The Unraveling of Jim Furyk: Lessons learned from a season marked by failure

Jim Furyk
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
In a must-win Ryder Cup match against Sergio Garcia, Furyk lost the final two holes to lose 1 down.

At the press conference after the Ryder Cup, someone asked you a question about how this loss compared to the others, and you said it was the lowest point of a low year.
I wasn't real fond of that question. I didn't like the tone of it. That was about as heated as I've been in an interview all year. The words didn't bother me, the tone was kind of snotty. I don't know who asked it; I didn't recognize the gentleman. In my opinion it came across as condescending.

It gets back to what you said earlier about wanting to have a few minutes to compose what you're going to say. Everything is so raw at that point.
Oh, we had a lot of time. We had 30 minutes. If you all can't come up with something better to say in 30 minutes, you need to find another job. If it were up to me, I'd have had my locker packed and I'd have been gone 30 minutes before we went to the press conference. We were in the team room forever -- forever!

If you were a reporter that day, what would you have asked you?
I don't know. That's not my job. It's not what I do. Nor do I want the job. That's what you do.

We have bad days, too -- it's just that not as many people are watching.
No, I think the questions are mostly pretty good. I think when you're going to talk about our year from a personal standpoint, you do that after. This was a team setting. I had a good year, I had a hard year emotionally, but it was awkward for me to sit up there and answer that question when I'm one guy out of 12.

After the WGC-Bridgestone, you mentioned seeing your 8-year-old son, Tanner, crying behind the green. Was there anything instructive about that day from a parenting perspective?
I probably handled myself better in the presence of them, having children, than I would have without being a father. One, I know they're there, I saw they're upset. He's young, he's going to be a little bit more emotional, whereas my daughter, she's older, she's a little bit more like me, hides her emotions from people. He sat there and listened to me answer questions. Even he'll say, "That's kind of annoying, isn't it?" But yeah, it's good for them to see.

One of your quotes after that tournament reminded me of Phil Mickelson from Winged Foot: "I can't believe I just did that." You said almost the exact same thing. Was there sort of a Twilight Zone quality to it?
I'm going to have to stick a knife in my heart at the end of this. This is the most depressing interview I've ever given for this amount of time.

Sorry, there are no sharp objects here.
I mean that wholeheartedly. This is the most depressing interview. Here's the thing: I had just played so good the whole week, I felt like I should have won going away, so I was flabbergasted at the end. I really couldn't explain it.

Okay, let's get some sunlight into the room. What was your highlight of 2012?
You've been able to pick out all the low ones, so you pick out the highlight.

Just as it's not your job to ask questions after the Ryder Cup, it's not my job to figure out your highlight.
Gotcha. I don't know if there's any particular moment. What I got a little bit peeved at in 2011 is that I had the best year of my career in 2010, I was Player of the Year, I had three opportunities to win, I closed the door every time and I was at the height of my career. Then I played poorly in 2011 and I started hearing that I was old, that I didn't hit the ball far enough. I was only one year older than when I was Player of the Year and I didn't hit the ball any shorter. I started hearing stuff like that and it just made me mad. I mean I've been doubted my whole career. I swing at it goofy, I grip it funny, I putt cross-handed, I do things pretty awkward compared to the rest of the guys on Tour. I like to be the underdog. I haven't been able to play that role in a long time, but I like being the underdog. But physically I'm in the best shape of my life. I realize I'm 42 and things are a little more sore than they used to be, but I hit it as hard as I ever have in my life -- the old thing bothered me.

Steve Stricker and Kenny Perry hit their prime at your age.
I can accept the fact that this is my 19th year. Stricker played the best golf of his career at 42, 43, 44. I knew I needed to swing at it better, to putt better, and I needed to change some equipment. And I did that in 2012. The highlight for me was how consistent I played over 10 months. The moments we talked about, they're not going to disappear, they're going to be there forever. They're not going to bother me forever. You move on. I proved to myself this year that my game is every bit as good as it was in 2010 from a mechanical standpoint. I have to close the door a few more times.

You got back to the equipment that works for you in 2012.
I got back to a ball that spun more, a driver that spun more. I changed shafts in my irons to hit the ball higher. I don't generate a ton of clubhead speed, so I'm not looking to knock spin down, I'm looking to add spin and keep it in the air that way.

With 16 PGA Tour wins, including a major, you seem to be headed for the Hall of Fame. Are you targeting 20 wins, as Perry did a few years ago?
That's a number that everyone throws around because of the lifetime exemption on the PGA Tour. Twenty would be nice but I've never set a specific number of wins, or a specific amount of money. It's always been about improvement, and sometimes the results don't show improvement, and 2012 was a huge improvement over 2011 and I didn't win a golf tournament.

The U.S. Open visits Merion Golf Club in June. That's in Pennsylvania, Jim Furyk country.
That's about an hour and a half from where I grew up. I played in the U.S. Amateur there in '89. I watched the 1981 U.S. Open as an 11-year-old, but I haven't seen it since they've redone it. I've had a lot of close Opens. The one that really pissed me off was at Oakmont because it was in my home state, I bogeyed 17 in the wind. That one was always a thorn in my side. I lost by one at Winged Foot, two this year.

A win at Merion would close the Oakmont wound.
[Smiles] Mentally that's got to be the wrong way to think about it.

Perhaps, but it'd be a great story.
What happened, happened. It's over. Let's not make it a revenge match. Let's turn the page.

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Golf Magazine, on newstands now. Click here to subscribe to Golf Magazine and to learn about Golf Magazine All Access.

Forecast
PGA Tour News
Trips
Travel & Courses
Lessons
Tips & Videos
The Shop
Equipment News & Reviews