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Jim Furyk takes his Ryder Cup inspiration from “Hamilton”

Via New York Post

2003 U.S. Open champion and 2018 Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk took at shot at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: Is Tiger capable of winning the U.S. Open? Is he ready to break through?
A: Capable is easy, ready I think he would answer best. I only played one practice round with him this year and it was in Tampa. And his game looked phenomenal. … If you were pressed to ask me — if you said, “Would he win or not win this year?” — I think he’s gonna win a golf tournament this year.

Q: Why and how have you clicked with Tiger?
A: I think our approach to getting around the golf course was very similar. That made us good partners, both in four-ball and foursomes. He can attack a golf course differently with his power. I’m a little bit straighter, more consistent, so I think I helped him out in those formats and I think he helped me in those formats. I think that our humor, or the way we approach situations, we both like to kind of jab at each other, we both like to throw a barb, we’re both sarcastic. So I think we’ve enjoyed the camaraderie and the poking fun at each other and giving each other a bunch of crap.

Q: Describe the Shinnecock Hills course.
A: I have not been there since they’ve made a number of significant changes. I know there’s been a lot of distance added to the golf course. It is a classic American golf course, but it’s probably as close to links as you can get.

Q: What’s the New York crowd like?
A: The U.S. Open at Bethpage is totally different than the U.S. Open at Shinnecock. And I don’t have any rhyme or reason why. New York fans are boisterous, they show up, they support their teams and, hey … they like to give their teams a little hell too if they’re not doing well. I think it’d be the same in golf — (laugh) especially in Bethpage. … They create an atmosphere that’s fun to play in.

Q: What is the mindset or mentality that you want your Ryder Cup team to have?
A: I don’t go to a lot of musicals or plays in New York, but my daughter is a major “Hamilton” fan, and I enjoyed the slogan: “The young, scrappy and hungry just like my country.” We’re gonna have a young team, we’ll have some veteran leadership, and I guess I want ’em to be very scrappy and I want ’em to be very hungry and I want ’em to be very proud that they’re representing their country. With that, you’ve got a lot of support and a lot of folks at home that are pulling for us, and I think you can look at that a couple of different ways. … That can make someone very nervous. They go from feeling like they represent themselves on a week-to-week basis, and now they represent so much more. Or you can feel all that love and support and you can kind of thrive on it. And that sometimes can take you to bigger and greater heights, and that’s what we’re trying to instill.

Q: President Trump just canceled the Super Bowl Eagles invite. If you win the Ryder Cup, will the U.S. team go to the White House?
A: One, we’d have to win the Ryder Cup (laugh). We have done that in the past [Valhalla, 2008]. I can’t imagine a scenario where we would not. We would want the 12 players on the team with the vice captain, we would want a great majority of the players to be able to go. I think that would probably have to work around a PGA Tour schedule and when that would be possible. But I would imagine that if we got the invite, that that would be something we would want to do.

Q: Describe the challenge of playing in France.
A: First, they’re gonna set records in France with the largest crowds ever at a Ryder Cup. We usually get about 40,000 people, I read numbers where they’re talking 50-, 60,000 people. Obviously 98 percent of them cheering for Europe. Second would be, they play the French Open there — it’s a great golf course, wonderful venue — but they know it really well. I’ve been told by many that it’s one of the three or five best courses they play all year. They love the golf course, they know it well. So that’s something we have to overcome. The top 20’s dominated by European and American players. So it’ll be a clash of two very talented teams. So we have to look at it that way too, from a talent perspective they’re gonna be very strong.

Q: Can you describe in a Ryder Cup setting both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat?
A: This game beats you up. I’ve had a successful career and I’ve played about 600 events in my career, and I’ve won 17 times. I sure as heck have lost a lot more than I’ve won. Well, Ryder Cup can be the same way. I’ve never been as excited or maybe the exhilaration of winning at Brookline [1999] was the comeback, or the dominance we had at Valhalla. And then I was really happy for the 12 guys that played at Hazeltine [2016], being a vice captain and helping out Davis Love. Those highs are as high as I’ve had in a game of golf, and as excited as I’ve been. And I would also say that the low of losing, especially in a tight match like Medinah [2012], the gut-wrenching is about as empty of a feeling as I’ve ever had. I think that’s what makes team sports, and a team atmosphere, so special. To be able to share that victory with your teammates makes it even more special I think than individual accolades, and it’s a rough feeling together when it doesn’t work out. That’s the one thing I’ve always enjoyed about the Ryder Cup really is those bonds, and the camaraderie. I’m a lot closer, better friends with those folks because of it.

Q: What is the responsibility you feel as the Ryder Cup captain?
A: I entered my first Ryder Cup feeling like the best way I could help the team was to make sure my game was in the best possible shape and I needed to play my best golf. And then evolving over nine Ryder Cups, I started looking around the room and realized that I could be so much more as a teammate, that I could help other players play their best, I could help the captain with what I was seeing and feeling on the golf course from a team perspective. The responsibility is a great one. First and foremost, I have those 12 players that are relying on a leadership quality and someone that has the ability to put them in situations that they can succeed in — whether that’s pairings, preparation, whatever it may be. I’ve got a lot of help, and also a responsibility to five vice captains. A responsibility to the PGA of America, this is their biggest event, and their showcase. But ultimately, I’ll be most successful if I can earn the trust and the respect of the 12 members of the team, and if we as a team, the vice captains, can put them in situations where they can thrive and they can be successful.

Q: Would you invite an inspirational speaker to address the team?
A: That’s been done in the past, and yes. It has to be the right fit and I think the right moment and the right person, but yeah, absolutely. In Hazeltine, Michael Phelps came in and spoke to the team, which was a great touch.

Q: What intangible traits do you believe you have that have served you so well on the course?
A: I’m stubborn. Probably that’s one of my greatest gifts in golf, that I never listen to anyone else about my [loopy] swing, I’m never one to do it like anyone else … almost stubborn to a fault. … I would say hard work and determination. I watch a lot of guys when they’re struggling kind of mail it in, and quit, and give up, and that’s just not really in my DNA. … I guess really a belief in myself. As a golf professional in an individual sport, you’re on an island so to say. I rely on my dad as my teacher, I rely on my wife for support, Fluff [Mike Cowen] is out there day in and day out as a caddie, but ultimately you have to hit the shots. If you don’t have a 100 percent belief in yourself and your abilities through thick and thin, you’re gonna struggle in our sport.

Q: Describe winning the 2003 U.S. Open, and the 1999 Ryder Cup singles match against Sergio Garcia.
A: I would say winning the U.S. Open would definitely rank in my top three. My mom and dad were there. They haven’t been present for many of my victories, but to have them there for my biggest victory, on Father’s Day … and that was my first Father’s Day as a father, my daughter was 11 months old, and my wife was pregnant with our son at the time. All in all, a very emotional moment and a very cool moment. … I’ve played nine Ryder Cups, I’ve played three singles matches versus [Garcia]. … He got me I think 1-up in the other two. What’s most important to me is our team record. I played in nine, and we were 2-7. If you had to pick one thing out that I was most disappointed about my career, it would be our team Ryder Cup record.

Q: Arnold Palmer was the last Ryder Cup-playing captain in 1963. Will you break that string?
A: (Laugh) Not the way I’m playing right now. I’ve always said that I was most focused on being the best captain I possibly could be. I think in this day and age it would be very difficult to do both. The last 12 months I haven’t been near the form that I would have to be to be a player on a Ryder Cup team. It’s easy to put that to rest.

Q: What drives you?
A: Fear of failure.

Q: Why do you think that is?
A: I don’t know. I read something one time where Larry Bird said … playoffs, he used to wake up with nightmares where he went like 0-for-20. Especially early in my career, I never sat back to really enjoy what I accomplished, and I wouldn’t let myself, because I was afraid I’d become complacent. I realize what I accomplished in my career was greater than probably what I ever imagined — I know what anyone else imagined for me. But I still feel like I left a lot on the table and that I could have won a lot more. That always really drove me to keep working harder and not smell the flowers. I guess I always realized that it could be taken away at any moment with injury, whatever it may be, so I guess I tried to squeeze as much as I possibly could out of every moment, and that fear of not competing or not playing well drove me to work harder.

Q: Which nickname do you like better, “The Grinder” or “The Business Man”?
A: It doesn’t matter either way, to be honest with you. When I was young, Tom Kite had a reputation for being this hard worker, and they would almost say, “Well he doesn’t have the natural ability of a Tom Weiskopf or a Ben Crenshaw, but he worked hard and practiced and basically dug it out of the dirt more than anyone else.” I felt like it was a slight to him, in that he’s got a lot of talent. As I got older, I realized that for Tom even, it was a little bit more of like a compliment, I guess. And that’s kind of how I look at The Grinder, or The Businessman. I do feel like throughout my career at times I’ve gotten a lot out of my game and my natural ability. … I don’t love either, no one ever calls me that, and probably wouldn’t like to be called a grinder all the time. I’ve been really fortunate, I’ve escaped nicknames almost my whole life, even growing up as a kid.

Q: Why is Fluff the right caddy for you?
A: (Laugh) He likes to joke that he’s kind of old and crusty. If you can’t get along with Mike — I don’t call him Fluff very often. What I like about him honestly is he’s always the same. Whether I’m shooting 59 or 80, he doesn’t change mannerism. He’s like that solid, consistent rock, and is never different. And I think what makes him good at his job is he really enjoys his job.

Q: If you could organize a dream foursome in history, who would it be?
A: My dad started me in the game, so whoever I put in there, I would include my dad. I had the opportunity to play with Jack Nicklaus a number of times, I had the opportunity to play with Arnold Palmer. One of my heroes that I never got the opportunity to play golf with was Byron Nelson, and my dad admires him as well. And someone that I probably misunderstood a lot and I’m sure others did as well was Ben Hogan. I wish I would have been able to meet Mr. Hogan and play golf with him as well just to get to know him.

Q: Describe The Fried Eggs Golf’s “Mr. 58” rap video in honor of your 58 at The Travelers Championship in 2016.
A: I actually thought it was hilarious. I don’t follow many people or many things on Twitter. I joined having a Twitter account because of the Ryder Cup, but the stuff they do is actually kind of humorous and funny, and I don’t think they take themselves too seriously, so it’s pretty cool.

Q: Shooting a 58 must be the definition of being in a zone.
A: I shot 59 and 58, both rounds were 12-under-par. … I turned my first side at minus-8. So the realization that you have an opportunity to break 60 enters your mind pretty early in that round. And then really it becomes a mental battle. I think really being in the zone for that situation for say like the back nine, I wasn’t really playing the golf course, I really wasn’t playing any of the rest of the field. It was more me mentally, trying to focus on each shot, trying to not really put the outcome into play, and just really trying to hit a good shot again and again. It’s almost impossible to do. It’s gonna enter your mind, and so it’s kind of fighting off bad thoughts or outcomes … trying to think like a sports psychologist. Bob Rotella, he talks about not really focusing on the outcome, but focusing on the process. So really thinking about the process of what got me there, and trying to continue to do that.

Q: Why did you get involved with Rotella five years ago?
A: I was playing a practice round with Davis Love, and Davis has used him for a long time. I had gotten to a point in my career where my kids were growing up, I felt like I was traveling too much. … I was missing a lot of what they were doing at home. It didn’t feel like I was a part of it, as much as I wanted to be. What I found is I was getting in the car to go to golf tournaments, and I had a tear in my eye, I didn’t want to go. I’d sit in the driveway for three minutes before I’d pull out to drive. And, when I was at tournaments, I wasn’t myself. I was grouchy, I was tough on my caddie, on Fluff — I wasn’t happy while I was on the golf course and enjoying what I was doing. And I noticed pretty quickly that as soon as I got off the golf course and I got back to the hotel, or went to dinner with friends, or got to call home and talk to Tab [Tabitha, wife] and the kids, I was in a lot better mood. I was moody on the course. So really I sought Bob’s advice, that just that I’m not really happy with the person I am on the golf course, I’m not enjoying playing anymore, and I don’t want to play like this. I either want to give it up, or find a way to enjoy myself. And came to the realization that I was probably playing too many events. I felt like if I’d play less, it might affect my performance, and he assured me that if anything I might play better because I was in a better mood when I was at the golf course and more locked in to what I was doing, and he was right. The interesting part about that is my father and wife had told me the same thing for two or three years, and it was probably a little harder to listen to the folks that love you so much. … When a total stranger told me that, it kind of slapped me in the face a little bit and it was easier to probably accept.

Q: Who are athletes in other sports you admire?
A: I’m a diehard Steeler fan. Lynn Swann’s become a good friend. … Jerome Bettis … Hines Ward, who I don’t know, but admired the work ethic. I grew up in the Michael Jordan era. … I think a lot of it would probably be picking out folks that maybe because of what they did off the golf course or the way they handled themselves off the golf course or on the field or on the court allowed them to become more successful on, someone like a Drew Brees I think is pretty amazing.

Q: You were introduced to Reggie Jackson.
A: He loves cars, and took me to one of his garages where he had about 40 cars sitting, and I was amazed at his knowledge in that area and his love for it.

Q: Describe your wife Tabitha.
A: I think she’s an amazing woman. She’s really talented in areas where I struggle, and she’s definitely helped me become a more rounded person. She thrives when she’s got 12 balls bouncing at all times, and total chaos. I’m good in small groups. Everything has to be very organized and in order. I kind of almost have to complete one task before I move to the next. She’s dynamic, I guess is the best way I can describe her. … Generous, caring. And I guess the best compliment I can give her, she’s a wonderful mother.

Q: Three dinner guests?
A: My wife and two children.

Q: Favorite actor?
A: Morgan Freeman.

Q: Favorite actress?
A: Charlize Theron.

Q: Favorite singer?
A: Darius Rucker.

Q: Favorite meal?
A: My mom’s chicken paprika.

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