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Trying Harder at Number Two

Jim Furyk has climbed the world golf rankings to take control of the number two spot
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Cuba, May/June 2007

(continued from page 2)

"I was climbing the mountain and fell straight to the bottom," says Furyk, who had injured his right wrist in 2000, horsing around after a Steelers-Ravens NFL football game, and had also suffered a bout of vertigo. "My left wrist broke down after years of golf, a real acute injury. I was out of golf for about five months. Then I tried to do everything in four months that I normally would try to do in 10. When I came out in 2005 I was a lot healthier, both physically and mentally, went about my business the way I should have and had some pretty good results."

He also hasn't done too badly off the course. Like Woods, who has done commercials for cars and watches and credit cards and golf equipment, Furyk has earned millions a year in endorsement money. While Woods's promotional work has already netted him tens of millions of dollars and spread his name around the globe, would it surprise you that Furyk's endorsement money from club and ball maker Srixon will bring him tens of millions of dollars over the course of his contract?

"He's a dream client," says Andrew Witlieb, his agent at Goal Marketing in New York. "He's extremely marketable, extremely creditable. He has terrific relationships with all of the companies he's involved in: Exelon, Johnnie Walker Collection, Chiliwear, Marquis Jet. Jim was Marquis Jet's first customer when it started in 2001. It's grown to where Jim is Marquis Jet's worldwide spokesperson. He does the most outings for Exelon [an energy company]. They bring in their best customers and Jim plays a few holes with each of them, then there will be a cocktail party or dinner where Jim will talk with them."

Right now, life is pretty sweet for Furyk. He travels by private jet with Tabitha and their children, daughter Caleigh and son Tanner. When he is home in Ponte Vedra, Florida, he practices hard at the TPC at Sawgrass, then spends time with the children at home. His favorite thing to do is watching an NFL doubleheader on Sunday. "Sitting in the media room at home watching football games is great, and hopefully my kids would like to do that with me one day. But right now it's hard to keep them still. I get a series or two out of them, that's about it. I spend so much time outdoors I don't mind spending time indoors. Most people, when they see a bright sunny day, want to be outside. But business is outside, so I am not opposed to being inside."

Some of his outdoor work now includes golf course design. He has courses in various stages of development in Wilmington, Delaware, Palm Coast, Florida, and Ocean City, Maryland. He has offers to design courses in Dubai, South Korea and China. Each fall, he, his father and his agent consider up to 200 proposals for endorsement and business opportunities. Some of those opportunities Furyk shares with his father, who has his own deal with the cigar company Davidoff and its Zino brand. You don't have to be Tiger Woods to have the world at your doorstep. You just have to be darn good.

Furyk has built a life and a career out of a loopy swing and a cross-handed putting stroke that he only makes after an exasperatingly lengthy pre-shot routine. He will take a couple of practice strokes, address the ball, then back off and look at the line again. It can drive you batty, but only if you are watching it. The cross-handed putting stroke came from suggestions made to his father by Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, when he met them at a charity pro-am. The two legends said they wished they had learned to putt cross-handed early on, because they felt it was a more consistent stroke. Mike Furyk imparted this wisdom to his son, and a new, more consistent putting stroke was born.

Jim and Mike aren't about to change his swing or his putting stroke anytime soon. "You could go back not that many years, you could go down a practice tee, and the best players in the world all had their own swing," says Mike. "Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Ray Floyd. If they all had been wearing white shirts and khaki slacks, it wouldn't have been hard to pick out who's who. Now we have all these robots coming out of golf academies who can swing perfectly, but none of them can play golf. I don't mean the guys on Tour. I'm talking about all these kids at golf academies who hit balls five times a week, hit a perfect 2 iron and can't get the ball in the hole. That's what Jim has always been able to do, get the ball in the hole."

So, when you are talking about the Big Four, or the Big Five, don't forget to talk about Jim. His loop has no downside. He's ridden it all the way to the top.

Jeff Williams is a Cigar Aficionado contributing editor.

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