What they said: Jim Furyk

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December 01, 2010
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: Chevron World Challenge transcript archive

MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome defending champion Jim Furyk. Jim, last year this is kind of where you got a hot start to the 2010 season. If you'd talk a little bit about coming back and then we'll take some questions.

JIM FURYK: Yeah, obviously I struggled getting some wins for the two previous seasons, so to come here last year -- actually I wasn't expecting much last year. I had taken a lot of time off before coming here, I was trying to build some confidence, get a little better every day, get some feel, and lo and behold I kind of played a good round. Saturday I got myself in contention, played well on Sunday and won the tournament, and I think it was a boost of confidence to go out and hit some good shots under pressure and close the tournament out, which I hadn't done that while, and it gave me some good feelings for the season.

I think it gives you something to fall back on, so definitely used that at Tampa, and just kind of got a nice snowball working. I guess towards late summer -- mid to late summer really kind of slowed down, got in a little stall with my game but was able to pick it up there at the end of the season and play pretty well, and it turned out great.

This was definitely the catalyst and where I got jump started, and I've kind of done the same this year, where since the Ryder Cup I have put the clubs away, and I'll say the same thing I did last year, I'm not expecting a lot.

I actually played pretty well today, and it's kind of hit or miss right now. I'm a little rusty with my game. But if I can do the same thing, just feel a little bit better every day, feel a little bit more comfortable and gain some confidence going into next season.

Q. It seems a little odd even asking you this, but you're clearly the favorite for the Player of the Year. Would you vote for yourself for Player of the Year??

JIM FURYK: Would I vote for myself? I was asked that earlier in the season. I was asked that at the TOUR Championship either Thursday or Friday, and I said the only way I'd vote for myself is if I felt I was the clear favorite, like dominated the season.

But going back and looking at it, I guess I had more wins than anyone else, which I value, and the FedExCup Trophy, so I'm hoping it works out. It would be a nice feather in my cap for a good season, and I don't want to sit here and tell you that I feel like I should win or anything like that, but I feel like my season definitely stacks up very well comparatively to everyone this season.

Three wins might not look good against what Phil or Tiger or Vijay have done maybe in the past, but that was more wins than anyone else had last year, and I think I was second on the Money List, and I feel bad, Kuch had a great year, and if he plays well in the TOUR Championship or finishes Top 10, he probably wins the FedExCup and he's probably the guy everyone is going to vote for. I'm not sure how it's going to turn out. When do the votes end? It's somewhere around now.

I think they're doing it shorter this year. I think it's two weeks. It's only going to be on for a couple weeks. Hopefully someone reads their mail and votes.

Q. Just following up on that, you mentioned three wins is more than anybody else had; however, over the years three wins normally wouldn't get you in contention for that Player of the Year.

JIM FURYK: It would take five, six -- it gets you on the ballot but it wouldn't get you the vote.

Q. With that said, what would your take be on winning Player of the Year this year when there isn't a guy that won six or seven? Characterize this year on TOUR as far as the parity you saw out there. There wasn't that dominant guy, six, seven wins kind of thing.

JIM FURYK: I think that dominant guy has usually been one person. Theoretically it's been Tiger. I haven't looked at the history. But Mickelson has probably had two or three years where he's won four events, maybe two or three event years where he's won four events. Vijay had a year where he won nine, which baffles me. That blows my mind to be able to do something like that.

So there's been less than probably -- I would guess there's probably three guys or less that have won four -- since I've been on TOUR that have won four tournaments in a year. That being said, I still -- it is what it is. There is a lot of great talent on our TOUR. I think there's a lot of depth.

I always get a kick out of -- early in the year you had Ernie win two events in a row right there in Florida, I won one of the events right in the middle of those two, and then Hilton Head -- Mickelson won The Masters right before Hilton Head, so all of a sudden it was the 40-year-old invasion. Later on throughout the summer we had some young guys win, then all of a sudden I had a lot of -- maybe not the beat writers, but I had a lot of local media, are you worried about the young guys taking over the TOUR. It was only two months ago that the 40 year olds were dominating.

There's an ebb and flow to everything, and I think right now, maybe our television ratings were down last year, but I think there's a lot of depth. Since I've come on TOUR the era is what's changed. I don't think the players are any better this era than they were previous and down the road. But I think golf has grown. We have more better athletes playing the game, and I think the depth is what our TOUR is all about right now.

That being said, I'm proud that I had as good a year as I did. But I think that's also held us through.

When I first came on TOUR, and you think back to 1994 was my rookie year, and I can still remember Greg Norman was kind of -- he was the dominant player in the late '80s, and then there was a slow-down, and I remember reading about how the PGA TOUR was boring because there was no dominant player. And then along came Tiger Woods, and he dominated the world of golf for ten years. And then I remember the PGA TOUR is boring because one guy kicks everyone else's rear end. It's kind of a damned if you do, damned in you don't.

It's exciting to watch one guy dominate and win six or seven times in a year. It's a story -- maybe it's not a story if it's the same guy for six years long, but I also think there's a great story to some parity and some depth in our fields. A couple people already mentioned the NFL on the way in; the season is fun. There's no team that sticks out that is -- there's some teams you could pick for the AFC or the NFC that could win it, but it could be four or five teams on either side very easily, and I think that's fun to watch.

Q. (No microphone.)

JIM FURYK: Is it going to be like the Roger Maris asterisk? I think everyone on January 1 has the same opportunity to go out and play well as I did. I realize Tiger wasn't his best. He had other things off the course. But I'm not going to feel badly that -- I mean, it's a little different. I won the Vardon Trophy one year where he didn't play enough rounds. That one felt a little awkward. If he would have played four more rounds, his scoring average was lower and he would have won the trophy. I was honored and happy to accept it, but I knew I was second if that made sense.

If I were to win the Player of the Year, my peers voted on it, it's something I'd be very, very proud of, and as I said, everyone -- I don't want to speak as though I won, but if that happens, everyone else had the same opportunity to win as the guy that gets voted. I don't see it. I wouldn't feel badly or there wouldn't be in asterisk in my mind.

Q. Can I get your thoughts on Westwood, McIlroy and Kaymer won't be members next year. Is that a concern for the PGA TOUR or is it much ado about nothing or what are your thoughts on it??

JIM FURYK: I just heard about this last week actually, and I heard Rory was talking about it and it showed up in the press. And then I found out it was Westwood and Kaymer, as well. I haven't done the homework or the research. My guess is neither one of those guys played 15 or 16 events on our TOUR last year.

Q. Westwood played 11 but it was a clerical error.

JIM FURYK: Clerical error?

Q. He ended up playing 11. It was only supposed to be 10.

JIM FURYK: Okay. That's interesting. So it's a no point with Westwood because even if he was a member he didn't play enough anyway, so it doesn't really matter, so it doesn't hurt at all. And what did Kaymer play?

Q. I think he played 11.

JIM FURYK: So it's a non-issue if they join or not. They're still allowed to play 13 events next year.

Q. They can only play -- Westwood can only play 10 but the PLAYERS Championship --

JIM FURYK: All right, explain to me the rule. I think the majors, the World Golf Championships, THE PLAYERS, they don't get their five exemptions on top of that?

MARK STEVENS: No, if you give up your membership you're limited --

JIM FURYK: So for five years they're limited --

MARK STEVENS: Kaymer is allowed to play more because --

JIM FURYK: So they're allowed to play 10 and if there's a clerical error maybe 11? So they're allowed to play 10, so we're going to lose Rory for six events and we're going to lose Kaymer and Westwood for more is what it basically boils down to. So I can tell you Rory's schedule next year; he's going to play the four majors, the three World Golf Championships, THE PLAYERS, Wachovia where he won, and I think it's one extra event. I assume he'll come and defend Wachovia.

Q. But you don't consider a trend developing here maybe??

JIM FURYK: My point is I think -- am I concerned? I would love to have them be members of the PGA TOUR, three of the top 20 players in the world. Westwood is -- is he ranked No. 1 right now?

Q. Yeah.

JIM FURYK: So Westwood is ranked No. 1 in the world. We would love to have them join the TOUR. Our TOUR has always been about depth, and I'll be the first to say it, our commissioner made it very, very, very, very easy for foreign players 10 or 15 years ago to come and join the PGA TOUR. He went out of his way and laid out a red carpet with some of the -- and I've talked to our commissioner about this so it wouldn't be any stunning news. He made it easy.

And I think in ways it was a very, very good thing, that he wanted to get all the best players from around the world to join the PGA TOUR and be members and play 15 events here. It only made us stronger. It made our sponsors happier, it made television happier. It made for a lot of stories.

You know, Colin was one guy that never came over. I understand when people have families and children and kids and things. If they're not willing to uproot their family and bring them to live here in the United States, which I don't blame them, I wouldn't want to pick up my family and move to Europe and plant them down there because that's not where we're from. I can understand how guys want to stay there and they want to be around their kids and they don't want to travel back and forth as much. I actually honor and I respect their decision because I'm sure it's made for personal reasons such as those would be my guess.

When I talk to those guys they've always enjoyed playing in the States. Golf courses are in good shape, the purses are stronger, the fields are stronger. You know, they've talked very positively about our TOUR so I don't think it's a knock.

Am I worried about the trend? I think it's an eye-opener when you get those three guys as good as they are and the respect they've garnered, but I think the story is getting blown out of proportion because two of those guys are only going to play one less event next year, and that's -- obviously we'd like to see them come and play 15, but it's not like -- two of those guys -- I think your issue, or you'll use them because three sounds better than one, but I think it's a non-point or a non-issue because they're not playing any less than they were last year. For Rory McIlroy it's an issue.

Q. Can you talk about some of these off-season tournaments and non-full-field are often viewed as silly season, but with this tournament now having World Golf Ranking points and with how it helped your year last year and Graeme McDowell say, the field that we have here this year, do you view it in any other way, or is it still one of those off-season to dust off the clubs silly season type events??

JIM FURYK: No, I think when you get into like -- I always loved playing -- not playing, watching The Skins Game when I was a kid, Nicklaus, Palmer, Watson, Player. That's what you did on Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving when it was snowing in Pennsylvania. I wanted to see the legends that I looked up to play in those. So I never really viewed it as a silly season.

There's times of this year where PGA TOUR is done and there's opportunities for us to go play and make some money doing so.

But it's no different than -- I think some of the events are fun. There's a lot less pressure. You put a lot less pressure on yourself. You're not killing yourself to be ready like you would be for The Masters or the U.S. Open, but you still want to go play well and you're still competitive.

When I see guys traveling to foreign countries to play, and I've done it so I'm not knocking anyone, when I see guys going to play on foreign tours this days, make no bones about it, they're getting paid to go there and they're getting paid a lot of money. That's no different than going to Palm Springs and getting paid to play in The Skins Game if that makes sense, it's just a shorter trip.

This is a really nice event, especially for us in the United States, in that I don't have to fly halfway across the world, 14-hour flight and jet lag and be away from my family for 10 days. I can come here and be gone for five and a half days. Someone said, that's a long trip to LA, and I said, well, not compared to Malaysia or -- there's some nice events around the world, but I've gotten to the point in my career at 40 that I've got two kids in school, and I want to get up and make breakfast and drive them to school and pick them up afterwards and go to baseball practice and do those sorts of things in the fall. And yeah, we have fall baseball in Florida if anyone is wondering.

So I want to do those things, and it's my time to do it. But to come play an event like this, I don't view it as silly. I've got to view everyone in the field here is ranked in the top 25 in the world, close to it.

Q. 26.

JIM FURYK: So 18 guys all in the top 26 in the world, it definitely -- top 36? Anyway, a lot of great players here. So I definitely don't view it as silly. But there are some events out there -- as long as people are watching them on television, as long as they get the ratings, as long as they have a sponsor, as long as they're entertaining people and there's a value for this event, I don't mind it being called silly, but it's still entertainment and people are enjoying it.

Q. We've got a lot of guys close to No. 1. Westwood is No. 1, but it's much more volatile than we're used to it being with Tiger having been up there for so long. Do you see it perhaps going back and forth next year??

JIM FURYK: I think that would be fun. It's probably been a long, long time since that happened. I think that would be fun, where you could be a little bit like -- I know it's gone that way in tennis sometimes. World Rankings, I've said this, always drives the guys nuts from Europe, talking about World Ranking points, but it's never been that important to me where I was ranked, but I will say it would be cool for anyone to say I was ranked No. 1. That's kind of the way I've always looked at it. I was 2 for about 18 months, and it was a -- I'll be honest, it was a difficult 18 months because Tiger is probably not always the most accessible, and I was the next guy in line, and everyone knew that I was accessible, so I used to tease you all the time, what's the difference, I said, now y'all listen when I speak. But other than that -- I wasn't used to that. It took me a while to get used to.

Now I really don't -- I honestly couldn't tell you where I'm ranked right now. I have no idea. It's somewhere around 5, but I don't know exactly what it is. It's really not that important to me. What's important to me is I'm playing well and trying to win some golf tournaments, and I'd much rather win three events and win the FedExCup and be fifth than be second for 18 months and win one or two tournaments.

But on a side note, it is very cool to say I was ranked No. 1. I think that will make for a very exciting year because there's a lot of guys that would like to -- Tiger has dominated that number for so long. There's guys like Mickelson and -- you go down the list, the Top 10, there's a bunch of guys that would like to say that.

Q. When you're afforded an opportunity to play in one of those foreign events, and it maybe falls on the same week as a TOUR event that you've played, how difficult is that decision, to decide between one or the other, and what are the factors that go into it??

JIM FURYK: I am probably the worst example you could ever find on the PGA TOUR to ask that question to because if you look at my history, I think I've asked for two releases in my career over 17 years. One was to play the Scottish Open the week before the British, and I missed an event on the TOUR that I didn't usually play, and the other was to play in the Shell's Wonderful World of Golf the week after the British and skipped an event that I didn't usually play.

I've always decided that in season I was going to focus on the United States, focus on the PGA TOUR, trying to finish as well on our TOUR as possibly could, whether that's the Money List or the FedEx or whatever it may possibly be, and I've played a lot of foreign events. When I have traveled around the world to play, I've had a lot of people and a lot of fans from -- actually a lot of players even from foreign tours compliment me and they wished that more Americans would play and more Americans would come. I've been to South Africa eight or nine times. You name it, I've been somewhere.

And it's usually -- it was two or three events every fall, and I'd go somewhere to play, and it was before Tab and I had kids, and I've played a little bit since. But I've been a lot choosier and a lot pickier because there's only so many weeks that I can be home, and I've always chosen to really concentrate on the U.S. in season.

So I'm probably -- I've been offered and I've been offered some pretty good numbers at times, but it's usually around events that I really like. Well, it's the week before one of your favorite events, and you go, well, how prepared am I going to be if I'm coming back late Monday night and I'm jet lagged, whatever it may be. I've chosen not to go that route, and I'm probably a bad person to ask.

Q. We've had a full season now to see the new grooves in effect. What's your take on how it impacted play this year??

JIM FURYK: I think a lot of the stats have been misleading like the scoring average and the different things. I think the golf courses were set up -- because I think the golf courses were set up much differently this year. As a whole I think we saw a lot less rough in our setups, and I think we saw a lot less of that four- and five-inch rough and a lot more of the two- and three-.

So scoring averages probably stayed very similar, but I think it's misleading. I think what they were trying to do was provide lies so that you could get to the ball and advance it but because of the groove issue you'd have a hard time controlling the golf ball. I thought the TOUR did a pretty good job overall. There's events you can pick and choose where you wish the rough were higher, lower, but in the whole course of the season, the setups were changed.

But I think the groove issue made a pretty significant change. I would say -- I actually like the new groove probably more from about 160 yards out because I can move the ball so much farther now with a flier than I could before. I had lost my ability to hit the ball 190 or 200 yards because with the square groove the ball just wouldn't come out jumping and I couldn't get say a 5-iron on the ball anymore, and I can't hit a 6- or 7-iron that far. Now I get out from 200 yards with a 6- or 7-iron and make it jump, play it a little bit back, hit a shot I know will jump. It might not fly there, but I can run the ball up on greens.

I probably -- I think there's been a couple players that have done it, played kind of V-grooves from like a 6-iron up and square grooves from a 7-iron down. They were a little smarter than I was. But I probably like that groove from longer distances. But geez, from pitching wedge distance and in, 9-iron distance and in, it's a big, big difference, and you're nervous about catching that flier and knocking it over greens.

If you think about it, most of the trouble on golf courses, if you hit the ball five yards short of the green, you can usually play. Green is tilted towards you, you usually have an opportunity to get the ball up-and-down, but you start knocking the ball five and ten yards over the greens, it gets very difficult to get the ball up-and-down, and it's what we're all afraid of.

But it made a significant difference in my mind. But I don't think stats prove that. But I think the players would tell you.

Q. I guess going back to the European thing, you said that it doesn't sound like it's much of an issue in regards to what guys play, but when you start a trend it starts somewhere, and with the Europeans adding another event to their requirements to be a member over there and then on top of that, these guys now deciding that this year they don't want to be members, and with the argument that you made that the reason why the TOUR did what they did is to bring -- it's better for the sponsors, it's better for the fields, all those other things, do you think it would behoove the TOUR to maybe look at changing the requirement where a guy if he was a member and then decided to change his membership, not be a member anymore, could at least play more than ten??

JIM FURYK: I think the TOUR will look at that, being a guy that's been on the PAC quite a few years. I'm sure that issue will come up next year. I don't really understand -- I love the PGA TOUR and I'll protect us through and through, but I don't understand why if you are a member and you decline membership you're treated differently if you're someone that's declined membership for your career. Colin Montgomerie, who's never joined as a member, he can still play in 13 events. Why is Westwood or Rory who took membership up docked and now decided he's not going to take it, why is he docked any more than Montgomerie? I'd rather give Rory the benefit of the doubt. He at least came over and played and supported our TOUR. We should help him, not hurt him. Nothing against Colin, but he's never joined, so I don't understand why he's given a better benefit of the doubt than Rory is.

I totally agree with what you're saying and I think it's something we should look at, and being on the PAC I'm sure that will be talked about. Hearing some of the garbage we have to talk about, that is a good point. I'm sure it will come up.

Q. You spoke earlier about the ebb and flow of the game year in, year out. When you look at the impact globally made by players such as McIlroy, Ishikawa, Rickie Fowler, the Italian Manassero, might you say perhaps this is the most exciting crop of players we've had since you've been out on TOUR??

JIM FURYK: Internationally? I'd say internationally that's probably a good point. That's probably a good point. You know, the game really is probably -- that's very possible. I guess I haven't studied it long enough probably to speak intelligently about it. I hear that quite a bit, though, and as I was lumped into a group when I was younger with like Duval and Mickelson and Justin Leonard and I are all about two years apart in age, we all grew up playing junior golf against each other and college golf, so we kind of got lumped in a group.

And then -- about every five years you've got a new group of young guys coming through. That's an impressive group, though, what you said. Time will tell. How's that? Time will tell. I'm sure there will be a lot of victories under those guys' belts.

But as a group, that's -- yeah, that's a very, very solid group, and because it is so global and from so many different parts of the world, it's very exciting.

MARK STEVENS: Thanks a lot. Best of luck this week.

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