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’
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