The Forecaddie walked a few holes with Jim Furyk and David Duval at TPC Louisiana ahead of the Zurich Classic, where the two have teamed up at a combined 93 years of age.
Furyk is still living under par these days while juggling duties as 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain. He finished T-26 at the Valero Texas Open last week and held a share of the lead early Thursday morning at 5 under alongside Duval.
Furyk and Duval go way back. Furyk guesses they’ve played more than 100 rounds together throughout their careers. He’s hoping to have Duval’s back on the course this week, like Duval had his at Hazeltine during the 2016 Ryder Cup.
With the U.S. Team on the wrong end of a 2-8 stretch against the Europeans entering the week, there had been plenty of criticism and blaming to go around. Were the captains putting the players in good position? Did the players deserve the majority of blame for failing to execute?
It all came to a bit of a head when Brandel Chamblee and Duval had a wildly heated argument live on Golf Channel the week of the 2016 Ryder Cup. In a nutshell, Chamblee placed a lot of blame on the players rather than the captains. Duval disagreed. It got personal, with Duval sarcastically telling Chamblee at one point, “I know you’re never wrong. I understand that.”
Some of the players saw it live, and they all watched the replay from the team room later that night. Someone had arranged for Duval, who played on two Ryder Cup teams, to enter the team room after the segment aired, and Furyk was there when he entered to huge applause.
“I think it was great for the team,” Furyk said. “We had the idea that we’re all kind of part of the Ryder Cup family. You play on a Ryder Cup team, you’ve been involved with it. You understand what those 12 individuals are going through on this course and you can relate. David is a part of that family. He understands. This is his job, his livelihood, to be on TV, but he definitely took an interest in what we were doing and stuck up for those 12 players and what was going on in that team room and the leadership of it. I think he was also sticking up for himself a little bit, because some of those remarks were probably negative towards him as well as he was one of our team leaders when he played. I just think it’s uplifting. Everyone likes someone to stand up and cheer for them, and when he walked in the room he got a little bit of that as well. Guys were anxious to see him.”
In a time where contrived debate rules sports talk television, this argument went viral for its genuineness. And Furyk tells The Man Out Front he’s grateful his Zurich Classic partner had their back.
“No matter what is said, no matter what is written, eventually, whether we’re reading it or watching television, eventually it comes around and we kind of hear everyone’s opinion,” Furyk said. “That’s obviously what the writers are out there for and that’s what the guys on TV are there for. They’re not there to be dull. They’re hired to give an opinion on what they see. Everyone is out there trying to do a job, but I think the folks in that room really appreciated what David said and did and I think he’s heard a lot of positives from those guys.”
Don’t expect Furyk to provide any bulletin board material for the Europeans over the next five months. He’s conscious about what is said, one of the countless responsibilities that falls under his umbrella.
Furyk traveled to New York City to meet with Ralph Lauren last fall and the team uniforms have been done for months. His wife, Tabitha, is going to Paris next week to tighten up hotel arrangements and spacing issues. Furyk is helping design the team room on site at Le Golf National and even how the hotel rooms are arranged for when his players arrive. For this captain, it seems no detail is too small to act on.
“Recently been talking a lot about food,” Furyk said. “Menu is important. I’ve always been somewhat of a healthy eater and been noticing more and more at these President and Ryder Cups, these young guys coming up really watch what they eat, how they eat. It’s such a grueling week mentally and physically, I think the way they fuel their bodies is important and they’ve taken a huge stand compared to what we did 20 years ago.”
Furyk did confirm he won’t physically cook the meals, and he’s heading to Paris again the week before the British Open to check on logistics and play Le Golf National to get a feel for the course.
The U.S. team built momentum at Hazeltine, where Furyk served as a vice captain, but they’re still just 3-7 against the Europeans over the last 20 years. And Furyk is looking at this as a huge opportunity to really turn the tables.
“We took that first step at Hazeltine and now we need to build on that. It’s kind of a long-term project,” Furyk said.
TMOF can’t wait to see how phase one plays out in Paris, where the Americans are looking to snap a 25-year winless streak on European soil.
“It’s come to my attention we haven’t won (in Europe) in 25 years,” Furyk said. “Been told that a lot of times. I’m pretty good at math and in order to have a winning record you’re eventually gonna have to win on the road, right? You win all your home matches, you’re still only 5-5 over 20 years, we’re gonna have to turn that tide around. It’s gonna be tough.”