TURTLE BAY CHAMPIONSHIP
PGA Tour veteran Fred Funk's last two wins have come on the Champions Tour.
Runaway win for Funk
The PGA Tour regular cruises over the competition at the Turtle Bay Championship
Fred Funk won't retire from the PGA Tour just yet, but he'll have a nice place to come home to once he does.
The Champions Tour has provided Funk his last two wins as he sailed to an easy victory in yesterday's $1.6 million Turtle Bay Championship with a final-round 64 to post a record-setting 23-under 193.
Tom Kite did his best to put some pressure on Funk, but he finished in a distant tie for second for the second week in a row after going double bogey, bogey on the last two holes. He lost to Hale Irwin at the MasterCard Championship by five strokes and was 11 shots off the pace yesterday, as were defending champion Loren Roberts (66), Tom Purtzer (66), Denis Watson (68) and Kiyoshi Murota (72).
Funk's 8-under finish yesterday led to several broken records, including the largest margin of victory in a 54-hole Champions Tour event. He also shattered the tournament record set by Roberts last year and the 195 finish by Jim Colbert in 1991 and Bob Murphy in 1994 when this tournament was a par-70 and was held at Kaanapali, Maui.
Funk returns to the PGA Tour this week at the FBR Open in Phoenix. He will go from a nice quiet setting like Turtle Bay to a course that often draws more than 100,000 fans who like to be seen and heard. Funk says he's looking forward to returning to the regular tour just the same.
The 50-year-old has won the last two full-field events on the Champions Tour dating back to the 2006 AT&T Championship. He said yesterday that he plans to play in 27 PGA Tour tournaments and perhaps three more with the seniors in the coming campaign. Considering how Funk has fared in his last two, the old guys won't mind if he stays out on the regular tour just a little longer.
"I got off to the dream start and that was what I wanted," Funk said, who shot 30 on the front nine. "(Saturday) night I found something on my swing. About 5 minutes before dark and I was almost out of balls I just made a little setup change and that was all I'd been working on.
"I widened my stance, setup wise, the same way I did with my putting, and all of a sudden I was striking it and not pulling it left. That's what I've been struggling with, the smother pull. So I was real excited when I left the range and I didn't sleep at all last night because I didn't want to sleep, thinking it wouldn't be here today."
But it was and then some as Funk went from averaging 256 yards on his drives in the opening round on Friday to 285.5 yards yesterday in similar conditions. He was first in putting with an average of 1.533 strokes a green with a total of 76 putts for the week, and third in greens in regulation at 85.7 percent.
Fred Funk says a wider stance has helped him get off to such a good start this season.
Funk played the opening nine holes in 13 under and was 10 under on the back nine. He didn't have a bogey for the entire round and never felt seriously threatened, even by Kite, who had cut the lead to six shots early on the back side.
"Obviously shooting 30 on the front was the start I was looking for," Funk said. "Probably the biggest break was after I hit a poor second shot on seven, I chipped in for birdie from 30 feet. That was a potential 6 if that second shot comes up a little short to a 3. That was all she wrote after I birdied the next two.
"There was another chance on 11 for a two-shot swing after Kite birdied 10, but it ended up not being a swing. I messed up 12 and 13 as well, so there was a little turn of the tide, probably nobody even thought about because of the lead I had, but it could have shrunk down to about four shots with four or five holes to go and that would have been totally different."
That was the lead he had at the 1998 Kemper Open that got away from him down the stretch, an event Stuart Appleby eventually won with Funk finishing third. He had never won an event by more than two shots prior to yesterday, so he was pleased with the results and said he would definitely be back next year to defend, no matter what his schedule is like on the PGA Tour.
"I had a four-shot lead at the old Kemper Open, which was my hometown event, and I was down by two shots in only four holes," Funk said. "I think I had four or five wins before that, and in all of those events, I held the lead at the end of the third round and I won. That was the first one I didn't and it hurt -- a lot."
In Funk's two senior circuit wins, he has gone wire-to-wire in both and believes this will give him confidence as he returns to the regular tour this week.
"My schedule is set and I'm not going to vary that," Funk said. "There will always be these special tournaments on the Champions Tour and I was going to come back here regardless because of where it is on the schedule. This will be a constant on my schedule as long as we're playing this golf course."
Funk wasn't the only golfer to shoot well yesterday. With the wind and rain dodging Turtle Bay for most of the week, the first full-field event on the Champions Tour turned into a shootout for most of the 78 men in the field. There were 38 golfers in the 60s today with 55 shooting 71 or better. The scoring average was the best all week at 70.192.
Still, as well as everyone played, nobody had a 54-hole run better than Funk's.
"I knew I had it in me, I just didn't think I would have it in me this week," Funk said. "I wanted to keep the pedal to the metal. I really liked what Hale said last week (at the MasterCard Championship); play like you're behind. I didn't really care what anybody else was doing. I just wanted to go out there, keep plugging along and set up 18 birdies in my mind."