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Ryder Cup will fuel Furyk's Presidents Cup plans

Ryder Cup Jim Furyk, Mike Weir - The Canadian Press

In two weeks, Jim Furyk will try to help the American team do something it hasn’t accomplished in 30 years: win the Ryder Cup on European soil. A year from now, he’ll attempt to keep a 26-year U.S. record streak intact by winning the Presidents Cup in Montreal.

Those are no easy tasks for Furyk, who made his first Ryder Cup appearance in 1997 and played in the Presidents Cup for the first time a year later. He’ll serve as a captain’s assistant to Zach Johnson when the Americans take on the Europeans in Rome starting Sept. 25, and then take over as captain for next September’s event against the International Team.

The U.S. side has only lost one Presidents Cup, that coming in 1998.

Both championships have grown considerably in size and importance over the course of Furyk’s involvement, to the point where some players, notable Rory McIlroy, have called them the greatest events in golf.

“In my early days, the captain had one assistant. Now we have four or five, depending on what event it is,” said Furyk, who was in Montreal this week to help pump up next year’s Presidents Cup.

The event will be played at Royal Montreal Golf Club, the same place that it was in 2007 when Furyk helped the U.S. to a four-point win. He’ll face off against Canadian icon Mike Weir who will captain the International Team.

Furyk will have four vice-captains to assist him next year but that’s really just a small change to what has become a massive undertaking.

The size of the event has exploded, with a huge build-out of stands and private boxes ready to take over Royal Montreal. Although it’s still a year off, construction will start at the end of this month. It’s expected that 30,000 fans a day will come to cheer on their side with a worldwide audience watching on television.

Technology has also become a big part of the operation. Both teams have employed analytics teams to give details on everything from player selection to pairings to course strategy.

The International’s experts were staking out Royal Montreal’s Blue Course last week, getting detailed info on every hole. That research will continue throughout the event, round by round, even if a veteran such as Furyk isn’t diving in headfirst.

“There’s still some intuition,” he stated. “I’ve played the game for a long time, and I have my thoughts and my ideas. You ask the players who make the top six what they think about the picks. But the analytics has played a big part and every year that goes on, I get more and more used to it. It is a valuable tool and something that’s helped us out a lot.”

One of the biggest advantages Furyk will have, of course, is seeing a dozen American players compete in the Ryder Cup. While downplaying it as any major key to U.S. success, he admitted that it allows him to understand who plays well in which formats and who partners up well.

“You’re going to have a lot of carry-over from year to year,” said Furyk. “You could have anywhere from five to 10 carry over to the next team.”

This year’s Ryder Cup squad has seven players who were on the American Presidents Cup team a year earlier.

Furyk did say that being at the Ryder Cup also gives him details on more than just on-course performance.

“Not only am I there to support Zach and support the Ryder Cup team,” he said, “but it’s a feather in the cap for me to be a part of it, to see what Zach is doing, to see how it’s run. We want a lot of symmetry from year to year, so the guys who do make the team every year know what to expect.”

That means everything from what the team room looks like, to what food is served, to how the caddies and partners are treated. No stone will be left unturned in the preparations.

It also means trying to ensure the players don’t look at the U.S. domination in the event’s previous editions and get overconfident.

“What’s happened in the past has happened in the past,” said Furyk. “The 12 guys I bring in there, that’s a brand new team. I don’t want them to go in there thinking they’re the team that’s being chased. I want them doing the chasing, I want them applying the pressure and realize it’s a brand new year.