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Tuesday, June 10, 2008Jim Furyk
Jim Furyk

Player Bio

RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Jim Furyk to the interview room this afternoon. He's playing in his 14th United States Championship here at Torrey Pines. He won in 2003 at Olympia Fields.

Start us off with general comments about the golf course, how it compares to what you see here at the Buick Invitational, what do you think the challenges are going to be out there this week?

JIM FURYK: Well, those of you who know me know I don't play the Buick Invitational. I don't have much of a comparison. That could be a positive or negative, I haven't figured that out yet.

I played this year and it was a big help. A lot of the fairway cut lines are the same. I don't really feel like when we played Pebble Beach at the AT&T and saw Pebble at the U.S. Open, it was a drastic change. This week with this golf course, although it is a change, it's not as drastic, and I think the cut lines and the fairways are the same where that was not the case at Pebble. And the greens are firmer, they're quicker. You have to respect the slope on them. There are some greens out there that have an amazing amount of undulation.

But I'm glad I came those four rounds of tournament competition, or three rounds with the Pro Am, really made me a lot more comfortable. It's a difficult golf course, but I feel like I know what I'm supposed to do.

RAND JERRIS: How are you feeling about your game as you're coming here this week?

JIM FURYK: I'm a little frustrated. I think that I haven't played poorly this year, but I haven't played well by any means. I struggled a little bit with ‑‑ this year I felt I struggled a little bit with the driver, which has been a strength of mine throughout the last five to eight years. I've struggled with the putter quite a bit, two of the most important clubs in the bag. So I think I've remedied part of the problems. I've been working hard. I've had some good, shining moments this year, but I've also had a lot of mediocrity and need to ‑‑ obviously I'm working hard to fix that and play better.

Q. Before you came here for the Buick you heard about length, length, length. Now that you've seen the Open setup what are your thoughts as far as what it will mean for say the medium‑sized hitter?

JIM FURYK: Well, I appreciate you putting me in that medium category, thanks. It's an upgrade from usual, so I like that.

I would say there's no way to disguise 7600 yards. We have what I've been told is the June Gloom. It's overcast, it's dark, it holds the moisture on the golf course. It's playing much firmer and faster than I would expect by looking at the weather. I would expect it to hold more moisture.

The greens picked up quite a bit of speed today. They were much firmer than they were yesterday. I think you catch a Bethpage where it's cold, it's wet, it's a long golf course, that played a lot longer, I believe, than coming here. If we can get a little roll, get the ball moving. It's definitely got its long holes and places where I'm going to be hitting a lot of club into the green, but I think it's playable, because of the firm and fast conditions.

From what I hear it's going to be possibly even a little warmer and sunnier, and I'm hoping for this place to dry up even more. The roll is our friend right now, if you're a medium‑length hitter.

Q. Everyone knows Tiger and Phil are going to be playing together in the top pairings. I would imagine you would want to be in that, if only for rankings purposes, but are you happy to let the majority of the galleries go and fight their way out with those two and you not be in there? If you were just a fan and weren't a player, would you fight the galleries and go out and watch them?

JIM FURYK: What was the first part of that? I have a very simple mind.

Q. I assume you would want to be in the groupings because of the rankings.

JIM FURYK: I've never cared about the rankings, I said that when I was ranked No. 2, and I'm going to say that when I'm ranked between 7 or 9 now.

Q. Would you prefer playing with them Thursday and Friday or are you happy to let all the crowd go with them ‑‑

JIM FURYK: I think it would be exciting to be out there. The rankings are cool in one sense in that it's nice to be ranked high. But ultimately we all realize it doesn't matter whether you're ranked 4 or 5 or 12. It really doesn't matter. It's somewhat of a reflection on how you're playing. I wish I was ranked higher because it means I'd been playing better. I think it's exciting for the fans when they have the top three players playing together.

I think it's interesting that all 12 players are in the same wave from what I've heard. That probably raises the eyebrow I think more than putting the guys together, just because of the weather conditions, all 12 guys could get a great draw or a bad draw. I think splitting them up would be the usual. So it raises the eyebrow that they're all in the same wave.

But there's a lot of other guys in the field, obviously, that have a great opportunity to win this golf tournament. It puts the focus on that elite group, yeah, gives the other guys a chance to, including myself, to hide under the radar for our first couple of days, which is hard to do at a U.S. Open.

And not a chance in the world would I ever go out there and fight that gallery, not even for two holes. It just wouldn't be worth it.

When I was 11 and I went to Merion, I watched Nicklaus and Palmer, I fought the two biggest crowds. Knowing what I know now, not a chance.

Q. You mentioned other guys having a good chance. With Tiger is it the sense of uncertainty about Tiger, but does this year's Open seem a little more open for lack of a better term, more accessible to everyone else?

JIM FURYK: I think it's difficult to take the amount of time he's had off, to come to a U.S. Open and expect to go out there and dominate a golf tournament as he's dominated golf.

That being said, anything he does anymore doesn't surprise anyone, so I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case. Last time he had surgery on his knee and took a whole bunch of time off, I remember him coming to San Diego and whipping the field. So I wouldn't be surprised if it happened again.

He loves the golf course. He's played well here. He's dominated at times. But, yeah, there's always that ‑‑ it's hard just to take a lot of time off and be sharp. If anyone can do it he can, because he doesn't play a heck of a lot of events, he can play 15 events and be sharp every time he tees it up.

Q. Do you feel it's there for the taking for anyone?

JIM FURYK: I never really have had a sense at the U.S. Open that it's there for the taking. I feel like I'm strapping my boots on tight right now and preparing for the tough golf course we're about to play, and not really worried about ‑‑ as a player you never worry about who's in the field, who's not, who's injured. I don't get all excited because Phil and Tiger aren't in the field, now I have a better chance to win or something like that. It's a nonfactor to players.

Q. So far in the times you've been in the primary cut there, the little bit lower, how has it been coming out of there, getting shots to the green okay, and how are they reacting once they get to the green?

JIM FURYK: The rough, it's relatively uniform, but it's an interesting grass in that what you're calling the primary cut, the ball can sit up quite a bit. You've got a lot of that kikuyu or whatever you want to call it here, where the ball gets caught in it, but it sits in the middle to up in it, where you can get a club on it, but not really control it.

You have to ‑‑ you can get the ball on the green, but you have to hit it short and have it bounce, because you're not going to hit it out of there and spin it very much.

The secondary, in spots, can be playable at times, but other times I've seen it as just horrendous. It depends on ‑‑ there's a lot of mixture of grasses in the rough. The fairways are very nice. They're what I would call kikuyu, am I using the right ‑‑ what I call kikuyu, the ball sits up perfect, they're full of grass. I can't imagine them being in better shape.

The rough has a lot of grasses in it. If you get in the area where there's bent, you might have a chance to play. If you get in an area where it's kikuyu and thick, you can open the blade of the sand wedge up and think about the fairway. It's a little spotty in that sense, kind of like U.S. Open rough can be.

Q. For years we've heard the USGA say that we're not trying to protect par at a U.S. Open, do you believe that?

JIM FURYK: Wow, just put it on me. You're getting like that more and more, Doug. No. I don't think that ‑‑ I think it depends on how you want to look at it. I was obviously making a joke with my answer, but I know that they don't want to see 15‑under win this golf tournament. But I'm not sure that the even par score is all that important.

I think that ‑‑ I played well the last couple of years. I've really enjoyed the way the courses were set up. I don't know if "enjoy" is the right word, but I liked the setup. I felt the better you hit it the more rewarded you were. The worse you hit it the more penal it was. In the past I haven't always felt that way.

But I like the graduated rough. I think it's a great idea. I like moving the fans off the fairway, because I don't like to see a guy dribble one in the rough, have an awful lie, and see a guy blow it 15 yards off the fairway, and it be trampled in that area and whip a 3‑wood on the green. I never thought that was the proper way. Now it's a lot harder to hit the ball in the gallery, not impossible, because we've all done it, but a lot harder. I like the graduated. The farther you get off the fairway, the worse off you are.

As far as protecting par, I firmly believe the USGA wants to make the golf course as difficult and as testing a golf course as they can without going overboard. And you know what, for the best players in the world that's going to be shooting somewhere around even par is a good score.

Do I think par is important? I surely don't think they want to see five guys break the all‑time scoring record in one week. But if it's 5‑under or 5‑over, I don't think it really matters.

Q. If I can follow‑up. As you go to define what a fair test is, a hard but fair test ‑‑

JIM FURYK: Did you notice I didn't use that word "fair"? In my answer, I don't think I ever used "fair", because it's such a ‑‑ we have to get in the dictionary about what that actually means. We all have an opinion of what fair is.

Q. Whatever your opinion of fair might be, and you can disclose it if you choose, should a score change that opinion, if that makes any sense?

JIM FURYK: No, I don't.

Q. My question or, no, the answer?

JIM FURYK: No to your question. I think that as a player it's hard for me to put words. Before you were asking me what I think the USGA is doing, it's hard for me to answer that properly, because I don't know, I'm not a member ‑‑ I never set up a golf course with the organization.

As a player we want to see a difficult golf course that's firm and fast, that rewards good shots, that penalizes bad shots and kind of separates the field from who is playing well and who is not. Everyone has a different idea of a setup that's going to do that. But I think we want ‑‑ everyone wants to see the same thing. It's just ‑‑ it's a difficult task to set a golf course up and turnaround and say, "That was perfect, that's the way it should have been."

If you're trying to get really difficult, sometimes you're going to tread the line and all of a sudden a green or two are going to become overboard or maybe ease up a little bit too much and all of a sudden a few guys shoot under par. It's tough.

I think I could play where 3‑under won the golf tournament and not be happy with the setup. Or play 3‑over in the tournament and be real happy with the setup. If that makes any sense.

I've played in a lot of tournaments where I wasn't particularly happy with the setup, where a lower score won. You know, I liked Winged Foot and I liked Oakmont, I liked the setup. Oakmont ‑‑ like I say, I have relatives that are members there, and I don't think I'd want to get beat up like that on a daily basis on my time off. It's tough, but I like the setup.

Q. If you liked Oakmont and you liked Winged Foot and I'm guessing you probably liked Olympia Fields, where does this place coming in fit your taste? Do you feel you have as good a chance here to win as those three places?

JIM FURYK: You know, I liked the setup, honestly, better the last two years than I did at Olympia, and I won the golf tournament. But again now we're getting into just tastes. One guy says one thing, one guy says another.

Getting back to the question, Olympia set up perfect for me. I was on top of my game at the time. The course set up well for me and I played well and won.

The last two years were not power dominated. They weren't power oriented, especially at Oakmont where you think 7,400 or whatever it was, you'd think it would be, but it wasn't. It was playing lightning quick, firm and fast, it was about placing the ball in the fairway. Both of those courses set up well for me.

I think it's no secret if I really loved this place and loved the golf course, I'd probably play the Buick a lot more often than I do. I think it's a good golf course, I think it's very difficult, it doesn't suit my game great. But I think it suits my game better in the U.S. Open than it does in February. And do I think my chances are as good? Probably not, but I still think I have an opportunity, if that makes sense.

Q. Follow‑up regarding your drive ‑‑

JIM FURYK: I thought that was a good answer.

Q. It was a great answer, it will make print, I'm sure it will. But you said you're fighting your driver here coming into the U.S. Open. That's not ‑‑

JIM FURYK: Earlier in the year I was fighting my driver. I don't think I'm fighting it at the moment. Earlier in the year I guess when he said, how do you think your game is coming into here, I kind of summed up the entire year for the way I've played.

Lately, I felt I drove the ball well at Colonial, Memorial. I think I've put that to rest. And I'm still ‑‑ I'm not ready to slit my wrists on my putting, but I'm working on it. I always feel it could be better.

Q. I guess this is kind of a follow‑up to that, even though it wasn't a conspiracy to get to this, would it be surprising to you then that your driving and your putting would lead you to win this week? Are you that close or is it something that's requiring a little more?

JIM FURYK: I've always said the three most important clubs in your golf bag are driver, wedge, and putter. And in order to win at the U.S. Open you're going to have to drive the ball in the fairway and knock some putts in. That's the plan.

But would it surprise me? No. Because that's been the strength of my game for a lot of years. When I'm playing well I put the ball in the fairway. And when you're playing well everyone is putting pretty good.

So, no, it wouldn't surprise me if it happened, but I've got some work to do. I've been working very, very hard on it.

Q. So much has been made about the Tiger and Phil pairing, No. 1, No. 2 in the world on a golf course they grew up playing and they both liked a lot. If you had to bet Tiger and/or Phil or the field this week, which would you pick?

JIM FURYK: I feel I'm going to get a text on this answer from someone. Well, I'm in the field, I'll take the field, how's that? Odds, chance, I don't know. I'm a math guy so I'd have to really sit down and think about the odds on that one and maybe even consult Phil on the odds on that one and come up with an answer. If I was sitting at home on the couch hurt, I don't know, but I'm in the field so I'll take the field.

Q. For a long period nonAmerican golfers didn't do well in this event and now the last four champions have been from outside the United States. Is there any reason for that do you think?

JIM FURYK: I think there's a lot more ‑‑ I have no answer for that. How many Europeans have won this tournament? Like Tony Jacklin was the last one? That's just mind boggling for how many great European players there are.

A lot of those streaks and things that happen are really difficult to explain. So I was the last American to win then. I've got no answer for you. I know the world of golf is ‑‑ the face of golf is quite amazing. We have a ton of guys on our Tour playing. Seems like we have as many Aussies as we do Americans on the PGA TOUR. And we've got a great representation of players from all over the world that play in the U.S., but as far as a lot of guys always came over. I think maybe having more foreign players playing here on a daily basis makes it ‑‑ gives them a better opportunity to compete in the Majors. Just flying over for one week, trying to play the tournament and flying back, say 30 years ago, was probably a lot more difficult than having a home in Orlando, playing the U.S. Tour on a daily basis, and going to play the U.S. Open.

As far as the last four years, I think it's because four good players won the tournament. Look at the guys that competed and won it and they're great players. It's interesting, we still have the "we" and the "they" and the U.S. versus the world, I don't know if the players really ‑‑ the only time I ever look at it like that is The Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup. A lot of those foreign players are my neighbors and guys I practice with.

I don't think of Vijay as ‑‑ I know he's from Fiji, but he's my neighbor, so I don't really think of him being from outside the States. Appleby and Tiger see each other all the time at home. Those guys are part of our Tour and they live here in the States.

Q. Phil mentioned that most guys would be hitting 3, 4, 5‑irons into the par‑4s. Is this more of a long iron golf course than you've ever seen?

JIM FURYK: Than I've ever seen? No, but it's a big golf course. It's a big golf course, there's no doubt there. And there's a lot ‑‑ like you said, there's a lot ‑‑ I can even add a hybrid to that list. I hit 3‑wood into a par‑4 yesterday, into 12, was playing into the wind and I whipped a driver and 3‑wood, nice cut 3‑wood into the middle of the green. I'll be hitting a lot of hybrids, 5‑irons and hybrids, a lot of those into par‑4s. I'll have to use any head, intelligence. And there's times when you can play aggressive out there and there's a lot of times on this golf course when you can't. There's some tough pins on some of those greens, too. It's not like a big old fat green with a pin in the middle, with a 3‑iron in your hand. There's a couple necks and tails and places they can put the pins where you have a long iron in your hand you've got no way to hit the pin.

Q. Thoughts on the two holes being considered risk/reward, 14 maybe on Sunday at 277, is that a good play to try for that? And 18, obviously, kind of what's your "go" yardage is to try to get to 18?

JIM FURYK: I think go yardage on 18 is going to depend on ‑‑ isn't really an exact yardage. If I feel I can hit a 3‑wood out there and fly it on the green and stop it or put it in a place where I can get the ball up‑and‑down easier than laying up, then I'll go ahead and have a go at it. If I've got a hybrid or something in my hand I'll go at it. I don't anticipate that happening.

But if I have a 3‑wood that I feel I can put it on the green and have a chance of stopping it or put it in a bunker or an area where it's ‑‑ I won't say an easy up‑and‑down, but easier than hitting a hundred yard wedge, I'll have a go at it.

As far as 14. I need to take a harder look at that. I heard rumors, I probably didn't read my material or packet, I don't even know if it was in there, to be honest with you. I'll probably have to take a look at that again. That hole, off the top of my head, would depend a lot on the pin placement and how accessible.

Pin over there on the left, I can have a go, put it in the right bunker, yeah, I'd probably take a stab at it. Pin on the back of that green, maybe not so much, because now your miss is going to be right and short and you've got absolutely no play to that pin. I'd rather have a club in my hand where I could spin the ball.

RAND JERRIS: Thanks very much for your time this afternoon. Good luck this week.

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