Furyk joins Lunch with a Legend
May 21, 2020
By Chris Richards, PGATOUR.COM
- May 21, 2020
Jim Furyk joins Lunch with a Legend
Jim Furyk, who recently turned 50, joined Lunch with a Legend for a little happy hour to discuss his plans for 2020, his career on TOUR, the 58, Fluff, battles with Tiger and more.
The only PGA TOUR player with two sub-60 rounds is ready for the over-50 Tour.
Jim Furyk turned 50 on May 12, but he made an impact on PGA TOUR Champions before he officially joined the Tour. Two months ago, it was announced that starting in October 2021, the Jim and Tabitha Furyk Foundation would host the Constellation Furyk & Friends at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Florida.
This week, he joined PGA TOUR Champions Instagram Live and shared stories from a career that includes 17 TOUR wins, one major, a FedExCup title and 16 combined appearances on Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams.
Answers have been edited for clarity and length.
Have you ever shot below 60 in a non-TOUR event?
My lowest rounds are the 58 and 59, but I haven’t shot a lot of 61s, 62s, 63s outside of PGA TOUR play. I think a lot of it not being mentally as sharp. When I’m out there with my friends, I’m having a good time and I’m trying, of course – I don’t want to lose any cash to them – but I’m not as focused or as mentally sharp. So, my lowest rounds, thankfully because that’s where I make my living, have come on TOUR.
What’s one lesser-known story from when you shot 58 at the 2016 Travelers Championship?
I never went to the putting green that morning, I never hit a practice putt. I was on the range, I was in a great mood that morning. I think I had an extra cup of coffee. I was just excited to go home. I was tied for 70th on my 29th day of a trip. I was BS’ing with someone on the range and I lost track of time, and Fluff looked at me and said ‘hey, we only have eight minutes.’ I went, ‘all right, we’ve got plenty of time to get to the first tee.’ He said, ‘Do you want to hit any putts?’ and I said, ‘Nah, I’m just going to rush over there, the greens aren’t any different than they were yesterday.’ I was tied for 70th, who cares, let’s go. I shot my lowest round ever and never hit a practice putt.
You were in Sunday’s final pairing with Tom Watson during his 39th and final PGA TOUR win at Colonial in 1998. What do you remember about that round?
He beat me, that’s what I remember. [Laughs.] Back then, it was the typical Colonial – browned-out golf course, wind blowing, hard to get the ball into the fairways. I was probably two or three behind on the back nine, and just trying to put some pressure on him any way I could. Tom’s a great ball-striker, always has been, and he hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, and he made a lot of pars on that back nine, and so did I.
He hit this amazing shot out of the fairway bunker on No. 9. He hit it left off the tee into the face of the bunker. He had a really severe left-to-right lie and that shot on No. 9 at Colonial – there’s a pond short, the pin was kind of middle-right and it’s a really tricky pin. From an extremely hanging, left-to-right lie with a left-to-right wind over water, he hit one in there about three feet and made birdie. And that gave him the separation that I couldn’t make up. That shot right there, where a lot of guys would have made 5 and he made 3, that ended up being the difference and I couldn’t catch him.
Recently I was playing in a group with some young guys and they mentioned playing Colonial, and they asked what’s the best finishes you’ve had. I finished second there at least a couple times and I brought up the – well I can remember in the late ‘90s getting beat by Tom Watson. Being 50 and having competed against Tom Watson, and now competing against young players on TOUR that are 21, 22, 23 years old, I’m bridging a massive gap. It’s kind of cool to say that I was able to have one battle – albeit I lost – with Tom Watson.
How has your course management changed over the years?
I think early in my career, I chased distance like everyone does. The best I ever was was average length, so I relied on the strengths of my game – my wedges – and didn’t force it on some second shots on par 5s, maybe laid up a couple more times, knowing I was a strong wedge player. I started using the strengths of my game better, and I also probably was able to make my weaknesses a little stronger.
Every young player has to go through that, they have to learn their game and learn to trust in it. And no matter who you are, there’s always things you see other players do that you can’t. And we’re always jealous, we always want to learn how those players hit those types of shots, and that’s the fun in playing in Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups. You put 12 of the best Americans on one team and we play practice rounds together and we share tips, we pull for each other. That’s one of those things, you learn that not everyone has every shot, and so you learn what you’re good at and what you can help other players with, and I think it gives you confidence that you can do some things that other players can’t.
What was the most nerve-wracking moment you’ve had on the golf course?
Most likely it would have come in a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. I’ve had a bunch of those to be honest with you, and the best players love to get in those situations. You’re not always going to hit a good shot, and I’ve definitely failed as many times as I’ve succeeded. It makes you appreciate the good shots even more.
Here’s the difference between amateur golfers and professional golfers. An amateur golfer gets done with a round, and he hit two or three shots that were the greatest shots he hit, made birdie, felt like a TOUR pro for those few shots, and they go to the bar afterwards and they want to talk about those two shots that were great. My friends on TOUR, they come in and they’re thinking about the two or three shots that they hit terrible, that ruined their entire day, that turned a 65 into a 69. They’re totally mad about it and they can’t sleep at night and they keep going to the range.
When I think about those pressure situations I was in my whole career, I think about the ones I didn’t hit very well a lot more than I think about the ones that I did hit well. There are a couple that stick out in my mind that still bother me, but that’s part of it. In golf, you have to have that quarterback mentally and you have to let it go and wake up the next day and try to hit a good shot.
What are you looking forward to when you make your debut on PGA TOUR Champions?
If I were to joke about it, I’m looking forward to getting away from my 4-iron and remembering what hitting wedges, 9-irons and 8-irons feels like in competition, because I don’t hit as many of those as I’d like to or as I used to. [Laughs.]
I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends that I haven’t seen in a while, like Calc (Mark Calcavecchia), Jeff Sluman, Billy Andrade, guys that I used to play a lot of rounds with early in my career and haven’t see in five, 10-plus years. Jay Haas is another one. So, just seeing some old friends and competing. And three rounds doesn’t sound so bad, sounds like a horse race. You’ve got to fire some low numbers; 69s and 70s aren’t doing too much out there usually.
How did the Constellation Furyk & Friends tournament come to fruition?
In 2010, we started the Jim and Tabitha Furyk Foundation. The goal is to help children and families in need here in Northeast Florida, and our biggest fundraiser every year was a charity golf tournament. With that was a party, a concert, chefs, food, drinks, golf – in about that order too, to be honest. [Laughs.] We’ve had a great outreach from folks all over the country, but a huge support here in our community.
As I got closer to 50, we started talking about ways to grow, get bigger, raise more money for charity, because once you start scratching the surface in your hometown, you realize there’s so much more need. So, coming close to 50 and seeing my good buddy Steve Stricker with the Am Fam (American Family Insurance Championship), seeing my good buddy Davis Love III running the RSM Classic in Sea Island, I was wondering – could we have a PGA TOUR Champions event here in Jacksonville?
I got a lot of support from Jay Monahan and Miller Brady, President of PGA TOUR Champions, and then I asked every player out there – what makes a great Champions Tour event? Almost to a T, the first thing they said was a great sponsor. So, we have Constellation Energy, who has been a longtime sponsor of mine. And next we have a great golf course, just across the river from my home, in Timuquana Country Club. This gives us a real good opportunity for us to bring friends to Jacksonville, showcase a little bit of our city and the St. Johns River, a great golf course, but also gives us a chance to grow as a Foundation and hopefully do more great work here in Jacksonville.