make the courses tougher and put longer clubs in our hand. That's part of it. I think that's okay. The greens -- the green is big enough. It is receptive. It's not like converted a par 5 with a tiny green with a lot of slope on it, turning it into a par 4 and make you hit 4-wood at it. It is a big enough green. If you hit a good enough shot, you can stop it. It's a hole that if I have 4-wood in my hand, I can try to knock it on the green make par and get out of there, and today I did.

Q. How long was that --

JIM FURYK: I was about 215-ish, I will say to the pin. Somewhere in that area. I probably have the exact yardage somewhere in my pocket.

Q. You mentioned wearing your wrist out a little bit during a stretch there. Is the initial injury that you had, is this something that's going to sort of go on and off now, or are you over that stretch and it's going to be fine?

JIM FURYK: I wish I knew the answer to that. I think that right now after -- I was a little scared before the British because it was bothering me pretty good at Chicago and I went back to see the doctor that I had seen before, I also went to get a second opinion and it got good word from both of them. And then after the British Open, went up to New York to get an MRI and just check everything out again, see how -- see what the change was, see what the difference was. I tore the cartilage in my wrist and the doctor said that it looked great; that it looked healed; that it should not be causing me any problems. The little pain that I had had in there, he said was -- he called it a thrombosis of the vein. There was a little blood clot in the vein in the bottom of my hand and it was in a similar area to that torn cartilage. He just thought that that was something that would go away; that as long as I didn't irritate it; as long as I kind of played and -- when I felt like I had played too much, I kind of know now when I'm starting to wear out and get tired, to lay back and take time off. He said it's something that should go away. He's surprised it's lasted this long and he thinks it's something that should go away. Hopefully next year I won't be having these discussions. This year has been -- I've talked a lot about my wrist and when I've played well, kind of answered that question. It has not bothered me on the golf course. I've taken it fairly easy. I only pushed it once this year where I had any pain at all. I just really haven't been able to play a lot of events in a row and it's changed my practice schedule and routine a little bit. I normally like to play three or four weeks in a row and play my way into shape and now I've had to do that at home and be more prepared at home and come out that first or second week.

Q. Do you feel more relaxed or relieved that you don't have to discuss those Ryder Cup questions like you have?

JIM FURYK: Oh, the good questions are probably just starting now, with the Ryder Cup coming up. I would say that I feel a little bit of a -- a little bit of a sigh of relief. I'm happy to be on the team. It is an honor. I think we have a wonderful team and I am anxious to play for Curtis Strange. He is an intense person and I am an anxious to see him at work over there. It's also just a great -- I enjoy the camaraderie and all that, and I'm just -- I'm happy to be on it. But I also, with that taken, I feel like right now I'm playing very well and I have a lot of opportunities. I want to keep that going, and some big events here coming up, and I also want to keep my game in good shape for the Ryder Cup. I want to play well for that event and I want to be healthy. I'm playing my schedule around it, although I'm happy to be on the team, I think everyone, you're kind of greedy. You always want more. You always want to play well and you always want to keep that going.

Q. Were you hitting a lot of woods last week at Atlanta, fairway woods?

JIM FURYK: Not really. 18 sticks in my mind the most. I think I hit -- into the third hole, I might have hit one or two fairway woods during the week when it got playing into the breeze a little.

Q. Most of those holes are longer than this one. What was the difference, the uphill and the wet fairway?

JIM FURYK: Most of the hole there or here are longer.

Q. Most of the 4s down there were a little longer?

JIM FURYK: I think right now, probably the heat. The ball might have been going a little bit farther, just on a really hot, sunny day where here, we've kind of got the cloudy, overcast, real humid kind of wet air. The ball is probably not going to travel quite as far. There was a lot of holes there that were -- I hit a lot of 5-irons, 3-irons, 4-irons into par 4s. But the third hole, I might have hit a couple fairway woods. And No. 18, I hit, you know, I think I only went -- trying to think of how many times I went at the green. I had to lay up once. The other three days I hit iron in there.

Q. Did you use many fairway woods here?

JIM FURYK: Just that once. Just the ones. You know, they are both very long courses. Firestone has always been a very difficult and a very long, demanding golf course. Atlanta Athletic Club was good preparation, that's for sure. I got used to hitting a lot of long iron, and it's not as big a deal. Coming off the course, like, say, at the Buick at Flint, it's a relatively -- it's got some long holes but there's a lot of wedges. You can give yourself a lot of opportunities from 120 yards and if you went from that course and came immediately to Firestone, there would be -- it would be a little bit of a culture shock because all of a sudden you would not have those clubs in your hand as much anymore. But coming off the Atlanta Athletic Club, I think the guys are used to the length. We are used to hitting those mid- to long-irons into greens. Although it is difficult, it's not like a shock.

Q. Did you have any long putts to save par today, or just a casual round of golf for you?

JIM FURYK: I missed a few greens, but I put the ball in pretty good position where I chipped it up relatively close.

Q. Is there something goofing around with the cousins, just the repetition of all that that you think helped you?

JIM FURYK: A lot of times, short game isn't really -- we're all pretty good at technique. It's a matter of not being lazy and getting out there and working and practicing. I think a lot of it is feel. And you're not going to lay off for two weeks and not touch a club -- you're short game is not going to be that sharp; you need to come out and hit some shots. I don't know if it is the repetition, but getting a good feel and hitting a lot of shots, for me gives me a lot of confidence, knowing I want to get out on the course; I am pretty much prepared for the situation. That's something I knew I wanted to work on. The reason was, I worked extra hard going into Flint, it is a short golf course and I am going to have sand wedge in my hand a lot. I feel like I'm a pretty good player from 100 yards and in, and I knew I wanted to work on that part of my game because I knew it was going to make a big difference at Flint and that's one of the reasons I played so well there.

Q. A lot of the guys, when they talk about the Ryder Cup, this does not seem to be the kind of event that gets easier to play, even though you've played it before. Is there anything about having been there a couple times that you think will make the experience less nerve-wracking, or do you feel just the same as it's been before?

JIM FURYK: I think any time you've been in any position before, it's an advantage. I'm not going to say it's going to make it easier. It's still going to be very nerve-wracking and I'm still going to be very nervous. There's a lot of pressure in that event. Having been there before and just knowing what to expect, I think is a big advantage. Knowing that it's a pretty eventful week; there's not really a lot of time for -- there's not a lot of free time, until Friday starts, and then we are playing 36-hole days and when you are not playing, you are out there rooting your teammates on or working on your game. My first event, I think I practiced too much. I played too many practice rounds and I hit too many balls, then rush back, hurry up, throw a tux on and go to a gala. By the time I got there, I'm ready to shoot myself and you're running back, get to sleep, get to sleep get to sleep, wake up tired and do it all over again. At Brookline, I didn't make that mistake. I've learned that at the Presidents Cup, maybe play 18 once or twice and then start -- maybe play nine the last day, a few holes, chip and putt. Just know that it's -- the first three days seem like they take a week, and the last three days go about five minutes. It just goes by so quick. But just kind of pacing yourself and knowing you are going to be nervous and knowing what to expect. Having some experience playing the alternate-shot, playing the foursome matches, it didn't make it any easier, but it is nice to have been there and have had that and know what to expect a lot.

Q. You had one of the momentum-turning matches Sunday at Brookline. What do you remember most about that day for yourself?

JIM FURYK: Honestly, I try to forget a lot about Friday and Saturday and remember mostly Sunday. My best memory is probably standing on -- it was the fifth. It was the fifth green. I was 1-up in my match, after birdieing 4, and looking up at the board and noticing the first six matches were all USA and they were almost all closed out, if not closed out. I think Tiger was 3-up with four or five to play and I didn't think he was going to lose that match. All of a sudden, thinking we were 4-down to 2-up -- thinking we only need two and a half more points and knowing the Matches could come down to you, that's an exciting feeling. Just hearing the roars, the crowd; the crowd turned a lot that day. It was a very quiet crowd Friday and Saturday, but we had not given them much to cheer about. But Sunday we gave them a lot to cheer about. It got loud and it was exciting.

Q. This is the beginning of the last stretch of the year and there's still a lot of golf to be played. If you are able to hold up here, can you talk about -- you're having a pretty good year, winning an event like this, does the year go from a pretty good year to a great year?

JIM FURYK: I think, you know, holding up and stuff like that, like I said, it's the first day so I'm not really looking to -- I'm not looking at -- it's definitely not my tournament to lose; I'm not leading by five going into Sunday or something like that. I look at it as an opportunity right now. Whether I'm leading or in fifth place today, it doesn't matter to me. I'm just happy I played a good, solid round. It's a good purse, elite event, a good field. I think it definitely changes the year. Adding $1 million to your earnings this year, has to jump past a few guys, I'm sure, and it puts you in a lot better position. Mickelson, it would give him a shot at Player of the Year. Same thing for a guy like Duval. So it could definitely change the outlook of the year. For me, I've love to win another event this year. I've never won two tournaments in one year. I've had quite a few years. Six years, I've won one event, but I've love to win multiple events. I had a good start to the year and kind of a dull summer. I'd like to end it really good. Whether that happens here or wherever throughout the year, I've love to add another win, but I guess so would everyone else here. But with a big purse and elite field, I think it can change some things.

Q. With what happened at Brookline and the fans and the 17th green and whatnot, what do you expect?

JIM FURYK: I'm disappointed. I thought this would come up a lot here. (Laughs).

Q. Pacing ourselves.

JIM FURYK: What do I expect? I'm not really sure what to expect. It's interesting, I played a Presidents Cup on both home and foreign soil, and Ryder Cup both at home and foreign soil. I think the Valderrama Ryder Cup was a little different and more of an eclectic crowd of what I hear. Just people from everywhere from throughout Europe, and I think The Belfry is going to be a little bit different. I'm not really sure. I know that the European fans are very boisterous and very loud and they cheer for their team an incredible amount. What I remember from Valderrama is the "ole" (o-lay) sound, and ringing through for hours; hearing that sound throughout the golf course. I expect it to be a lot like Boston was, just the opposite. Except for when you hear cheers in Boston we're happy; and when we hear cheers over there, we know it's not going to be for us. We know it's going to be very quiet. I don't expect to take a lot of flak from people watching, but I expect them to cheer for their team quite a bit and that's the way it should be. That's the advantage of having the event on your home soil.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Jim.

End of FastScripts....

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