Jim Furyk: On frustration, joy, expectations and fundamentals

After four and a half years since his 16th win at the 2010 Tour Championship, Jim Furyk finally nailed down the 17th at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He went birdie, birdie to beat Kevin Kisner in a two-hole playoff. It has been more than a little frustrating for him because in that period, he had the 54-hole lead nine times and was unable to convert. He also finished 2nd seven times:

Yeah, I was frustrated.  I’m not real good at sharing my emotions, if that makes sense; never really been.  There’s very few people in the world that I can.  So I’m good at definitely hiding it.  And I was frustrated.

Worse, the well of his drive to win was getting poisoned: 

And I was getting to the point where losing hurts a lot more than winning feels good.  And I was starting to believe that.  And I didn’t want to, but you have the lead and see someone beat you a bunch of times in a row, and I won’t say it was a negative attitude.

I always did feel like I was going to win a tournament again, that I was going to win again.  And I believed that in my heart. But I was starting to feel like this game is beating me up, and the losing hurts a lot more than winning feels good.  I think I just forget how good a win feels.

His last wins were part of that banner year in 2010 when he won in Tampa, Hilton Head for the first time and the Tour Championship. When he won Tampa, it had been a 3-year gap. But, “Come home, Jim! All is forgiven now!” And he has found happiness again:

Happy.  Happy.  I had a little span back there in 2010 when I won in Tampa, I said I was happy, but I was more relieved.  And then to come here and win, win The TOUR Championship, that was more joy.  For one reason or another, this is not relief at all.  It’s zero percent relief and 100 percent joy.  It felt really good.

To his credit, he didn’t let doubt creep in as to whether he was going to win again of not. You have to keep believing:

Well, if it ever crept in, I’ve had too many close calls and been in position too many times for me to believe that it wouldn’t happen, if that made sense.  I won’t say that doubt crept in, but in my heart I really believed I’d win a tournament.  And I believe that in ’12, ’13, ’14, last three years, I believed it for sure.  I wasn’t playing great in ’11.  But the last three years I played solid golf and had a lot of opportunities.

There is a school of thought that one way to win is to expect to win, your expectations eventually giving life to your reality; a sort of, Law of Attraction phenomenon. There’s another that adding expectations to the mix of your consciousness adds pressure and creates anxiety at some level. Furyk is in that latter camp:

I’ve been out here too long to start putting expectations on myself just because I won a golf tournament.

I would trade — last year was one heck of a year, but it was frustrating not getting over the hump.  And I’ve always said I’d much rather have a little lesser year, maybe not as good a year and win a tournament or two.  Just winning golf tournaments is what gets me out of bed in the morning.  It’s why I still want to compete and play, is to wake up on Sunday with a chance.

But it’s not going to change the way I play or my expectations for the year.  I’m just going to try to keep competing and try to put myself in position to win a championship.

And finally and off topic a little, there was a swing tip that came up during his round. I don’t usually write about swing tips, but this one was different because, even with the pressure of the final round, his awareness of his swing was such that he was able to make a correction on the fly. It won the tournament for him:

It had a lot to do with my posture and my setup.  My bad habit is I stand so close to the ball, it’s easy for me to kind of get slumped over.  Kind of rolled it in my back really bad in an athletic stance.  I tried to get a little bit better posture, where I could go ahead and make a turn around in my spine, if that makes sense.

I felt like I was kind of picking the club up a little bit.  And that is going to lead to either, if I hit it solid, it’s going to go left, or I have to reroute the club underneath [the plane], and that’s what I did on 11.  The light bulb went off, okay, I was hitting those shots left.  I hit that shot where I dropped it under, I think I’ve got an idea what it may be.

And the swing on 12 was kind of the key.  I was going to get in that good posture and let it fly, and I was praying that it went down the middle and then I could trust it the rest of the day.  And I let one fly off of 12 and down the left center, exactly where I wanted to.  In my mind I was like, that’s it, I’ve got it, and let’s try to build on it, build some confidence for the rest of the day.  I knocked it in stiff on 12, stiff on 13 and made birdies on both of those.

And once again, with words from the mouth of a very successful Tour player, we confirm that we have to pay attention to our swing fundamentals. In fact, I’m having a lesson on Tuesday to get mine checked.

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