Furyk set to beat Cou­ples to Ry­der Cup cap­taincy

Amer­i­can to put play­ing am­bi­tions on hold for role Se­lec­tion linked to his po­si­tion on US ‘Task Force’

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - SPORT - GOLF COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Jim Furyk is ex­pected to be an­nounced as the US Ry­der Cup cap­tain in the next week, as the Stars and Stripes stick to the sys­tem which brought their second vic­tory this cen­tury at Hazel­tine last year.

It is un­der­stood that the choice of the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee – which in­cluded Tiger Woods, Phil Mick­el­son and last year’s win­ning cap­tain, Davis Love – had come down to ei­ther Furyk or Fred Cou­ples for next year’s re­newal at Le Golf Na­tional, just out­side Paris.

It was Furyk’s in­volve­ment both as an as­sis­tant to Love and as a mem­ber of the fa­mous “Task Force” set up af­ter the 2014 de­feat, Amer­ica’s third in a row, that swayed the de­ci­sion. The 46-year-old’s enthusiasm for the role is also likely to have been a fac­tor.

De­spite still be­ing in the world’s top 50, at 37th in the rank­ings, and de­spite hav­ing fin­ished second in last year’s US Open and hav­ing shot a 58, the low­est round ever on the PGA Tour, as re­cently as Au­gust, Furyk let it be known he would be will­ing to put his am­bi­tions to play in a 10th match on hold if they wanted him to suc­ceed Love.

“That com­mit­tee is in place for a rea­son,” Furyk said last month. “If they de­cide 2018, 2020, 2022, when­ever, that I’m the right per­son, I would love to have that job.” There and then, Furyk be­came the over­whelm­ing favourite to be­come Thomas Bjorn’s coun­ter­part. The 2003 US Open cham­pion plainly rep­re­sents the con­ti­nu­ity the Task Force was so keen to fos­ter. In­deed, Furyk was in­flu­en­tial in draw­ing up the blue­print and in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of glory in Min­nesota he spoke elo­quently about the ne­ces­sity for a lasting legacy. Furyk was a mem­ber of the Paul Azinger’s vic­to­ri­ous 2008 team, but then wit­nessed all the good work in Ken­tucky be­ing un­done.

“We [the Task Force] had a goal for the next five to 10 Ry­der Cups. I’ve said all along that if we won this week that’s great, but let’s not raise the flag and say, ‘This is the great­est thing ever,’” Furyk said. “And if we lose let’s not say, ‘Oh s––––, this doesn’t work.’ It’s a longterm plan.”

In truth, the pop­u­lar Penn­syl­va­nian was look­ing to fu­ture as soon as the US wrapped up their record 17-11 tri­umph. “It re­ally helped to be an as­sis­tant for Davis, who has done it twice, the best leader,” Furyk said. “Any time you can do this, you’re learn­ing. You’re go­ing to make some mis­takes, you’re go­ing to do some things right. We did a lot of good things that week. We made some mis­takes, and we’ll learn from them and keep build­ing on the sys­tem.”

Some scep­tics might look at Furyk’s play­ing record and won­der if this is a wise ap­point­ment. He has been in nine teams but only two win­ning ones and, to­gether with Mick­el­son, holds the US record for most matches lost – 20.

How­ever, there can be no deny­ing his pas­sion for the event and this has best been summed up by his re­ac­tion in de­feat. Never was the pain more keenly felt than in Chicago five years ago, when he had been one of the prin­ci­pal vil­lains in the in­fa­mous ‘Melt­down at Me­d­i­nah’, as the US con­ceded a 10-4 ad­van­tage to lose 14½-13½.

Then he sat to­gether with his 11 team­mates and cap­tain Love at the post­match press con­fer­ence and stared out a jour­nal­ist who had asked what had hurt more – his fail­ure when lead­ing in the US Open or his in­abil­ity to see off Ser­gio Gar­cía when one up with two to play? Half an hour ear­lier he had sunk to his haunches af­ter watch­ing a six­footer lip out for par. Two Furyk bo­geys had sud­denly given the Europe mir­a­cle sub­stance.

“This is the low point,” Furyk told his in­quisi­tor, dead eyes glar­ing. “And I would gather that you prob­a­bly haven’t been on a team to ask that.”

Re­gard­less of his re­peated Ry­der Cup downs, Furyk’s ap­petite for the bi­en­nial dust-up can­not be ques­tioned. “I’m very proud to rep­re­sent my coun­try and when I look back on my ca­reer and the things I’ve done, mak­ing nine teams means an aw­ful lot,” Furyk said. “You have to be con­sis­tent and to be able to qual­ify by right for eight of them, to be in the mix that of­ten, I’m proud of that. I don’t think you ever need mo­ti­va­tion to play in the Ry­der Cup. It is my favourite event.”

The low road: Jim Furyk cel­e­brates his 58, the record round for a PGA Tour event

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