Jim Furyk: Following Up a 59 and Other Thoughts on Golf

In Friday’s second round of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club, Jim Furyk became just the sixth player to shoot a 59 in a competitive round. He also became the first one to do so with a bogey on the card.

After Saturday’s 2-under round, he had a one-stroke lead over the amazing Steve Stricker — who shot an equally amazing 7-under — and was asked what it was like trying to follow up the 59:

It kind of felt like a victory lap.  People kept cheering for me all the way around.  It was a good day, a lot of positive fans, the occasional one that likes to give me a hard time, but 99.9 percent were very positive.  It was fun.

I think it’s always difficult, even if you go out and fire a 62 or a 63, it’s always difficult to follow that up with a low number, and it probably took me a few holes to really get in the flow out there and feel good.  Made a couple mental errors I felt on the front nine with shots and short‑sided myself a couple times.

But felt like I played a very, very good nine holes of golf on the way in and was happy how I played on the back nine.

He came into the week at 15th in FedExCup points. What was his strategy as he went into the week? 

You know, the goal really, obviously it would be nice to get in the top — is it top 5 or 6?  Top 5.  I can tell you how much I thought about it, I’m not sure what it is.  I knew it was around there.

No, I mean, it would be nice, obviously,  but that’s kind of putting the cart before the horse.  The goal really was I started the week at 15, so as I said yesterday, the big picture was anything positive moving forward this week, getting ahead of 15 gives myself that much better chance to win, and then I kind of forget about the big picture and really concentrate on this golf tournament.

Any time you show up you’re trying to win a tournament and trying to figure out the best way to do so.

You know, I’ve got myself in contention right now.  I’m not really focused on the FedExCup or — even when I had a shot to win at East Lake and I was leading for most of the week, I wasn’t thinking about the FedExCup all week. I was thinking about that tournament and the shot and the round I had ahead of me and the shot I had ahead of me and taking it one moment at a time.

That’s just what I’m doing right now.  I’m really thinking about trying to win this golf tournament.

And what’s the hardest part of following up a 59?

I think there’s probably a mental battle to it that — I felt good with my swing today.  I felt like I played a solid round of golf.  I hit the ball well.  I had a lot more opportunities yesterday.  I hit the ball better yesterday.  But you’re not going to have many days like I played yesterday.

You know, I’ve done it.  I mean, I’ve shot back‑to‑back 64, 65.  I’ve shot low numbers back‑to‑back.  It seems to be a mental battle more than a physical.

Was there any extra motivation to show that it might have been a mistake leaving him off the Presidents Cup team?

You know, it’s done with, it’s over with.  I said yesterday, as well, that I showed up here kind of not thinking about it and not worried about it, and the emotions of talking to the press, talking to y’all doesn’t really bother me because I know that’s coming and expect it so I am prepared.

But talking to other players and friends and talking about the teams we played on, it definitely — I was bummed on Wednesday.  Actually bummed a little on Thursday because Thursday morning I had breakfast with some of the guys and we talked about it, and I was kind of grouchy the rest of the day on Thursday to be honest with you.

And then realized that, again, there’s nothing I can do about it now.  It’s over with.  It’s done with.  I had my chance to make the top 10.  You never want to leave it to a captain’s pick, and I’ve been in a really fortunate position with the teams that I made, I really never did.  I made all of them but last year outright, so I’ve kind of been on the good side of getting a good phone call and now I’ve been on the bad side of it.

But I’m not really a spiteful person and I’m not trying to stick it to anyone.  I said yesterday I really don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone in this game, and I’m just going out there and trying to win a golf tournament.

What sort of pressure is he feeling to win the tournament on Sunday? It’s been a while since he’s won although there have been some close calls. And for the best, it always distills down to finding a way to play in the present:

Well, there’s always pressure to win, and I’m going to put pressure on myself because I expect myself to play well, and I expect more of myself than anyone else.

You know, it’s been three years.  No one has to remind me of the Tour Championship in ’10, and as I’ve had some of the close calls last year, I definitely put some more pressure on myself. And that’ll be part of the mental game and the mental aspect of it tomorrow, to go out there and stay in the moment and just play golf and not really worry about it.  I’ll play my best if I’m focused on the task at hand, not on the results.

When you get to the level of a Jim Furyk, you have a whole different world view of the cause and effect of things in your game. He began by responding to what was harder, following up the 59 or winning a golf tournament?

Well, following a 59 is a breeze, man.  How upset are you going to get today?  Making a bogey it was a little easier to shake off.  Yeah, I shot 59 yesterday; what do you think of that?  So I think winning a golf tournament is obviously the tougher one, and as you said, it’s been a while.  I’m going to put pressure on myself.  That’ll be the struggle.

And I think as I get older and have played out here long enough, you know, when I’ve played well, when I’ve won golf tournaments, I’ve been able to win that battle within, not trying to get ahead of myself, not worrying about what’s going on on the leaderboard around me, not letting other play affect the way I’m going to play the golf course. And just, when it’s all said and done, when I make a bad swing, I really don’t believe it was a mechanical flaw.

I said that last year when I hooked it on 16 at the U.S. Open.  It was a mental error.  I made a bad decision.

Today I got quick, but I mean, I think Roger Maltbie told me I had hit something like 32 fairways in a row or something crazy, so I’m not going to sit up there and worry about the mechanics of my golf swing, I’m going to think about, okay, how did I approach that shot mentally, what mistake did I make, because there’s no way you can tell me you hit 32 fairways in a row and all of a sudden there’s a swing error.

It probably was something I did before the golf.  I tried to hit that shot a little too hard for some reason.  I wanted to draw it, rip it down there.  I really didn’t need to hit it hard, I just needed to get it in the fairway.

And he doesn’t have a lot of use for stats either.

I guess I could preface that by saying there isn’t a stat that I pay much attention to.  At the end of the day, I know why I’m hitting on all cylinders, what I like about my game, and what I don’t, and I’ll go work on the things that I’m not happy about.

But I rarely, rarely ever look at stats or try to figure out‑‑ if I’m standing over the ball with a driver in my hand and I think I’m going to knock it down the middle of the fairway, then it’s good enough for me whether I do or I don’t.  If I’m standing on the tee box looking down the fairway and saying, oh, shoot, and the fairway looks like it’s this big, I probably need to go work on my driver a little bit.

Stats don’t really do it for me if that makes sense.  I had a really good week one year at Flint, Michigan, [hitting] a bunch of fairways, I remember, and I think I had a week where I only made two bogeys all week at Flint, which was pretty cool.  But I don’t think I still won, so it didn’t really do much for me.

Jim Furyk. Old school. And one of the best players on the planet.

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