Golf: Ryder Cup - Furyk drives full swing on rookies' road

Of the four Americans making their debut in this week's Ryder Cup, one is known mainly for his looping swing. Jim Furyk's action may not beautiful, but it is very effective and, being one of the best putters on the US Tour, he could be a major player. Andy Farrell has been watching his preparation in Valderrama.
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"Rookies?" said Colin Montgomerie. "You can't really call them rookies, can you?" Of the four men representing the United States for the first time in the Ryder Cup, two are major champions this season and another is 41 years old.

Scott Hoch, who will gladly talk to you at length about how he should have been picked for the US team before now, finally managed to qualify this time round. This year Tiger Woods claimed a Green Jacket at the US Masters in the most emphatic way possible, while at Royal Troon in July Justin Leonard produced a performance of maturity beyond his years to lift the Open's claret jug. But what of Jim Furyk?

If you know anything about Furyk, it will be concerning his golf swing. This is not a thing of beauty. Comparison for a European audience will be made with the eccentric action of Eamonn Darcy. For graphic visualisation, you need only turn to the words of David Feherty, who said Furyk's swing was "like an octopus in a phone booth".

Even Furyk was surprised quite how much a loop he possesses when he saw his swing replayed in slow motion for the first time. Not that the 27- year-old graduate of the University of Arizona cares too much what is said. You can hardly win twice in the last two years on the US Tour and not possess the mental fortitude to be concerned about aesthetics. It is not what it looks like, but how it works. Furyk's swing works rather well.

Although without a victory this year in America, Furyk is showing distinct signs of consolidating his progress by turning into a highly consistent performer in the major championships. He was fifth at the US Open, fourth at Troon and sixth at the USPGA. This was part of a sequence of nine top- 10 finishes in 10 events.

"What would be a good week for me is to do what Jim Furyk has done in '97," he said. "You can put too much pressure on yourself to try and play better than you can. I want to contribute to the team is what I have been doing all year."

That includes being one of the best putters on the US tour, up there with his team-mate Brad Faxon and Loren Roberts. This could make Furyk a significant player in the plans of his captain, Tom Kite.

He was taught to putt cross-handed by his father, Mike, a former rep for an equipment company, who has been Furyk's only teacher. "He's my eyes," Furyk said of his father's role in his coaching.

Furyk partnered Phil Mickelson and Tom Lehman on the first two days of practice and has been surprised at how much Kite has consulted his players over such matters. "Even with his captain's picks, he wanted to know our opinion. I was caught on the hop. When I said that my zero Ryder Cups was not looking good against his seven, and that I'd be happy with whatever he decided, he said that was not the answer he was looking for and wanted to know what I thought. I'm sure he has been staying up late working on his pairings."

The impression, confirmed by those who cover the American circuit, is of a nice guy who prefers to keep a low profile.