He wears the long face of a funeral director on the course, so Jim Furyk’s dry, playful wit can catch you off-guard in person. Relaxing in the locker room after a practice session at the TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., he’s told that we’ve come armed with a list of reader questions, turning the interview over to his fans. “Whoa, you must be worried,” Furyk, 37, says through a mouthful of mini pretzels. “Doesn’t this make you obsolete?” Minutes later, the 2003 U.S. Open champ mock-protests when asked a follow-up. “No fair! That’s not on the list. That’s your question. Cheater!” Guilty, your honor. With the 13-time Tour winner keeping us honest, Jim Furyk will now take your questions.
Jim, my grandmother was your seventh-grade English teacher, Mrs. Zwally. What lessons from school do you still apply to your life?
— James Parsons, 25, Harrisburg, Pa.
It’s very simple. The harder you work, the more results you’ll see. My dad was a hard worker, maybe to a fault. He put a lot of pressure on himself. I saw the way he was driven, the way he prepared, so I learned that if you work hard, you can achieve what you want. You may not see the results tomorrow, but be patient, because eventually you will.
I need a good chipping tip. Any ideas?
— Dan Duncan, 33, Carlsbad, Calif.
This sounds almost too simple, but it works. A mistake most amateurs make is they take their grip, then manipulate the clubface for the shot they want to hit — open face for a flop shot, closed for a bump and run, and so on. Then when they swing, their hands want to return to square, which changes the shot. My advice is to set your body and clubhead up to the ball for the shot you want and then take your grip. That keeps your hands where you want them, so you won’t manipulate the club.
What’s the first word you’d use to describe yourself?
— Todd Landry, 41, Little Rock, Ark.
That’s easy: Driven. I think that says it all.
Where in the world would you like to go most, and what would you do?
— Lauren Freundlich, 42, Far Hills, N.J.
Sightseeing in Greece.
Jim, I live 20 minutes from Congressional. When you play the next AT&T National, would you and your wife like to stay in my guest room and let me be your chauffeur?
— Steve Trauman, 61, Vienna, Va.
(Laughs) Twenty minutes sounds way too far. And with two kids, a nanny and a dog, we’re like a traveling circus. We need lots and lots of room. But I appreciate the offer.
Can you pinpoint the moment on the way up when you realized, ‘Hey, I’m good enough to play for a living’?
— Art Mayweather, 37, Columbia, Mo.
In 1994, my first year on Tour, I was playing in Tucson. It was my second event. I was tied for the lead after three rounds, with a 31 on the back nine on Saturday, and ended up tied for seventh. That’s when I knew I belonged out here. I’ve had some friends make the Tour and it hits ’em like a ton of bricks: “S- – – ! Is my game ready for the world’s best?” I realized mine was ready, and that’s a great feeling.
What’s your favorite beer?
— Rob Hemsen, 28, White Plains, N.Y.
Yuengling Lager, from Pottsville, Pennsylvania, in eastern Pa., where I grew up. They have a brewery here in Florida, so now it’s all over Florida!
Who’s your favorite Tour player to be paired with?
— Steve Hummell, 50, Chicago, Ill.
On Sunday, Tiger, because he’s usually leading the damn tournament.
How do you keep a bad shot from ruining your whole round?
— Brandon Johnson, 38, Jacksonville, Fla.
Think of it as a challenge. If you hit it OB or hit a bad shot, say, “Can I make par or bogey?” I was playing in South Africa at the Million Dollar Challenge in the late ’90s. I was dead last. On the first hole, I hit a bad pull into the bush and had to re-tee, so I’m hitting three off the tee. I said, “Let’s do no worse than double,” which I did. That gave me the jump-start I needed, and I ended up shooting a 64.
Which do you cherish more: reaching No. 2 in the world or winning the U.S. Open?
— Michael Montisano, 28, Dallas, Texas
Winning the Open. Making it to No. 2 is nice, but I play to win majors. That’s the ultimate goal. No one will remember what I was ranked in 25 years, but they’ll remember if I win a few U.S. Opens.
I’m a chef. What is your favorite meal, in case you ever come to my restaurant?
— Anthony Franco, 54, Palm Beach, Fla.
To really pig out, Mexican: fresh guac, enchiladas, a little chile colorado, fresh tortillas and lots of chips and salsa. The salsa is key!
What goes through your mind when you stand over a putt, just before you hit it?
— Samuel Lee, 38, Brooklyn, N.Y.
I think about the correct speed, and I forget everything else. When I stand over a putt, I’ve already read it, and I’ve already aimed. Now the only thing left is to hit it solid at the correct speed, because it can’t go in unless it’s the right speed. Typically, you don’t three-putt because you hit it six feet left or right; it’s because you left it six feet short or six feet long.
If 150 yards was the maximum distance a hole could be, how many majors would you have won?
— Ruby Stathas, 32, Santa Fe, N.M.
More than one. I’ve never cracked the top 100 in driving distance, but it hasn’t hurt me that much in majors. Power is more important in non-majors. Very few U.S. Opens, PGAs or British Opens are won because of length, apart from St. Andrews and Bethpage. Most majors are about getting the ball in play, working the ball left and right, and putting.
What’s your favorite rock band?
— Miles Laurance, 38, Milwaukee, Wis.
Hootie and the Blowfish. I like their music a lot.
Who’s in your dream foursome?
— Ajay Shekhar, 42, Medway, Mass.
Well, if I was in a dream, I wouldn’t be playing golf. I’d be taking in a Steelers game. But I’d say Nelson Mandela, who I met at the Presidents Cup. Michael Jordan, too. And our 41st president (George H.W. Bush) was pretty cool. Maybe not the most exciting collection of guys, but it’s my collection.
How do you know whether to go for a tucked pin on a par 3?
— Scott Dunbar, 39, Ocean City, Md.
You weigh risk and reward. Ask yourself, “What’s my percentage of pulling off this shot?” If you’ve got a 3-iron over water and the pin’s tucked, your percentages aren’t as good. If it’s an 8-iron, you can be more aggressive. Also, the confidence you have in club selection is a huge factor. If you’re between a 6- and 7-iron, that indecision is a big red flag. But sometimes you walk up and say, “It’s a perfect 6 for me!” Unless I’m trailing and I need to make something happen, I ask myself, “What’s the percentage play?” It’s usually smarter to play for the fat of the green than to go pin-hunting with a 3-iron.
I started using your putting routine, where you stand over the ball, step out of it, and restart. I was putting great, but my friends made fun of me. Has anyone ever teased you about it?
— Michael Buchanan, 44, Fredonia, NY
No. If I let things like that bother me, I never would have made the Tour with my swing. Mike, my advice is to get in their pocket. That will shut them up fast.
What cartoon character reminds you of yourself?
— Vining Wolff, 36, Strathmore, Alberta, Canada
(Laughs) Well, I liked Tom and Jerry as a kid, and Tom was competitive, which I like. But he never won. So I’ll go with Superman, for obvious reasons.
What’s the craziest item of clothing you own?
— Jim Macleod, 44, Kansas City, Mo.
A T-shirt that I got at a Pittsburgh Steelers game. I can’t say in the magazine what it says, but it’s not real fond of Cleveland or Baltimore.
What’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen on a golf course?
— Mark Lewis, 41, Seattle, Wash.
Back-to-back aces at the CVS. I was standing on the tee with Scott McCarron and Lee Janzen, my partner. My partner made it first, then McCarron topped him the next shot. It was amazing!
Jim, you’re a secret agent; who would be your femme fatale, and no fair saying your wife?
— Joe Geary, 59, Coral Gables, Fla.
You’re trying to get me in trouble, aren’t you? I’ll go with Jessica Alba.
Jim, wouldn’t it be fun if the crowd cheered like crazy at golf tournaments the way they do at football games?
— Kevin McCarthy, 24, West Hartford, Conn.
Jim, I need a slice cure. Any help?
— Josh Burnsen, 20, Iowa City, Iowa
Sure. Don’t aim left. That just makes you slice more. Try this on the practice tee. First, take your normal stance, but flare your right foot so that the toes are pointing in the exact opposite direction of the target. This makes you make a good turn going back, and it limits your turn on the downswing, so you have to release the club coming through.
How do you hit those cool little chips that bounce twice and then bite hard?
— Craig Musch, 35, Toledo, Ohio
To spin those 20- to 50-yard shots, you need the right equipment. First, you need a soft ball. I play Srixon’s Z-URC, the ball that spins the most in the Srixon line. Also, you need a good wedge, preferably new, with sharp grooves. My grooves are milled. Milled grooves will spin more because they’re sharper. You don’t need to pick the club up and hit steeply down. When you do that, you usually come from the outside, hooding the club, which delofts it and makes it hard to spin. You need a very shallow swing angle that comes from the inside, and you need to take a shallow divot. Watch the pros — you’ll see that they just clip the grass. And the more clubhead speed you generate, the more spin you get. You can get away with more clubhead speed the more loft you have. Try opening your 60-degree wedge to about 65 degrees, use a shallow path that just clips the grass, and take a short swing with lots of clubhead speed to really make it dance!
What’s the secret to reading greens?
— Jack Davis, 61, Naples, Fla.
You’re looking for the slope, for where the high spots are. One trick is to use your imagination: Pretend that the green is a tabletop, and if you spill water on it, which way will the water run? Also, most everyday players only get a couple feet behind their ball to read putts. But I like to get a good 20 feet behind the ball, even for a 10-footer, to get a wider angle and to see the slope better. As for the grain, look for the shininess of the grass. Stand in the middle of the green and you’ll notice that the grass is shiny going one way and dull the other way. The grass that is growing in the shiny direction will always be quicker.