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November 1, 2019

On the Range with a Ryder Cup Captain

2018 U.S. Captain Jim Furyk Discusses His Practice & Preparation Habits

By: Garrett Johnston

Jim Furyk has been on golf’s main stage for nearly 30 years. His consistency has been amazing over the years as he camped himself in the world’s top 10 from 1999 to 2016. Though he hasn’t won on tour since taking the 2015 RBC Heritage in a playoff, the 49-year-old did push Rory McIlroy down the stretch at the 2019 Players Championship, finishing second by only one shot.

How many Ryder Cup captains almost beat the other team’s best player in a big event the year after their captaincy? Pretty impressive stuff.

On the range at last year’s Greenbrier Classic, we noticed Furyk place a 15-foot string tightly along the ground from his hitting area, extending out toward the target.

That’s where we begin with the 2003 U.S. Open champ.

GRM: How helpful is that string for your range sessions?

Furyk: I like the string a little bit better than an alignment stick. I’ll use an aiming stick once in a while just for my feet. The string is about 15-feet long. It just gives me a little bit more of a visual down the target line. It’s not like you’re putting and your eyes are right over your target line. You’ve got a driver in your hands and you’re well inside the line.

So it just gives me a good feel for the target line, almost like angle of attack for my swing plane. If I’m cutting the ball, I’m going to feel like I’m swinging across that line a little bit or if I’m hitting it straight, then I felt my club down the line.

It gives me a really good reference of ball position and my alignment. That string, it’s not like I invented it. I just copied it from seeing other guys who do it out here on tour because I really like the idea.

GRM: What other drills help you in practice?

JF: I’m a really big proponent of, when I hit really wild and crazy golf shots as we all do, it’s not because my golf swing is broken or that I’ve had a total mechanical breakdown. It’s usually a mental breakdown or a “I’ve done something wrong before I’ve even taken the club back” issue. So I’ve got to make an adjustment or alteration. So that’s what causes me to make a poor golf swing if that makes sense.

So I really work hard on everything about my setup: my alignment, ball position, posture, setup, grip, and kind of get back to those fundamentals.

On the putting green, I’ve got one of those big putting mirrors down and what I’m working on now is my eye line. It tends to get out over the ball. Most pros are out over the ball or slightly inside their target line. My bad habit is getting outside the line, which is not good.

I’m also looking a lot at my shoulder angle, and it has a lot to do with my posture and my ball position, they have a lot to do with both of those things. So really it’s about getting into a consistent setup position time and time again, so that when I get out on the golf course, that setup position is very natural. If I can line up really well where I want to go, then it will help me hit solid putts and get the right speed more easily. And it’s the same for amateurs. If you’re not lining up well, it’s not pretty.

GRM: Speaking of us amateurs, what are some positive thoughts we should take to the course as we leave the range?

JF: We could write a book on that to be honest with you (laughs). A couple of my initial thoughts would be that most people are in a rush to get to the first tee. They pull up a little late coming from work, they run to the practice tee, hit five drivers, they run to the first tee, they’re moving quick.

One of my last thoughts is making sure I’ve given myself plenty of time and “I want to stroll to the first tee.” When I’m hitting balls on the range, I want to set my rhythm and pace of my swing for the day. So I want my tempo, rhythm and pace of my swing for the morning to not feel rushed to late. But when you are running late, traffic is bad, whatever it may be, I try to just shorten my practice schedule and not try to rip off 40 balls as quickly as I can. If I have to cut it down for 20 or 30 balls, then that’s fine. That what amateurs should do too.

GRM: Is there an ideal number of balls you like to hit on the range?

JF: I’m not sure; it’s kind of a feel thing. I’m sure it’s close to the same number everyday, but I’ve never counted. I feel like Justin Rose has X amount of balls for each club. Sean Foley, puts the balls out in a nice, neat pattern for him. I think that weekend golfers get so much stuff put in their head before they to the first tee. Before that, they get on the practice tee and they are thinking way too much.

Here’s what you (tell your students): Find maybe one setup key, one swing thought and take this to the course. If you’re thinking about a million things before you hit, thinking about four swing thoughts, you’re in trouble.

I usually have one thing in my setup on my mind, and usually one swing thought to trigger or key every swing. It may change throughout the day, but for the most part you want to have one thought on your mind.