(Reuters) - Jim Furyk has approached the Ryder Cup captaincy in much the same way he has played his entire career — by sticking with what is working and doing so without any undue drama.
A thorough professional on and off the course, respected and liked by his players, Furyk is the ideal candidate to spearhead the United States’ quest to end a 25-year away losing drought in the biennial event against Europe.
Furyk came to the 2018 American captaincy having been part of the task force that was formed after the disastrous 2014 loss to Europe at Gleneagles to examine ways to restructure the process and take in more player input.
A vice-captain on the winning side in 2016, he has been on the inside the past years and has a sound knowledge of what the captain needs to do to give his side the best chance of success.
The Americans will continue the so-called “pod” system started by Paul Azinger in 2008, with the 12 players expected to be divided into three four-man groups, forming mini teams.
The pods will practise together and in all likelihood partner each other once the gun goes off.
“The U.S. have apparently righted the ship so they want to continue with the same type of modified pod system that all successful teams use,” Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo told Reuters.
“Furyk to some degree has to continue with the same blueprint. It would be crazy to partner people if they don’t practise or prepare together.”
Furyk, 48, arrives in the job with a pedigree that includes a U.S. Open title, 16 other PGA Tour victories and nine Ryder Cup appearances.
Known for his unorthodox and unique self-taught swing — described by former Ryder Cup player turned commentator David Feherty as resembling an “octopus falling out of a tree” — Furyk found a formula that worked early in his career and stuck with it.
Furyk’s university coach said he could not wait to change the player’s swing. He did not succeed, and $68 million in career prize money later, Furyk is happy he followed his own path.
“That is Jim Furyk in a nutshell,” Nobilo said. “Concentrate only on what is necessary and don’t change what works. Simple is necessary but at the same time very difficult to achieve.”
Furyk has left little to chance, surrounding himself with a support group that includes a doctor charged with monitoring the health and recovery of the team.
Playing 36 holes two straight days in usually a sleep-deprived state is not the ideal formula for peak performance, and the physical and mental fatigue can show up late in matches when focus and concentration is most needed.
Nobilo observed the importance of the 18th hole, recalling that it was not kind to the Americans when he lost at Medinah in 2012.
“The U.S. had nine matches come to the 18th hole 1-down or even and lost every one of them,” he said.
“In 2014 the U.S. had four matches 1-up on the 18th tee that were all turned into halves.”
But after hiring a doctor, the Americans turned the tables in 2016, leading five matches 1-up going to the 18th hole and winning them all.
Coincidence perhaps, but try telling that to the American team.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina