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The past 8 months have been quite a ride for Jim Furyk.
The fun began on August 7, 2016 with his record setting 58 at The Travelers and also became the first PGA Tour player to score below 60 twice!
In September, he was presented the 2016 Payne Stewart Award by the Tour for his class, character and off the course contributions.
The cherry on the sundae was being named 2018 US Ryder Cup Captain by the PGA of America in January.
We caught up with Jim, courtesy of our friends at Callaway Golf, where he not only took us behind the scenes with this feelings on these milestone events, but also spent some time taking us through his bag of Callaway equipment from his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
We tip our cap to this fantastic gentleman of the game!
Tom Brassell: Welcome to Golf Better at Worldwide Golf Shops. Episode 229. Hello everyone, Tom Brassell again. Thanks so much for joining us. Whether you’re a first-time listener, long-time subscriber, somewhere in the middle, doesn’t matter. We are just glad you joined us. Today is going to be a special one. Our guest is the winner of the 2003 United States Open Championship. He was named the winner of the 2016 Payne Stewart Award and captain of the 2018 United States Ryder Cup Team. Who else but Mr. 58 himself, Jim Furyk. Jim, thanks so much for joining us. It’s great to have you.
Jim Furyk: Hey, it’s great to be here, thank you.
Tom Brassell: Jim, it’s hard to believe the things, the events that have gone on in the last year. I would like to ask you about a couple of them. 40 years ago this summer, Al Geiberger got a nickname: Mr. 59. You got your own last summer, Mr. 58. Share with us a little bit about that. That was just absolutely incredible, and it was just … It was fun to watch for a fan.
Jim Furyk: You know, it’s the week that I really wouldn’t have ever imagined something like that happening. It’s a golf course that should suit my game, but one I’ve never really been that comfortable on. I haven’t played in Hartford that often. I really hadn’t been playing that well. I really had a good ball-striking summer last year, and somewhere during the PGA I just kind of got in a funk, and really didn’t feel good about my swing and wasn’t hitting the ball that well and had really worked hard during the week at Hartford to try to get it back, but just wasn’t happy. You know, didn’t … Wasn’t hitting the ball that well. I had to make about an eight footer on Friday just to make the cut. I think I shot one over on Saturday. I was teeing off almost in the first group going off Sunday morning.
I think I was tied for 70 at the start of the day and just kind of got it going. I don’t know what else to say other than I had a day where I felt pretty good with my golf swing, and just kind of started aiming at pins and firing it and hit it close quite a bit. So, missed about a 10-footer on one, but made a good 15-footer for birdie at two, holed a wedge at three, and then I think I birdied four. It’s a tough hole. I had a four-iron, about four feet. Before you know it, I think I birdied holes six through 12. I was 11 under through 12. So, it gave me a lot of the same feeling. I shot 59 back in 2013, and I shot eight under on the front nine in both rounds and kind of had that “Here we go again” type of feeling, and was able to birdie the first three on the back nine and get it deep real quick.
So, the rest of the way it’s a little bit of a mental battle, you know? You know you’re playing well. You know you’re hitting it good. Putts are going in. At that point, it’s a little bit of a mental battle to try to get the score out of your head and keep trying to go as well as you possibly can.
Tom Brassell: That was what I was going to ask you. What were you thinking those last few holes? You knew you were … You knew it was there, right?
Jim Furyk: Yeah, I knew it was there. I had a reachable par five at 13. I drove the ball right down the middle, but then it did it. So, I had to lay up. Then it was front on the water. I hit it about 25 feet past the pin with the wedge, but I hit it tight at 14, missed about a 12-footer. Almost drove the green at 15, and pitched it about eight feet by, a long pitch, across the green, and the eight-footer horseshoed, you know, came right back at me. That was the first time, it was kind of a realization that, “Oh, maybe they’re not all going to go in,” because they were up to that point.
But I knew I had to get through the 17th hole, and 16’s a par three over water. I hit it at the right spot about 20 feet long right up to the pin, maybe 25 feet and was able to curl one in and at that point realized that I had an unbelievable opportunity. I was 12 under par, two pars would be 58. Another birdie, 57. It was incredible round and 17 was a hole that I made double bogie on earlier in the week. I drove it right in the water. I made a very tentative swing at 17. Got away with it. Knocked it to the fairway and from that point on just told myself I was going to be as aggressive as I could. Aim it at some pins and fire and see what happens.
Tom Brassell: Well you etched your name into lore for a long, long time and you’ve got the nickname now. I want to ask you about a month later because this was very emotional. I watched it, but being named the winner of the Payne Steward Award, just something. Congratulations first, it’s something that not only what you do on the course but what you do off the course, how you conduct yourself and your charitable endeavors. I can’t imagine sitting there looking, you guys are looking at Tracey Stewart and the family and getting this, but take us through what was going through that evening, ’cause it was really something special to watch.
Jim Furyk: It is such an honor to win the award and it has a lot more to do about your character and off the golf course than it does about playing golf. I think it hit me, I was excited to win the award. I think though it hit me when it came time to write the speech and get ready for the day and also knowing that Tracey was going to be there, Chelsea was going to be there. Kind of remembering back to Tabitha and I meeting Tracey and Payne for the first time over in Bermuda. Having some fun and hanging out with them and how gracious they were to take a young player under their wing and have so much fun with us. Made it very hard. It was a very emotional day for Tabitha and I. I spent a lot of time in the hotel room trying to prepare my thoughts and what I wanted to say, to make sure I got it right. I eventually had to tell Tabitha that she had to leave the room because we were laughing for part of it but we were crying for most of it and I knew I’d never get the speech written if she was there.
Just really an honor to have some of the past winners there and some of the players in the event there, friends of mine. Mom and Dad were there. It really, a lot of pressure as well, televised live on the Golf Channel. We’re comfortable giving, hitting a driver, or wedge, or playing golf in the ultimate pressure Ryder Cup, but having to give a speech is something that maybe most tour pros aren’t prepared for. I was very nervous and I felt like the best way to handle it was just really talk from the heart. A lot of the speech that I’d written I kind of threw by the wayside in the middle of that and just really talked about what I wanted to and what was important to me and to my family and how much … we love the award, what it meant to have Payne’s name on it, to be a winner was just fantastic. So it was a great great way to round out our season, to be honest with you.
I started the year with a surgery in February. I only played about half the year last year. Didn’t have a lot of great results and then the end of the summer, shot a 58 and then found out that I was going to win the Payne Steward Award. It really made it a special year.
Tom Brassell: Well you had a few months to, then something else big happens. If it can’t get emotional enough – you’re named the Ryder Cup Captain. I believe in January wasn’t it? I mean talk about that.
Jim Furyk: I had found out right before Christmas that, from the PGA of America, that I’d been chosen to be the next captain and then had to sit on that for almost a month. That is a really hard secret not to talk about. I obviously told my family and really kept that secret from a bunch of friends. When we made the announcement I caught a lot of heck from a lot of friends. Knowing that, wait a sec, you’ve known this for a while and now we’re just finding out.
It’s been an event that’s always been special to me. I think seeing, walking through the hallways, walking through our team room, seeing pictures of past players, past teams, Payne’s picture is always front and center. Especially up in Minnesota where he won the U.S. Open, at Hazeltine. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve played in nine Ryder Cups now. It’s my favorite event. My one big regret is that the teams I’ve played on haven’t been that successful, we were two and seven in those nine. Some of those losses were my toughest and darkest moments in golf and those victories were some of my joyest. To be a part of a team atmosphere and represent your country and have the whole U.S. pulling for you, is a special feeling.
To be able to lead that team is something I always wanted to do and along the way, throughout those nine Ryder Cups, I really admire … I went from playing for my idols, you know Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Curtis Strange, to playing with my contemporaries in folks that I played a lot of golf with, Al Sutton and Paul Asinger and Corey Pavin and Davis Love. I kind of along the way, in the back of my mind, was if I ever got this opportunity, here’s what I liked. I’ll try and pull bits and pieces from every captain and really … I think to be successful you have to do it in your own player and your own personality. I was very fortunate to be to play in so many and to play for so many wonderful captains. I’m going to try and draw from those experiences and pull a little bit of, from each of their pages to help this next team.
Tom Brassell: Well Jim you’re brought to us courtesy of our friends at Callaway Golf. They have really knocked it out of the park with the equipment they’ve put out there this year. It’s just flying off the shelves and into the hands of golfers, not only here but around the world. Can you take us through a little bit, just quickly, through your bag and what you’re playing, the equipment you have right now from them?
Jim Furyk: Yeah. I’m starting to pull head covers off now that you’ve asked that, I’m in my club room at home in Ponte Vedra. I’m in my workshop. I was just walking the irons and putters. Will we start from the drivers or … ?
Tom Brassell: Yeah, let’s take it from the length all the way down.
Jim Furyk: The big dog first. I have a Great Big Bertha Epic in the bag. I immediately put this club in the bag when I tested it, I want to say last November, December, was the first time they brought it out. They were kind of making some rounds through the country trying to introduce it to the tour pros. I immediately loved it. I like the fact that, everyone one know I’m not a long player. For me it’s about accuracy but I got some launch out of the driver immediately. It launched a little higher. Good speed, I didn’t gain maybe quite as much as some others, but I gained two or three miles an hour on my ball speed which is phenomenal.
I really like the fact that I thought I could work the ball both ways a little bit better. I hit it straighter. Even if I gain, if I go out there and I gain two or three miles an hour and I get six to eight yards out of it, that’s phenomenal, don’t get me wrong. But my bread and butter is hitting the ball in the fairway and I feel like I can hit this driver a lot straighter. My misses are a lot straighter and I’ve kept the ball in play a lot better this year. I’m excited about it and I know it’s selling. It’s doing well at retail. It’s doing well with the consumer and I think Callaway definitely, this is the best driver they’ve had, honestly I think. I’ve played a lot of their stuff since the late 90s, I think this is their best driver since we go back to the 90s in the market.
Just recently in the last couple of weeks, I’ve put in the three wood as well. So I’ve got the Great Big Bertha Epic three wood, it’s 15 degree loft. I just switched to a new hybrid as well for Augusta, so I’ve got, I’m a model back. I’m at the Big Bertha Alpha 815. It’s a 20 degree, I play it in dead square in the NS. It’s got to be a real versatile club in my bag ’cause my longest iron is a four iron and this club kind of bridges the gap between a four iron and a three wood. You can imagine that’s a big area. The hybrid for me is a really important club. It’s got a, I’ve got to be able to open it up a little bit and hit a nice little butter cut out there and make it look like a three iron. I need to be able to turn it down and rip it and make it play more like a two iron. So I can kind of get, it needs to cover a good 20 yard gap for me. It’s a versatile club, I love it. It allows me to do, I have four wedges, so as we go down in the bag that one club, that hybrid, allows me to carry an extra wedge and I’ll tell you why that’s important when we get there.
Tom Brassell: Okay.
Jim Furyk: My irons right now, I’m almost embarrassed to say I’m playing an old set of irons. I’ve goofed around with a set of Apex Masters. I’ve been testing and trying a new version of the Apex Pro that I think is coming out in 18 and I am super, super excited about it. I don’t get too excited about irons but this iron I love. I’ve hit a couple of versions of it but I’m still playing the 2011, the Razr X Forged. This iron, I’m real shallow, I don’t hit down on the ball real hard, this iron didn’t have a lot of bounce on it. For a guy that goes steep, the guys that want to hit down hard on the ball on tour, this iron does a little bit for them but because I’m not very steep, it’s perfect. Right out of the box, no grind, love it. I’ve liked this iron a lot but I’m starting to realize that there’s some new technology out there. There’s some irons that maybe an old short guy like me could hit the ball a little higher or farther. So I’ve been messing around a little bit trying to gain an advantage but I shot 59 and 58 with these so they’re probably pretty good as well.
Tom Brassell: You’re right.
Jim Furyk: But I carry that four iron to pitching wedge and then I carry a gap wedge, a 50 degree, and honestly if I wasn’t in my club room I couldn’t even tell what was on the back of these clubs. I really love this equipment, I can work on my equipment, I can grind a wedge, loft and lie, pretty much anything but I don’t really pay much attention to what’s written on them a lot of times. This is a Mack Daddy 2 5012S. Callaway just made me a brand new sand wedge. I should actually take a picture of it and tweet it. It’s a MD3 Milled 5610 and it’s about 55 degrees. It’s an S grind and then they took it in the back, they have a gentleman there that, for Patrick Reed they had one that had Captain America on it for the Ryder Cup.
They kind of specialize them, so this one’s got the Ryder Cup logo etched in the back. Everything’s in red, white and blue and has Captain Jim Furyk stamped in the back. So it’s pretty cool wedge. I just got it right before I went to Augusta, so kind of a rough time to all of a sudden three days before you go to put a wedge in the bag. I’m messing with it and I think this one, it’s too pretty not to put in my bag so I think it’s going in there.
My 60 degree wedge, I’ve been working on a lot and Roger Cleveland, it’s got tape all over it, I think it’s an MD3 but I’ve got to actually look ’cause it’s got red tape on the back. I’ve got a couple copies in here. Yeah it’s an MD3. 60 degree, it’s the wide sole. Like the 60 wide sole and I’ve put a lot of, I had them put a lot of offset in it for me. I love my 60 wedge offset I think it helps me hit the ball lower, especially with that 50 to 70 yard shot. It looks better to me when I open the face and Roger just put a little grind on this one and I hit it about in play real well. Last week at the Heritage, I, the wedge was really good for me. It saved me a few times. That’s one of my favorites clubs in my bag, is my 60 degree.
Tom Brassell: How about the putter?
Jim Furyk: The putter. I’m missing the putter, you’re right. I play the #1 wide. So I’ve been messing all around with a 2 ball. Last week I was messing around a little bit with a 2 ball, got a little bit of a short hosel on it and it’s, what do they call it, the O-Works. So it’s got the microhinge face on it. That almost went in play last week but the #1 wide that I been playing the last three years, I shot a 59 and 58 with, been in the bag so it’s got a white hot face on it. It’s a Versa #1 wide and I like the white, black, white. You get two options sometimes, you can go with a black face, then white, then black or you can go white, black, white. I like the white out front and then the black face kind of gives me a contrast to the loss so I’ve got a good idea how much loss on the putter.
Tom Brassell: Now go into the ball pocket of your bag. Talk about the Callaway ball you play.
Jim Furyk: Yep, so I play a Chrome Soft golf ball. There’s a couple versions out on tour but I’ve been playing the Chrome Soft now for, I think this is my second season. I was an SR3 before that but it’s a Chrome Soft. The Chrome Soft golf ball, great feel, spins. I always play our produce, Calloway, any company I’ve been with along the way, but I play the ball that we make spins the most. You’ve kind of got two options if you think about golf balls, you can go for distance, you can go for spin and control or you can try to split the difference in the middle.
I’m not a very long player, I don’t hit the ball very far. Everyone knows that. If I crush a drive I’ve flight 270 in the air. I’ve tried to play products that maybe launched a little higher, spun a little less, went farther, but at the same point I’m gaining a little bit of distance but I’m still not going to hit it like Dustin Johnson long. I’m losing control, I’m losing wedges and feel and spin around the greens and that’s my strength, so I’ve always felt like … I’d love to make my weaknesses stronger but not at the expense of my strengths.
This golf ball has plenty of spin, plenty of control. I can flight the ball a little low in the wind, I can hit the ball low. For me it’s about really how well can I hit the wedges. Can I hit my numbers with those, can I knock the ball down irons and then I sit my driver to the golf ball. A lot of amateurs go the other way around, they sit a driver to a golf ball which one can I hit the farthest and then they try to play it with the rest of their set. What I’m looking for is when they bring a new golf ball, I want to go to the short game area, I want to hit wedges with it, I want to start at five and 10 yard shots, I want to work full wedges, I want to hit some irons with it. Now when I’m like hey this is pretty good golf ball, now let’s go hit it with a driver. I’ll find the driver, if I need to add a loft or take some loft off or whatever it may be, to get the right launch and spin we’ll do that. But first and foremost I want to take care of my short game and this ball is really handy around the green. It gives me the best chance to score.
Tom Brassell: Great advice from Jim Furyk. Look for the ball that’s going to work around the green for you first or maybe like you said, maybe split the difference and go both. Hey Jim before we close, it’s going to be an interesting summer for you, how does your schedule set up for the summer, because you’re going to be about there playing with some guys that may have a chance to make your team? Talk about your schedule.
Jim Furyk: Well first and foremost we have a President’s Cup coming up this year. Steve Stricker is the captain. I’m going to be a part of that as an assistant as well. One of the reasons I wondered earlier when you asked about the Ryder Cup, one of the reasons I wanted to do it sooner than later, before I turn 50 is so I was still playing out on tour. So I would know all the guys that made the team. If there were some younger players out there that I didn’t know very well I could go grab a practice round. I’ll end up getting paired with them some. It gives me an opportunity to check out their game and how they play. It gives me a much better idea of how to pair them up. It just gives you that relationship and bond that I think is needed. I’m looking forward to it.
I’m going to play probably 18 to 20 events this year. I think I’ve only played seven so far. I’m going to take a few off in the middle of the summer. I’ll have three or four weeks off before the British Open. I’m going to play a lot of golf between now and then. I’m in the middle right now, I just started a two weeks off. I won’t be at Valero and I won’t be at the team event in New Orleans but I’ll go strong there, Wells Fargo, the Players, possibly Colonial Memorial. I may even slip in a couple of new events this year. I haven’t played FedEx in a long time, I think since my rookie year. I may slip FedEx in there before the U.S. Open. I’m looking to play a lot of golf before, FedEx goes, and the U.S. Open goes into Hartford so after that Hartford event I’m going to take a little time off family wise. So I’m looking at playing a lot of golf until then.
Tom Brassell: Well Jim, hey thanks so much for grinding out the time with us and taking us through your bag and taking us in your shop. It’s been a lot of fun. You’ve got some final words for our listeners out there, Worldwide Golf Shops, Edwin Watts Golf from Jim Furyk.
Jim Furyk: You know I think really with equipment, honestly, if you haven’t shot the Epic driver, I would try it. Go jam away, give it a rip. I think it really is the best product we’ve made in a long, long time. It’s gaining in a lot of ground on tour. I see it in a lot of guys bags that aren’t Callaway players. I think a good measure if you want to see what products are really hot out there, go look in bags of guys that don’t have a club contract, that don’t have a club company on the side of their bag. Look to see what driver they’re playing, look to see what irons they’re playing. Good chance they’re some of the best on tour and you’re starting to see the Epic show up a lot.
I think earlier we talked about golf balls and trying to fit them into your game. I think one of the common mistakes is trying to fit a ball to your game that makes you hit the ball the farthest. I think what can you control the most from 100 yards, from … amateurs have a hard time, they get scared with a half wedge or that 100 yard shot. They want that full pitching wedge or full nine iron onto the green but I think the ball that gives you the best chance to control your shots at say 50 to 100 yards, that’s where you hit a great amount of shots during around of golf. If you can control that shot you can score better.
Tom Brassell: Jim thanks so much. It’s been great. Hopefully we can do it again soon. Appreciate it.
Jim Furyk: Thank you. Appreciate it.
Tom Brassell: Well how about that. Absolutely outstanding. Another fantastic interview curtesy of our friends at Callaway Golf. Jim Furyk and some great advice. Try that Epic driver, best one they’ve ever made. When you’re working with the ball, look for the one that feels good first, that works for you around the green ’cause that’s where you score. Great advice from Jim Furyk and many thanks to Jim for joining us and to our friends at Callaway Golf for setting it up and to you, our listeners. We’ll do it again next time when we have another episode of “Golf Better” at Worldwidegolfshops.com. So long everyone.