The PGA Championship

Interview with Jim Furyk

August 12, 2003

Julius Mason: Jim Furyk, ladies and gentlemen, at the 85th PGA Championship, playing in his ninth PGA Championship.

Jim, welcome to Rochester. Some opening comments and we'll go to Q&A.

Jim Furyk: Thanks. Obviously, it's nice to be here. Last major of the year. I think it's a wonderful golf course. I'm looking forward to it. It's a difficult test but I'm looking forward to the week, and it will be a great challenge.

Q: You've mentioned the golf course, but I know at the U.S. Open, you liked that golf course when you got there and saw it. Do you know enough about this golf course to tell us more about what you think about it?

Jim Furyk: I played it once yesterday. I think it's a wonderful course. It's probably playing a bit longer than usual because it's damp out there. It's not wet but it's definitely soft and plush.

Greens are quite difficult. It's like a broken record; don't hit it long, basically, all day. Anything over the green is in a lot of trouble here, and from short of the green or right in front, you can get the ball up-and-down. So really, keeping the ball in play.

The rough is incredibly long in spots. It doesn't afford you a chance to play at all in a lot of spots. It's very long; it's almost laying over, it's so long. So you really have to drive the ball in the fairway, which is difficult here. And then with your iron shots, the greens are very tiny. A lot of them are 28 ?? anywhere from 24 to 28 deep, and it's difficult at times, especially if the greens were firm, it would be difficult at times to keep the ball short of the pin. At least with it being a little softer right now you can do it but you have to be accurate with your iron shots. Leave the ball below the pin, short of the pin and leave yourself a good putt at it. Because on top of the pin, you'll just be putting defensively.

Q: 17 and 18 have been lengthened considerably. I know yesterday was the first time you said you got out here. A couple of the players might have mentioned that that's indicative of trying to turn some of these courses into power game courses, hitting so far to make it as playable as it used to be. Can you see that as typical of what you see around the country?

Jim Furyk: Sure. I think players have gotten stronger. I think equipment has obviously gotten a lot better and helped us hit the ball farther. I hit the ball farther than when I first came on TOUR; it's not even close. So in order to keep up with that, golf courses have had to be lengthened.

The 18th hole ?? my caddie has a book from '89 ?? it was lengthened 54 yards. It used to be 248 to the bunker on the right and it is now 301. We didn't get 54 yards longer, I promise you that. It definitely has been toughened up. Those two holes yesterday played back into the breeze.

A hole like 16 was downwind yesterday and played quite short, even though it was 440-ish. I hit a wedge yesterday but had to hit a wood on 17 and my best driver to 18. I'm average length and guys will hit farther than that. I think the driving area was maybe ?? and it could be a little skewed because it's wet right now versus real firm. But the driving area might still be a smidge different on 18. My caddie's view, you had to fit it almost into a plateau out there. Yesterday that bunker was not in play. 301 into the breeze and wet, there is no bunker out there for me; there's rough short of it.

I think the course is playing longer right now, not only because they lengthened it, I won't say it's wet out there but it's definitely plush. We are not getting a lot of roll on our tee shots and they will definitely make it demanding. At least the greens are not brick hard and the greens are rolling, that's definitely a recipe for some really high scoring.

Q: Some people have said this is more of a U.S. Open than a PGA Championship course. Can you compare it to others that you've played in the PGA Championship and can you talk about 5 and 13, how tight the fairway is and can anyone carry the creek on 13?

Jim Furyk: One round, first of all, I'm not sure I understand the U.S. Open/PGA quote.

13, can anyone carry the creek? (Referring to score card). 330 from the back edge, so let's say 325, 322 downhill; can it be done? Yes. I don't foresee anyone trying, unless they have no chance of making the cut and they want to have some giggles on the way in.

May change. Hank has definitely got the length. If it gets downwind, I would say 320 to carry and it's downwind, downhill, it's playing 300, 305. He's got plenty of club in his bag to get over it. There's a handful of guys that would ever have a chance and the opportunity there; it's far and few between. You might see a few guys have a chance at it and a guy or two make it in the right situations. Leading the golf tournament, I don't see anyone going for it.

5, the fairway on 5. Is that the one with the creek left of the green? I'm looking at pictures of holes but this is a picture from behind the green. It's definitely a tight fairway. It sets up ?? the first time you play, it looks like you want to hit it. Yesterday I hit it maybe five yards of where I wanted to and I was only in the fairway by three or four yards. I think you want to turn it around that tree on the left and hit it more out, just a little right of that bunker that sits out there. You know, probably a 3-wood if it were dry. Yesterday a driver was plenty, so it's definitely a narrow hole, but, it's difficult to hit but there's still a fairway out there.

The whole PGA/USGA course, I'm not sure I understand. I've played a lot of PGAs on the same courses that we've played U.S. Opens, and so the setups are somewhat similar. The setup here, I think with the rain and the rough being high, looks very similar to your stereotypical U.S. Open. Most of the courses that we play in this event are very much the same courses. A lot of them flip back and forth between events.

Q: You are certainly in contention now for Player of the Year honors. Is that something that might be in the back of your mind now?

Jim Furyk: Well, we've already had this discussion over at the Golf Channel. It's in the back of my mind because now I'm invited in the media room every Wednesday and every Wednesday I field at least two to three questions on this subject. That's the only reason it's in the back of my mind. It's not a driving force for my year. It's not changing my schedule anymore. I'm not playing any more events. I'm not targeting that as the goal. It would be nice, but that comes from playing well and winning golf tournaments, and that's really the driving force, is to keep playing well, to keep putting myself in contention and to win some more golf tournaments this year.

That's kind of the icing on the cake and it would be something I would remember for a long time, but again, I'm not going to judge my year upon that, and it's not the goal for the end of the year, or what drives me for the rest of the year.

Q: With the run of the first-time winners, four in a row, winning majors, is there a sense among the lower half of the field out there that they can win one and sort of change their careers, maybe confidence growing among the guys who you don't normally look at when the tournament starts?

Jim Furyk: I don't know. When Rich won last year at the PGA and Mike won at the Masters, my thought wasn't, wow, here's my chance. The guys that have already won majors are not playing well, the tide looks like it's turning. I was pretty much focused ?? I was happy for both those guys. Rich was a pretty good story. He was hot last summer, winning the International. Mike is a friend that I had played some college golf against. I know how hard he works and a little bit of what he's gone through his career. So I was happy for him to win the Masters.

As far as trying to compare that to me, I kind of just take my game one step at a time, one day at a time and don't really focus on what else is going on around the world of golf. I'm not sure how other people treat it. I think you just go through phases.

Last year, we had a lot of first-time winners on TOUR. This year there's, I don't know, five, six multiple winners on TOUR, guys winning three or four events in a year. Last year, everyone wanted to know why is there so many first-time winners and now everyone wants to know why there are more multiple winners. Just crazy streaks. That's the way it goes.

Q: The Player of the Year, is that something that the media makes a bigger deal of than the players themselves? Is it an award that players care about that dearly?

Jim Furyk: Again, I can only really answer for myself.

It would be something very nice to win. To be voted on by your peers, especially, is something that I would remember and something that I would remember the rest of my life, to have that one great year if it were to happen, or more.

Again, I'm not putting my total focus on that this year. I get asked about it a lot because I'm having a pretty good year and I won a major championship. I think it's important but I don't think anyone this year is really striving for that. It's not a driving force in Tiger's or Davis's or mine or Mike Weir's or whoever else is a candidate, Kenny Perry. It is not a driving force in our daily routine, or at least it's not in mine. It would definitely be icing on the cake and something to treasure for a while.

Q: Jeff Sluman has said that Tiger has become a victim of his own success; do you think he's set a standard that's impossible for anyone to live up to?

Jim Furyk: Please don't take this the wrong way, but I think you all have set the standard. He's obviously playing that well. I think everyone who watches him on TV, the media, I think everyone expects him to do that year-in, year-out. What was it, in 2000, the nine victories, part of the four majors in a row, that was just probably something that was unequalled throughout golf. Byron Nelson's 18 in a row would probably be better but it was one of the top two or three years of all time. We can't expect him to do it again. Byron Nelson never did it again.

Jack Nicklaus might have had a few years where they were incredible like that and Tiger will probably have another year very similar eventually in his career but you can't do that every year. I think so much is expected out of him, I think that's what Jeff is saying. He's a victim of his own success that now he's expected to keep doing that and he's had such a terrible year this year with three wins, we all feel terrible for him and he's really struggling. And that's the way it comes out when we read the press and we read the media that he's in a slump and he's playing poorly. For heaven sake's, the guy is coming off knee surgery, playing a limited schedule, won three times and has had other seconds. It's a shame that that is considered a bad season or he's really having a tough year, because that's probably not the case.

Is it up to his standards? Is he probably happy with his year? I would say probably not. But you'd have to ask him that. Is it a bad year? It's not even close by anyone's standards. He's won three times. If the rest of us could win once in a year it's a good year; if we win multiple times it's a great year. He's won three, he's got a lot of his schedule left and he's being criticized. So, sure, what Slu is saying is right on. He just said it a lot shorter and more eloquently than I did. (Laughter.)

Q: The golf course is pretty wet, you said it was just kind of soft, I think, but ??

Jim Furyk: There's not standing water so I wouldn't consider it really wet out there but it's soft.

Q: If it doesn't get any harder what do you project to be the winning score?

Jim Furyk: I wouldn't have any idea the first day. Give me one round around the golf course ?? a lot of it still depends on setup, pin placements, tee placements, how hard they want to make the golf course. How fast the greens are going to be? Are they going to dry up the next couple days? Is it going to rain at all the next couple of days?

I think that the course playing softer affords a lot of the field to go out and play some better rounds. The course will play longer, but any more, that's not really an issue on TOUR, the length, because we have so many guys that are long. It will be easier to get the ball in the fairway because the ball will not roll as much and even though you'll have longer irons in your hand you'll be able to stop the ball because the greens will be a little softer if it stays the same where it is. And the greens won't quite get as fast because they will have a little dampness to them. That will allow us to shoot a little lower scores but I really see this as a demanding, difficult golf course and I don't see very low scores here. I think any round under par is a good round, and I don't see the scores going real low this week. It's going to depend on the setup. I've been wrong a lot before.

Q: Do you notice people treating you any differently because you're now the U.S. Open champion?

Jim Furyk: I joke a lot on Wednesday that my opinion seems to matter a lot more. I get asked for my opinion a lot more than I used to.

Not really. Not really. Maybe signing a few more autographs and more media requests.

One of the things that everyone mentioned and I must have heard it a dozen times just on Sunday night at Olympia Fields was, "your life is really going to change now," and I'm not sure I understand. It still has not felt like it's changed. I don't feel I'm any different a person. I don't feel like I'm any different a player. I've just had to manage my time a little bit more. I've had to plan my days a little bit better because of coming in here on Wednesday, because of more requests for my time and I've just had to manage my time better. And I've said that all along, but my life has not changed at all. It was a rewarding experience, one I'll never forget and I'll draw a lot of confidence from it. By far, the crowning point to my career at this point. It really has not been ?? having a child was a life-changing event. A major championship didn't really change it too much.

Q: Sorry to make you go to the well one more time on this multiple win thing, but crazy streaks was your answer. Some other reasons, is it course setups that they are so tough it only rewards the best players, does equipment play a factor, does momentum play a factor?

Jim Furyk: I think equipment would even out the field, rather than separate the field would be my guess.

Course setups, I think are getting more difficult on our tour on a daily basis. I think major championships were always difficult and that's going to vary from year-to-year on the course we are playing. On TOUR, pin placements have gotten more difficult. Our tour does not like to say so and I respect our officials, I think they do a great job, but I keep our pin sheets and I'll bet you they are getting a lot closer to the edge of the green. They used to be six or seven ten years ago and then it changed to four or five and now we rarely see a pin that's more than five from the edge of a green and we see quite a few threes. They like to say, well, it's always been three; we just never put it on the sheet. I'm telling you, that's not true and I've told them that.

They are getting tighter to the edges and they are trying to suck you in a little bit, to go for some pins that you might ?? you probably shouldn't. You still knock the ball 15 feet left of the pin, it's still a 15-foot putt for birdie, whether it's three from the edge or four from the edge or five from the edge.

I think the course setups are getting harder. I don't know if ?? I'll let you all venture a guess on what's changed and why. I honestly still think, you go through different periods where there's going to be a lot of multiple winners, a lot of first-time winners and veterans winning and over-40s winning and a lot of young-20s winning. It's like going to Vegas and playing baccarat, you catch red a lot, you catch black a lot, you don't know, it just happens, house or player, however you want to put it. I don't like that game much, anyway.

Q: Accepting what you say, that winning the U.S. Open has not changed your life that much, has it changed your outlook when you come into a major such as this? Does it give you an extra added confidence or edge to your preparations?

Jim Furyk: Well, I don't feel like I'm any different player than I was two months ago or I was on June 1 before the U.S. Open came along.

Mentally, I think there was an added ?? and I said this a bunch ?? I always feel bad because I talk to y'all every week and I say the same stuff at least once every week. Mentally, it's an edge because I know I can do it rather than thinking I can do it. If I didn't have that confidence in myself, I would have never won the U.S. Open. So I had that confidence but now it's a little mental edge in the fact that I know that I can do it because I have before and I can draw on that experience.

But that's probably what I bring in. It's great to get that taste of victory, too, because you want to ?? it's a great feeling. You want to do it again and again.

Q: You talked about the difficulty of courses and that sort of thing, a lot of us seem to think it favors a player like yourself. Would you prefer to have what is known as a wedge-fest where 23-under wins or would you rather have a golf course that's so demanding like you are saying Oak Hill is, that it takes three or 5-under? What would you rather play?

Jim Furyk: Are we in Las Vegas? It all depends. If we are in Las Vegas I'll take the wedge-fest. When I first came on TOUR I used to think even par was a good score. I won Las Vegas and I think my worst score was 24? or 25-under. I've had success in both, winning the U.S. Open where par is a good score and knowing I have to shoot 5-under just to keep up with the field. I've done well, too.

Either way, I think that if you put a pitching wedge or less in my hand all day, I'll play anyone, because you're playing in my strengths now. If you get me from 120 yards or less, that's a length in my game.

I feel like I have a good enough short game and mentally strong enough to grind it out when even par is a good score. If we need to go low, I'm comfortable shooting low numbers, also. I think that if you put our Top-10 guys on any golf course, over the long haul they are going to do well. The best players are going to adapt to all of the situations and conditions and they are going to play well in all arenas. Tiger is a perfect example. He plays well where you have to shoot 20-under and he plays well when you have to shoot even par and he plays well at the U.S. Open and he plays well at the British Open. He has a well-rounded game and that's one of the reasons he's the best player in the world.

Q: Knowing how tough it is to win one major, what would it take to win 18 of them and are people gaining better appreciation for what Nicklaus did?

Jim Furyk: No, I cannot imagine what it would take to win 18 of them.

Wow, I think if people could not appreciate 18 majors and add on another two U.S. Amateurs, that was pretty ignorant on their behalf if they could not figure out how great an accomplishment that was. I think the only one in our day and age that will have anything to say about it or could challenge that would be Tiger. But it's a phenomenal record. I can't imagine, and that's why Jack is everyone's hero and idol and that's why he's the measuring bar. He was the greatest ever.

Q: How significant is it that you won the Buick and coming in here off a victory?

Jim Furyk: I was asked that same question on Saturday at the Buick. At the time I said that it would be nice to know that I was playing well coming in here. I was taking a week off in between, so I said at the time that I didn't think it was significant and I still don't. I spent a lot of last week relaxing. I played in a father/son event with my dad. Went fishing for a day or two and used the weekend to prepare for this tournament.

It's nice that I was playing well and knew exactly what I needed to work on coming here and I'm still working on those things. But is it significant? It doesn't mean that I'm going to play well or play poorly or anything this week. I would rather have played well and won the events than to come in here missing the cut. It really makes no bearing on the week, I think.

Q: You mentioned your caddie was here in '89?

Jim Furyk: This is his fourth event. He caddied the U.S. Open, the PGA and the Ryder Cup here.

Q: Who did he caddie for?

Jim Furyk: I think Peter Jacobsen. He was with him for 19 years so I assume it was all of those with Jake.

Q: He said it has changed significantly?

Jim Furyk: Well, lengthwise. He peeked in his old book from '89. That's when Curtis won the U.S. Open. Just from '89, it's changed a lot. 54 yards on 18; new tee on 17. There was a par 3 somewhere on the back, like 11 that had a brand new tee that was 30 or 40 yards back. I don't know how many yards have been added, but it's quite a few hundred, I would think.

It's happened to all courses. Every course we go out to. I guess Oakmont is doing that for the U.S. Amateur. I'm from Pennsylvania and I hear that. That's what all courses are doing these days.

Q: Are there guys that can just click and get on a stretch like Kenny?

Jim Furyk: Sure. Sure. I think ?? I don't know what a lot is. Is there 50? Probably not. Is there a couple dozen or three dozen guys, possibly that, could get out there. There's a lot of guys out here. We have a very deep field of guys that can come out and win golf tournaments. There's a lot of those guys. Our talent pool is very, very deep.

A guy to come out and break out and win three times, contend in a lot of other events and play as well as Kenny has, you have to be happy for him, too. He's a great guy. He's easy to get along with. He has a lot of friends out here. He's worked hard his whole career. I read somewhere he had three or four wins before this year and now he's got three in one year. It's a lot of perseverance. He's in his early 40s, still has a lot of good years ahead of him. You have to be happy for a guy like that.

I think that there are ?? you start winning golf tournaments, start playing well, you gain a lot of confidence and you feel like you can keep doing it. If you go the other way and you start playing bad, it feels like you're never going to play good between. This game has a lot of peaks and valleys. You want to take advantage of it while you're playing well and keep that peak up there as long as you can.

Q: Granted you only have one round under your belt, but do you think the rough is so thick that you have to go at it sideways or can you still go at the greens?

Jim Furyk: I would like to say I didn't hit it in the rough at all yesterday so I'm not sure because that wasn't the case. There was a couple of times where I felt I could advance the ball really good where I got really fortunate lies.

The rough is so long that it's actually laying over so, what happens in major championships is usually on Thursday, the rough is standing up and it's more difficult to play out of. Even though it's not cut by Sunday after people walking through it, whether it's marshals, media, the television crews and such, the players trampling through there, it gets laying down. It gets more playable as the week goes on and usually trampled forward where you might be able to get a club on it. There's places out there where it's a sand wedge, hack it out and move it 80 yards forward and playing it from there.

There are other places where you may have an opportunity ?? there were very few places yesterday where I felt I could get it to the green after I hit it in the rough, unless it was a short hole like 14, where you only had a sand wedge in your hand anyway.

Yeah, a lot of it is going to be playing back to the middle of the fairway and an iron shot from there, it looks like.

Q: How did you and your father do in the event and did you catch any fish?

Jim Furyk: We caught a lot of fish. We did all right, actually. There was 12 teams, not all of them were father/son, but the three teams that tied at 13-under ?? it was called the Champions Challenge, between Salt Lake and Provo. The three teams that tied at 13-under were not father son teams. I think Craig Stadler and his boy shot 11-under, Hale Irwin and his son shot 11-under and my dad and I were 10. We did all right. It was a scramble format, two-man scramble which is a lot of fun.

JULIUS MASON: Jim Furyk, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.

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