Furyk wants to put 2012 behind him

By John FeinsteinJune 11, 2013, 12:39 pm

Jim Furyk sat in a corner of the locker room at TPC Sawgrass on a May afternoon a couple of hours after shooting an even-par round of 72 to open The Players Championship. Furyk treasures routine, and this steamy Thursday had been no different than most days in his 20-year career on the PGA Tour. He had played 18 holes, grinding on every shot, signed his scorecard and gone inside to cool off and get something to eat.

Then, he and his dad headed for the range, just as they have done thousands of times since Jim’s boyhood to see if there was something that could be tweaked to make his game just a little better.

“We hit a lot of drivers,” Furyk said, pausing to sip from a bottle of water. “It’s the oldest golfer’s lament there is, I guess, but I don’t feel like I’m that far away. A tweak here, a tweak there and I can be close to where I want to be.”


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He leaned back in his chair and smiled.

“So, what’s up?” he asked.

I had asked Furyk if he had some free time and he had suggested we meet in the locker room at 4 o’clock. He was two minutes late – unusual for him – which is early for most athletes. My all-time record is Kevin Mitchell, the baseball player, who strolled into the Seattle Mariners' locker room at 5:15 for a 2 o’clock meeting and said, “I’ve only got about 10 minutes.” I will not repeat what I told him he could do with his 10 minutes.

Furyk is the anti-Kevin Mitchell, not only always punctual when he says he’ll be somewhere, but always patient and generous with his time.

So, when he asked, ‘what’s up,’ I answered directly:

“I want to talk about last year.”

Furyk’s smile disappeared. He swigged the water again and shook his head in a way that made me think he was going to say, “I’m done with that.” I wouldn’t have blamed him. I almost felt guilty about asking but believed it was worth it because Furyk is one of golf’s most thoughtful people. And I had no doubt he had thought about 2012 a lot.

By almost any standard, 2012 was a great year for Furyk. He had bounced back from what had been a terrible year for him in 2011. After winning three times in 2010 and being voted PGA Tour Player of the Year at age 40, he had dropped to 54th place on the money list and never finished higher than sixth all year. During one stretch he missed four straight cuts – unheard of for him.

In 2012, he had seven top-10s and two 11th-place finishes. He more than doubled his money, winning more than $3.6 million to finish 12th on the money list. He lost a playoff in Tampa; almost won the U.S. Open; should have won in Akron and made the Ryder Cup team – his eighth straight.

And yet, when the subject of that year came up, he visibly sagged in his seat.

“You know I’ve always taken the approach that you talk about your successes and you talk about your failures,” he said, speaking slowly, choosing his words every bit as carefully as he chooses a club on the golf course. “I don’t think I’ve ever been one to duck people.'

Furyk’s year was marked by three extraordinarily painful near-misses. His loss in a four-way playoff to Luke Donald in Tampa didn’t really bother him because he played well, birdied the 18th to get into the playoff, and felt as if the work he had done during the offseason was going to pay off before the year was over.

It did – sort of – but not in the way he would have liked. He was tied for the lead at the U.S. Open at Olympic with two par 5s to play on Sunday. But he hit  arguably one of the worst shots of his career, a disastrous snap-hooked 3-wood off the 16th tee and ended up making bogey. Another bogey at 18 – needing a birdie to tie Webb Simpson – led to a tie for fourth.

“I’ve never been bothered that much by physical mistakes,” Furyk said. “We all make them. I have a 7-iron to the green from the middle of the fairway and I make a bad swing and put it in a bunker I’m not happy but I know it happens. Mental mistakes bother me – they stay with me. To me, those are avoidable. They shouldn’t happen.

“What happened at 16 at Olympic was a mental mistake that led to a really bad physical mistake,” he said. “I guess it’s fair to say that I got freaked out by where they’d put the tee. I just couldn’t make myself commit to the shot I needed to hit.”

The tee at 16 was part of Mike Davis’ U.S. Open set-up philosophy. Davis likes to create at least one shot a day during the Open that forces players to think outside the box. Moving the tee box up 101 yards on 16 was his Sunday outside-the-box move at the Open. Like a lot of players, Furyk doesn’t like to be forced out of his comfort zone.

“It’s one thing to say you have three tee boxes on a hole,” Furyk said. “It’s another to move the tee up 100 yards. I talked to Mike about it afterwards and he explained his thinking to me. It comes down to the philosophy of a player versus the philosophy of a guy setting up the course. There’s no right and wrong involved.

“Bottom line is everyone in the field played the hole from there that day and I handled it worse than just about anyone.”

Furyk badly wants to win another major – and would especially like to repeat his 2003 Open victory at Olympia Fields. He was close at Winged Foot in ’06; close at Oakmont in ’07 and painfully close again in ’12. He’s well aware of the fact that another major win would virtually clinch a spot for him in the Hall of Fame. He has one major win; 16 wins on Tour in all and all those Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup appearances (15 in all). A second major would remove any lingering doubt.

“I try not to think about it (the Hall of Fame) because I still think I have a few more years of playing well enough that I’m not ready to start looking back yet,” he said. “But it comes up enough that I can’t help but think about it at times.” He smiled. “I didn’t lose the Open because I was thinking, ‘this will get me in the Hall of Fame.’ That’s one thing I can tell you for sure.”

He lost at Akron in early August because he badly chopped up the 18th hole on Sunday, making a double-bogey 6 to turn a one-shot lead over Keegan Bradley into a one-shot loss.

“That one hurt because I should have won the tournament,” he said. “I played beautifully almost the entire week. I could have won the Open; I should have won Akron. The worst shot I hit (on 18) was my third because I rushed through my routine, probably because I was upset with the first two shots. Again, a mental mistake. And then I let that lead to hitting a bad putt (from 5 feet) for bogey.

“That made me angry – very angry – with myself. It just shouldn’t have happened. It was my tournament to win and I gave it away. I’ve won 16 times in 20 years out here and I’ve been a pretty good player the whole time. What that means is when you get a chance to win, you better take it because it doesn’t happen all that often.” He smiled for a second. “Unless you’re Tiger Woods.”

The most painful loss for Furyk may have been the one at Medinah, when the U.S. blew a 10-6 lead to Europe on Sunday. Playing in the eighth singles match against Sergio Garcia (whom he had beaten in singles in 1999 when the Americans rallied from 10-6 down to win) Furyk was 1 up through 16 holes and it easily could have been 2 up. Garcia made a tough up-and-down from a bunker at 16 while Furyk missed a 15-foot birdie putt he thought was going in the hole.

Furyk then missed both the 17th and 18th greens and couldn’t make par-saving putts on either hole. Garcia parred them both to win, 1 up. Furyk readily admits that the 7-foot putt he missed on 18 was one of the most painful moments of his career.

“Believe me, I knew what was at stake,” he said. “I could see the scoreboards and I knew that half-point could easily be the difference at that stage. I read the putt right, I hit it well. It just didn’t go in.”

During the U.S. team’s postmatch news conference, someone asked Furyk if losing as part of a team was more painful or less painful than losing in an individual event. It was a rare moment when Furyk lost a little bit of composure.

“Obviously you’ve never been a competitor or you wouldn’t ask that question,” Furyk said. Then he recovered and said the Ryder Cup was a team event, which meant he knew he had 11 players, his captain and his assistant captains behind him – win or lose.

“It wasn’t so much the question as the tone of the question,” Furyk said, months later, readily conceding that he lost his cool. “It came across as condescending. I didn’t know the guy. Maybe if it was someone I knew, I’d have taken a deep breath before I said anything. But it wasn’t.”

Furyk had been talking for more than an hour. He hadn’t snapped at any question and, as always, answered thoughtfully and in detail. “One reason I’m looking forward to the Open is that maybe I can put last year behind me once and for all once we get there.”

I reminded him he would undoubtedly be asked questions about Olympic before teeing it up at Merion.

“Yeah, I know,” he said with a sigh. “I’ll deal with it.”

Furyk has always dealt with it – the good and the bad.

“I’m 43,” he said. “Next year, I’m going to cut my schedule back. It’s just time. I want to focus on playing places I like to play and where I think I can win. I’m not going to do a full Stricker (as in cut back to a dozen events a la Steve Stricker) but I won’t play 25 anymore. The important thing is I believe I’m going to win more golf tournaments.

“In 2010 I had three good chances to win and won all three times. Last year, I probably had more chances to win but didn’t get it done. All I want is more chances to win. I believe next time I get the chance, I’ll finish the job.”

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Thomas, Koepka grouped as both vie for No. 1 in Korea

By Will GrayOctober 16, 2018, 1:44 pm

The PGA Tour remains in Asia this week, where another star-studded field is gathered for a no-cut event. Here's a look at some of the marquee, early-round groupings at the CJ Cup in South Korea, where Justin Thomas will look to retain his title as the tournament's lone champion with the action getting started Wednesday night for American viewers (all times ET):

7:15 p.m. Wednesday, 8:15 p.m. Thursday: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Sungjae Im

Thomas won the inaugural edition of this event last year in a playoff, and he returns to defend his title with hopes of supplanting idle Dustin Johnson as world No. 1. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Koepka, who is making his first start since being named PGA Tour Player of the Year and, like Thomas, could move to world No. 1. Rounding out the group is Im, a Korean native who went wire-to-wire leading the Web.com Tour money list in 2018 and nearly won his first event as a PGA Tour member in Napa.


CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


8:15 p.m. Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. Thursday: Marc Leishman, Si Woo Kim, Ernie Els

Leishman lost to Thomas in overtime at this event last year, but he returns to Jeju Island with plenty of momentum after dusting the field last week en route to a five-shot win at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. Joining him will be Kim, who won the 2017 Players Championship and will have plenty of support from the Korean fans, and Els, playing this week on a sponsor invite as he continues to keep an eye on potential stars for the Presidents Cup team he will captain next year.


8:25 p.m. Wednesday, 7:15 p.m. Thursday: Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama

They're two Aussies who teamed on plenty of Presidents Cup squads and have both reached the top of the world rankings, and now they'll play together for the first two rounds in Korea. Day is making his first start since East Lake, while Scott made a rare appearance at the Japan Open last week where he tied for 50th. Rounding out the trio will be Matsuyama, another Presidents Cup fixture who tied for fourth at the Tour Championship to end last season.


8:35 p.m. Wednesday, 7:25 p.m. Thursday: Kevin Tway, Austin Cook, Xander Schauffele

Tway finished T-27 last week in Malaysia in his first start as a PGA Tour winner, having taken the trophy two weeks ago in Napa. He'll be joined in Korea by Cook, who contended throughout last week en route to a T-13 finish, and Schauffele, the former Rookie of the Year who shot 65-68 over the weekend in Kuala Lumpur.

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Stock Watch: It's still Miller time

By Ryan LavnerOctober 16, 2018, 12:58 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Johnny (+10%): A polarizing figure to the end, Miller was the rare candid and uncompromising voice in the chummy world of pro golf. Paul Azinger (the reported successor) has a big seat to fill in the booth.  

Marc Leishman (+8%): Few can light up a board like Leish, who went 26 under at the CIMB without breaking a sweat. With that beautiful, high fade and his streaky putter, he will continue to be a major breakthrough candidate for 2019.

Eddie Pepperell (+6%): Is there a more fun cat in all of golf? He won ugly on a nasty day at the British Masters, delivered some more money quotes afterward, and now has two Euro Tour titles (and two runners-up!) this season and a ’19 Masters invite upcoming.

Bernhard Langer (+5%): A “quiet” season is still two wins, but at age 61 he’s started to fall off the pace to catch Hale Irwin’s record 45 wins. (He’s seven back.) This is an important playoff run for Langer.

Jordan Spieth (+3%): He got that strength-of-schedule requirement out of the way early by adding the Vegas event to his calendar – the first time he’s teed it up domestically in the fall. This has been such a bizarre year, it wouldn’t surprise at all if he comes out and grabs a slump-busting W.


FALLING

Shubhankar Sharma (-1%): Just 22, he still needs to learn how to win – and he will. The Sunday 74 in Mexico and closing 72 in Malaysia will be critical learning experiences for the rising star from India.

Tour tracks (-2%): What a contrast, seeing PGA Tour types tearing up a nondescript course in Malaysia (with a dozen players 19 under or better) while Justin Rose and Co. battled a firm and bouncy Walton Heath that surrendered only two 72-hole scores lower than 5 under. Hmmm. 

Green-reading materials (-5%): Good luck enforcing the new rule that limits images to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards, and allows only handwritten notes from a player or caddie. The books still grind pace of play to a halt and reduce the skill involved in reading a green, so why not ban them altogether?

Tiger vs. Phil (-7%): There have been wrong turns at seemingly every corner: No fans or local kids on-site; no undercard matches; not on network TV; not under the lights; not for their own cash; no charitable aspect; not played 15 years earlier. What a missed opportunity. All of it.

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NBC Sports' Johnny Miller announces retirement from lead golf analyst role

By Golf Channel Public RelationsOctober 16, 2018, 12:40 pm

2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open in February Will be Miller’s Final 18th Tower Call

On the eve of 30 years as NBC Sports’ lead golf analyst, Johnny Miller has chosen to make his final 18th tower call at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open, which will be staged from Thursday, January 31 – Sunday, February 3. 

“When NBC Sports approached me 30 years ago about a move to TV, I never could have imagined how it would lead to so many lasting relationships and countless memories made alongside a team of talented friends, both in front of and behind the camera,” Miller said. “I’m forever grateful to my family for their support during this fulfilling chapter of my life. As I say farewell to the 18th tower, I look forward to spending more time alongside my wife Linda, our children, and our 24 grandchildren. Soon it will officially be Miller time.”

Miller was named lead analyst of NBC Sports’ golf broadcast team in 1990 and quickly made his mark as the game’s most candid commentator, calling some of golf’s most memorable shots for the past three decades. Garnering eight Emmy nominations for “Outstanding Sports Personality – Sports Event Analyst,” Miller’s insight and frank approach have earned him both critical praise and viewer appreciation, as well as the respect and occasional raised eyebrow from those competing inside the ropes. 

“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is simply the gold standard,” said Tommy Roy, NBC Sports’ lead golf producer. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA TOUR’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”

“Johnny Miller is the best golf analyst ever and he will be missed by millions of fans. Early in his career, he made a commitment to serve the fans by telling it like it is and for three decades he’s served those fans incredibly well,” said Mike McCarley, president, Golf, NBC Sports. “Whether they agree or disagree with Johnny, everyone wants to hear what he has to say. His unfiltered approach has not only been refreshing, but it’s what makes him great. He is a part of the fabric of NBC Sports, and as one of the most influential voices in golf, he will forever have a home here.”

“This truly marks the end of a broadcast era,” said Dan Hicks, NBC Sports’ play-by-play host, who – with Miller – owns the record for longest-tenured 18th tower tandem in broadcast golf (2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open marks 20 years). “Johnny changed the landscape of golf commentary and analysis with his unique, unfiltered and honest manner, which made for a deep connection with viewers at home. Johnny was always unpredictable, so there was never a dull moment with Johnny in the booth. To sit next to him will always remain one of the greatest honors I could ever have in this business.”


 HIGHLIGHTS OF MILLER’S GOLF ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

  • Golf Career:
    • World Golf Hall of Fame, inducted 1998
    • 1973 U.S. Open: Miller shot a 63 in the final round at Oakmont Country Club to win. This was the lowest round to win a major championship until it was tied by Henrik Stenson at The Open in 2016.
    • 1976 Open Championship: Miller beat Seve Ballesteros and Jack Nicklaus at Royal Birkdale en route to being named “Champion Golfer of the Year”
    • 25-time PGA TOUR winner
    • 1974 Player of the Year
    • U.S. Ryder Cup wins in 1975, 1981
    • Three-time World Cup participant, winning in 1973, ‘75
    • Two-time All-American at Brigham Young University (1967-’68)
    • Gold Tee Award from the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association (1996)
    • Jack Nicklaus Golf Family of the Year Award, National Golf Foundation (1997)
    • Northern California Golf Association Hall of Fame inductee (2013)
    • Ambassador of Golf Award, Northern Ohio Golf Charities (2014)
    • Memorial Tournament Honoree (2016)
  • Golf Broadcast Career:
    • 29 PLAYERS Championships
    • 20 U.S. Opens
    • 14 Ryder Cups
    • 9 Presidents Cups
    • 3 Open Championships
    • 2016 Rio Olympics
    • First event: Bob Hope Desert Classic (January 18-21, 1990)
    • Farewell event: Waste Management Phoenix Open, Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 2019. Miller won the Phoenix Open in back-to-back years in 1974-‘75.
    • 8-time Emmy Award nominee for “Outstanding Sports Personality – Sports Event Analyst”
    • In 2019, 20 consecutive years Miller has sat next to Dan Hicks, NBC Sports play-by-play host, together sharing the record for the longest-tenured 18th tower tandem in broadcast golf.
    • Prior to Hicks, Miller’s previous broadcast partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.
  • Biographical Information:
    • Born and raised in San Francisco, resides in Utah
    • Turned professional in 1969 after graduating from Brigham Young University
    • Married to Linda Miller on Sept. 17, 1969.
    • 6 children, 24 grandchildren
    • Has contributed to the design of more than 30 golf courses, including Silverado Country Club in Napa, Calif., host of the PGA TOUR’s Safeway Open. Miller also serves as the event’s tournament host.
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Miller's one-of-a-kind style will be missed

By Rex HoggardOctober 16, 2018, 12:00 pm

A day after welcoming grandbaby No. 24 into the world, NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Johnny Miller carefully considered the question – why now?

After nearly three decades calling shots with his unvarnished and unapologetic style, Miller announced on Tuesday that he will call his last tournament in January at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It’s the perfect swansong for Miller, whose dominance in Arizona during his playing days earned him the nickname, the "Desert Fox.”

“The call of being there for my grandkids to teach them how to golf and fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller said from his home in Napa, Calif. “The parents are trying to make a living and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I’m a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

Miller’s voice has been the soundtrack to some of the game’s greatest moments for 29 years - since he took over as the network’s lead analyst - and his unfiltered take created an immediate standard.

During his first event in the booth, Miller called the final moments of the 1990 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic with his good friend and frequent partner Peter Jacobsen clinging to a one-stroke lead.

“I said he had the perfect lie, downhill and over water, that he could choke on,” Miller recalled. “He was my partner in the team championships, we had been friends forever and he didn’t talk to me for a long time after that.”

It was a blunt style that was very much new to golf at the time. Prior to Miller the norms of broadcasting golf tournaments required a kid-glove approach, but before making it through his first 72 holes Miller had already uncorked the first of many “choke” comments.

Miller’s approach to broadcasting was born from the same competitive drive that lifted him to 25 PGA Tour titles and two major championships, and he’s as comfortable with his no-holds-barred approach now at 71 as he was when he started in 1990.

“I’m sort of a golfing version of [NBA analyst] Charles Barkley, it’s what people want,” Miller laughed. “The players don’t like it, but my father always told me that when I’m raising my kids you need four parts confidence and inspiring, but that one time you need to trim the bush a little bit.”


Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

Best of: Photos of Miller through the years


Jacobsen wouldn’t be the last player to endure one of Miller’s blunt assessments. During the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Miller’s take of Rocco Mediate’s performance in the playoff was that he “wilted.”

Miller’s assessments were as educated and nuanced as they were pointed, but that didn’t mean they were always easy.

“Every time I’d see [Mediate] it would be in the airport. It was about two years after that U.S. Open, he was like, ‘Can you believe Tiger [Woods] made that putt?’” Miller said. “I had said [Mediate] ‘looked like the guy who cleans Tiger’s swimming pool,’ which wasn’t very nice. But he said he understood.”

And because of Miller’s unique style and aptitude for the game a generation of golf fans better understood what it was like to feel the pressure at the game’s highest level with a title on the line.

It was never about embarrassing players or creating talking points; it was simply the only way Miller knew how to play the game and what separated good players from great ones.

“It’s the greatest game to choke on,” Miller said. “If people want to shy away from that they are missing the whole point of the game. It’s the ultimate game to expose your nerves. The fact no one went there before me I never understood.”

For Miller, having the best seat in the house for nearly 30 years only reinforced what he learned as an accomplished player. Although he concedes now that he’s softened slightly over the years, having been the man who put so many historic performances in context has left more highlight reel moments than he can remember.

There was the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island in South Carolina that the U.S. team won by a point.

“I’d never been involved in anything that was that thrilling,” he recalled. “The finish was crazy, the fans were nuts. That course was perfect to prove if you can handle pressure or not.”

He fondly recalls his first U.S. Open in the booth in 1995 at Shinnecock Hills and, of course, the ’08 championship at Torrey Pines was special for so many reasons.

But pressed for his favorite tournament as an analyst, Miller’s mind goes to the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which Woods won by 15 strokes.

“That was the best golf he ever played,” he said. “But that’s like asking me which one of my grandchildren I love the most. There’s a lot of good ones.”

Miller will miss the booth and the people he’s worked with like Dan Hicks and NBC Sports and Golf Channel producer Tommy Roy, but he admits that the job has changed.

“The technology, social media is part of the new world we live in. There’s just so much coverage now. It’s getting crazy,” he said. “What’s in the future of how much coverage there will be? The Ryder Cup this year you get to the booth in the dark and leave in the dark. That’s the new Ryder Cup norm. It’s not a 71-year-old’s job.”

Miller offered one final assessment for his replacement as the lead analyst and it was no surprise that his answer was unblinkingly straightforward.

“When I’m back east I hear 50 times a day, ‘Johnny, keep telling it like it is.’ That’s what the gallery wants,” Miller said. “They crave that you don’t patty-cake it. You have to have the fortitude to call it like you see it. The public can feel it. They know when you’re being honest.”

After nearly 30 years of unfiltered honesty, Johnny would know.