Featured Golf News
Furyk Up to the Task for Tour Championship
Though he admitted it'll be "tough," 16-time winner Jim Furyk believes he has a chance in the Tour Championship. The PGA Tour's season-ending event starts Thursday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Only the top-30 players in the FedEx Cup points' standings after three previous events are eligible for the Tour Championship; Furyk enters the tournament ranked 18th. In order for him to take the overall FedEx Cup and the accompanying $10 million bonus, he'll need to win the event and hope the top-five players in the standings - Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker - falter.
That scenario's happened before. Indeed, in 2010 Furyk rallied from 11th in the standings and won the FedEx Cup after taking the Tour Championship. Last year's winner, Bill Haas, arose from 25th place entering Atlanta and along with the Tour Championship won the Cup.
"I think those top 10 to 12 guys probably have a really good opportunity," said Furyk. "Then past that, it's going to take a lot of help, because, as you said, the guys that are up there at the top have been playing very well."
He also noted how well McIlroy - who's won the past two FedEx Cup events - has been playing. "It's hard to imagine Rory not being in contention this week as well as he's been playing," Furyk said during an interview from East Lake on Tuesday. "But that's part of it. I think all we can do is really worry about our game and trying to get ourselves in position to try to win a golf tournament this week."
He said the 23-year-old Northern Irishman has a target on his back, noting, "He's a marked man. He's the No. 1 player in the world. He's going to garner all the attention, as well he should. He's played phenomenal this year. Won the PGA by a ton of shots, like eight shots or whatever it was. Won his last two events coming in the year, and no matter how he plays here at the Tour Championship, he's right now the present-day Tiger Woods where everyone's eyes are on him. Tiger is still Tiger. Everyone would love to see that pairing in the Ryder Cup."
Furyk will be playing his eighth Ryder Cup, which starts September 28 at Medinah Country Club near Chicago, but his first as a captain's pick. All 12 members of the USA team are in the Tour Championship, while only five European Ryder Cuppers qualified for the $8 million event.
The 42-year-old Pennsylvanian is certainly aware of the gravity of the biennial team competition. "I know how much the Ryder Cup means to both sides," he said. "The Europeans always get up. They're always excited. The fans are loud. They're boisterous. We know it means a lot to them. It's not going to be difficult for McIlroy to flip the switch and go into the Ryder Cup. It's a whole new dynamic, a whole different type of game in match play. But he's the best player in the world right now, and he's going to be the toughest guy to beat."
Here's what else Furyk told reporters Tuesday during his sit-down session.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Jim Furyk into the interview room. He is making his 14th start at the Tour Championship by Coca Cola, and his first since winning the FedEx Cup in 2010. Jim, welcome back. Just get your thoughts on the week?
JIM FURYK: Well, I'm hoping. It looks like the weather's going to be good the rest of the week, starting Wednesday. So hoping the rain will hold off a little bit today. Get nine holes in, get a little practice in. But it's good to be back in Atlanta. I was disappointed not to make the top 30 last year, but after a pretty good season, and a couple good playoff events, it's nice to be back.
Q. Given the quality of the guys in the top 5 and the way they've been playing here, what do you think the odds are of somebody coming up from the depths of the field and taking it?
JIM FURYK: It's going to be difficult. I'm not exactly sure. I've had some friends actually try to tell me where I had to finish, or obviously I'd have to win, and where everyone else would have to finish for that to work out. Did Billy come from about 25th last year? And I think all the stars kind of aligned perfectly for him. Two years ago I was 11th, and needed a little work. But I think those top 10 to 12 guys probably have a really good opportunity. Then past that, it's going to take a lot of help, because, as you said, the guys that are up there at the top have been playing very well. It's hard to imagine Rory not being in contention this week as well as he's been playing. But that's part of it. I think all we can do is really worry about our game and trying to get ourselves in position to try to win a golf tournament this week.
Q. We can debate the points and the system, the tweaks for years and we have been doing it for years. But there is a scenario this week in which a guy like Louis Oosthuizen could win the FedEx Cup without winning this week and without having won a tournament this year. Is it an imperfect system right now. And could there ever be a perfect system?
JIM FURYK: I was in that same position, I want to say in '09 where I hadn't won a tournament, and yet there was a way I could still win. I remember fielding those same questions. I'd love to see him win this tournament and then make that debate null and void, if that makes sense. Is it an imperfect system? I'm not sure. I'll go one further, as you said. I'm not sure when you're dealing with points and when you're dealing with a system, per se, I'm not sure there is anything that's perfect. I think years one and two were - year one was not nearly volatile enough. Year two was extremely too volatile in my opinion. Since then years three to six have been, I think, much better. But I think there is always room for improvement and tweaks and it's nothing that we've talked about as a board. But I think it could get slightly better, but we're not going to make any of the major jumps that we did after, say, year two.
Q. You've had great weeks here. You've had great weeks at the Ryder Cup. In your mind, how do you separate these two? They're very close proximity. How do you rate the two weeks and how do you look at them differently?
JIM FURYK: Well, different golf courses, different styles of play. I like the fact that they're back to back. I think that I've always kind of played my best golf when I can play my way into shape. It's hard to take a bunch of time off and then go to an event and feel like you're sharp and ready to go. But playing in a big event this week and preparing and being ready here will only help. I might be a little tired early on in the week of the Ryder Cup, but my game will be sharp, get some rest, and be ready.
But golf courses are different. I think that East Lake's a little bit more about putting the ball on the fairway and hitting some shots in there. Medinah's going to be a little bit longer golf course, and also playing in a match play is just a totally different mind frame and mindset. But I enjoy the fact that they're back to back. I would prefer to play the week before a major championship, as long as I like the golf course; and I kind of feel like both of these events have that big feel. Obviously you come in here with the FedEx Cup with an opportunity to turn a good year into a great year, so I'm prepared to play this week and it will only help next week for the Ryder Cup.
Q. In terms of the demands on your time and the pressures that are inherent to each one, how do they stack up?
JIM FURYK: Well, there's really not a lot of demand on our time here. It's just a regular event. You know you're going to get four rounds in. There is no cut. But heck, we don't even have a Pro Am this week, and we have a Pro Am obligation. I'm going to the Payne Stewart Award tonight for the cocktail party, and I think that's less than a couple hours. So the amount of time that we're expected this week is actually very low. As far as next week, the Ryder Cup is a little different animal. We'll have some team dinners, the big gala. You're more on someone else's schedule that week rather than your own.
But I've been involved in a lot of them. I know what is expected of me. I know how to manage my time and how to pace myself, and I made all of the rookie mistakes the first couple and was kind of worn out by Friday. I'll make sure that's not going to be the case for me, and try to help some of the young guys along as well.
Q. What is your favorite part of next week? The team photo or the gala dinner?
JIM FURYK: The photo is a lot shorter, so I'll go with the photo.
Q. You went last year -
JIM FURYK: Plus the girls are stressed out. They're getting judged on their dresses.
Q. You're doing the same this year. Shorter trip obviously, here then boom to the Ryder Cup. What was it like doing the Ryder Cup before the Tour Championship? What was that like?
JIM FURYK: In 2010 we finished here and then got straight on a plane in Atlanta and went over. I think it's harder when you're traveling. Q. I think it was the year they put the Tour Championship on the back end of the Ryder Cup. Do you remember that, after Valhalla?
JIM FURYK: Oh, you're right. I forgot about that. I forgot about that. Difficult. There is a lot of pressure, lot of build up there. I think we all let off a little steam on Sunday, especially after winning. So I was a little tired when I got here on Monday. But, yeah, I think it works for us as a tour. It even works better for the Ryder Cup to have it the other way around. I think it works much better having the Ryder Cup following the Tour Championship. We'll all play here. Our games will be sharp on both teams. There are a lot of Europeans in the field this week as well. So games will be sharp. We'll go in there, and after Ryder Cup I would much prefer to have a week off and kind of decompress a little bit.
Q. Following on to the back to back terms. How difficult in 2010 not just to compete but win this event and then to raise your game again the following week? How difficult is that?
JIM FURYK: Not really. I think to get up for the Ryder Cup isn't that difficult. It was just such an awkward week with the weather. We had a strategy we put out for our team that totally got trumped because we went from five sessions to four. So we had - it just didn't happen the way Corey had it all mapped out and planned out to be. But it's not difficult to turn around. I think the travel, the red eye flight over, getting some rest early Monday, and kind of getting in a rhythm is much more difficult than taking a quick flight up to Chicago. But getting up and there's no letdown really when you're going to Ryder Cup.
Q. So are you fully versed on what you need to do to win it this week?
JIM FURYK: Nope.
JIM FURYK: No, I have no idea. I know I would have to win, and a lot of things would have to happen. But I'm never really worried about that. Like I said, I had two or three friends try to text me, do you know what you have to do? No. It's hard enough winning a golf tournament. I can't control the rest.
Q. That being the case, if there was one thing putting on your commissioner hat for the day. If there was one thing you could do to the point system to make things understandable on Sunday, not only for you but the fans, what might it be?
JIM FURYK: I just have so many sarcastic things that come to my mind (laughing) because I don't think it's that difficult to understand. I think we probably need to do a better job of explaining it. I don't think it's that hard to understand. Maybe I've lived through it now for six years, and I get it from the inside rather than the out. I guess probably work with - and I know the Tour does this - work with television as best they could to tell the story and try to get the information out so it's much easier to understand. It's not that difficult. I think it's just a hard story to tell, if that makes sense.
Q. Does Rory's form, how quickly he's gone on this winning run, change the dynamic?
JIM FURYK: I missed the first part that have.
Q. His form and how quickly he's gone on a winning run.
JIM FURYK: Well, he struggled all year, so we've all felt kind of bad for him, being right there around the top of the world rankings and then, yeah, winning three of his last four.
Q. I get the sarcasm instead of him.
JIM FURYK: There you go. You've got the right accent for the sarcasm.
Q. Yeah, we can handle it. But it doesn't change the dynamic of next week at all as far as you guys are concerned because it's short, so quickly in winning form in terms of tournament.
JIM FURYK: It doesn't?
Q. Does it change the challenge of next week's event?
JIM FURYK: We're not just playing one individual though, we're playing 12. There's going to be eight guys out all the time. Obviously, he's a marked man. He's the number one player in the world. He's going to garner all the attention, as well he should. He's played phenomenal this year. Won the PGA by a ton of shots, like eight shots or whatever it was. Won his last two events coming in the year, and no matter how he plays here at the Tour Championship, he's right now the present day Tiger Woods where everyone's eyes are on him. Tiger is still Tiger. Everyone would love to see that pairing in the Ryder Cup.
I know how much the Ryder Cup means to both sides. The Europeans always get up. They're always excited. The fans are loud. They're boisterous. We know it means a lot to them. It's not going to be difficult for him to flip the switch and go into the Ryder Cup. It's a whole new dynamic, a whole different type of game in match play. But he's the best player in the world right now, and he's going to be the toughest guy to beat.
Q. Given the point system here is so understandable that even a sports writer should get it -
JIM FURYK: Is it that difficult? Am I missing something?
Q. No, I'm saying, even we should understand?
JIM FURYK: I don't follow NASCAR, so I can't explain what they do, but I follow golf so I get it.
Q. This year's playoff in particular, do you think it's come closest to achieving what the Tour wants out of it, given the stars who are involved and the interest that it's generated?
JIM FURYK: I think if it's the same story every year, it probably gets beat down. You know, you've had a different type of story every year. Let's start in year three. The year that Vijay won twice and had it locked up. Obviously, that's not the scenario we want. But from years three, four, five, six, I think you've got a different story every year.
I know last year was an interesting story with Billy coming from 25th. They want it to be volatile. They wanted it to - they wanted guys to come to the Tour Championship, and they needed, I think, someone to come back from 25th at least one of these years to say, hey, look, it can happen, and it did. Instead of hey, mathematically it can happen, and everyone goes, yeah, whatever. But it happened. Guy came from 25th and won. Then you've had guys that have been dominant throughout and won. Your Tigers or your Vijays. Then I had a really good year in 2010 and slipped down to 11th, but came back and won the Tour Championship.
So it's really a lot of times boiled down to this event, which they want to happen. But as you said, this year there is a bunch of star power, a bunch of our biggest names in the world of golf right up there at the top. I think every year it's accomplished what we wanted it to. It's given television another month of golf. It's given the fans, the best players in the game another month of golf. The ratings are pretty good. People are watching. They're interested. That's what fans tell me, and we didn't have that before. After the last major championship we had the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup left. Ratings failed. It was difficult on sponsors, difficult on television. Now we've got more people watching. We've got more interest for one more month of golf, and it's good for our sport and good for our Tour.
Q. Could you talk about the par 3s on the back side, 11 and 18, and how you approach them? How do you like finishing on a par 3?
JIM FURYK: I don't mind. I really liked it in 2010. Only had to hit one good shot, make a par to win. Interestingly enough, they run opposite directions. You're going to get opposite wind directions on both holes, and pretty good golf holes. Both a little bit uphill. 11 is usually about a 4- or 5 iron for me, and 18 can play as short as a 4 or 5 iron to the front. But usually it's a hybrid or something back there to get it on the green.
I think both of them are holes where 11 you put the ball in the middle of the green, and you always have a good putt at the pin. It's not a very wide green, so if you put the ball in the middle and you hit it remotely pin high, you'll have a 20 footer that works for birdie. When you short side yourself on that hole, you'll get into a little bit of trouble. 18 is just a tough green to hit. It's very skinny up front. Also, that back right pin and back left pin, there is a little crown that separates the back middle of the green. If you happen to go through the green and you're on the wrong side of that crown, so if you fly one up top and the greens are firm, which they may not be here for a while with the rain.
But when I've flown one up on top of the green and it's rolled through the green, if I'm on the wrong side of that little hump in the middle, it's a very difficult up and down. Usually we need to land the ball on the front of the green and let it run up to the upper ridge, and it's very narrow down there. It's a tough shot, a tough three.
Q. You mentioned that you don't know the exact scenarios of what you need this week to win the FedEx Cup. Last year Bill Haas won and said afterwards that he didn't know that he had won the FedEx Cup when he did so. On Sunday afternoon, if you're in the mix, obviously you need to win this week. Do you want to know whether you're playing for the FedEx Cup also?
JIM FURYK: Sure, sure. I didn't know the year exactly where I stood the year I won, but only because it was raining. I was hitting under my umbrella. I didn't look at the leaderboard much all day. I knew where I stood in the tournament. I had a very good idea. I was the 99% sure if I won the tournament, I'd win the FedEx Cup. But there are projections on the board if you want to know. Maybe he didn't want to know. Maybe he's not a guy that looks at the leaderboards. I always have. I want to know where I stand. Can you have your caddie while you're putting look up at the board and he'll tell you where you're projected to be if you won the golf tournament. I'm guessing it was more important at the time for him to concentrate on winning the golf tournament or he didn't want to know where he stood. But it definitely has been brought up a lot since that day.
Q. As a Ryder Cup wildcard, does that change the dynamic for you in the sense that you feel like you have something to prove?
JIM FURYK: I don't. I don't. I think this is the first time where on any of those teams where I've been a captain's selection. I feel like those selections were made not only by Davis and the assistants, but the eight guy that's qualified for the team. They help pick the guys they wanted to form their team and wanted them to be part of the 12. Once the matches have started, I've never looked back and said, well, you're captain picked these four guys. I wonder how they've played. You all have broken that down and figured it out. But I feel just as much a part of those 12 guys whether I qualified as the top eight and were chosen. It feels good that the team and captain put trust in me and my game, but I feel just as much a part of it.
I think if you go in there with something to prove - I mean, it's always nice to have a chip on your shoulder. It's always nice to be maybe a little angry and go out there and play that way, but we've got far better things to worry about and a great team on the other side. I'm just going to get ready and play the best I can.
Q. Having played in lots of Ryder Cups with Tiger. Could I ask a couple observations of him as a team player, and whether you see any change in his roll over the years?
JIM FURYK: Well, I think so. I think even early in his career the first couple Ryder Cups he was one of the best or the best player in the world. But it's hard to maybe take a leadership role when you're 25 years old and you've got guys that are 40 years old on the team. I think over time he was looked up to from a playing perspective to maybe lead more by example and expected to play well. But over time, yes, I think that we have quite a few players that probably grew up in awe of watching him play, that look up to him from a perspective of how good his game is and know there is a lot to learn. So his role from a veteran type player has definitely evolved.
But it's tough. I would gather in any sports team when you're 23 and the hot shot, you probably need to possess leadership type qualities, but in the locker room on a football team, I have a hard time believing that everyone's leaning on RG3 right now. What do you exactly think in this situation? There have to be some veteran players in that locker room that when times get tough, they look at those guys. As he evolves, that role changes.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.