Jim Furyk must have been the first guy into town for the Tour Championship and FedExCup that starts Thursday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. Why? Because he was the only guy who had an interview transcript when I went poking around tonight.
But that’s okay because he held forth on a number of issues from the FedExCup points system, the chances of a guy down the points list winning like Bill Haas did from the 25th spot last year, the Tour Championship, next week’s Ryder Cup, pacing himself during the Ryder Cup and other inside baseball stuff.
So, without further adieu, Furyk’s gems.
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?
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.
But there is a scenario this week in which a guy like Louis Oosthuizen could win the FedExCup 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?
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’m not sure there is anything that’s perfect.
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?
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.
In terms of the demands on your time and the pressures that are inherent to each one, how do they stack up?
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…
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 [the first day]. 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.
Furyk was asked which was better, having the Ryder Cup first and then the Tour Championship or the other way around [as it is this year]?
There is a lot of pressure, lot of build‑up at the Ryder Cup. 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 [rather than rolling right into the Tour Championship].
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?
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.
Does [the order] change the challenge of [dealing with McIlroy in] next week’s event?
We’re not just playing one individual though, we’re playing 12. There’s going to be eight guys out all the time. Obviously, [Rory McIlroy] is 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.
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?
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 Robert Griffin III [the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner out of Baylor and rookie quarterback for the Washington Redskins] 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 Tiger evolves, that role changes.
I don’t know about you, but I’m having difficulty thinking about Tiger as old.