Hawaii courses suit Funk to a tee
LIFE after 50 for Fred Funk means having your dance card filled on two tours.
One weekend he's swinging with the youngsters of the PGA. The next he's making the scene with his fellow senior citizens on the Champions Tour. If it gets any better than this, Funk might have to sit out a weekend just to catch his breath.
The Maryland native is in the middle of his own grand slam of golf Hawaiian style. The first two weeks were spent on Maui and Oahu showing he can handle himself with the very best at the Mercedes-Benz Championship -- where he finished tied for 25th on a monster of a golf course. This week he's fourth on the Sony Open in Hawaii depth chart after 36 holes with a good chance to win.
Not bad for a golfer who didn't capture his first event until 10 years after earning his first PGA Tour card in 1982. Over the last 15 years, he's won eight times on the PGA and twice on the senior circuit, where in two weeks he will defend his 2007 Turtle Bay Championship title. And oh, by the way, next week he goes to the Big Island to take part in the MasterCard Championship, his second winners-only tournament in three weeks.
"That was a goal last year (playing all four weeks in Hawaii) and I didn't make it," Funk said. "I knew I was going to Kapalua and play what I call the Hawaiian Slam. It's pretty cool. I'd like to start the year off like that all the time.
"I'm actually playing better now than I was last year at this time. I'm looking forward to playing. Regardless of what happens this week, it's not really a barometer. I just feel like there's a lot of good things happening."
Nobody's going to argue that point. His 6-under 64 yesterday was the best second round of the bunch from the oldest guy in the field. The 51-year-old even proved that not being long off the tee doesn't mean a thing at Waialae. He ended his second round with an eagle at the par-5 ninth.
"Today I was knocking the flag down," Funk said. "Basically I had a birdie putt on every hole on that side and didn't make one until 18, which was my ninth hole. Finishing with an eagle on nine was nice, and I just played super solid. Only missed one green, and that was on the fringe on the first hole."
THERE'S NO DOUBT this course suits Funk just fine. It's only 7,000 yards long and has two of the easiest par 5s this side of the Mississippi. He enters today's third round four shots off the torrid pace of K.J. Choi. It's unlikely Choi can keep at it for another 36 holes, giving anyone within five shots of the lead a chance to pick up the trophy tomorrow.
For Funk, it's important to get off to a good start on three courses that suit his game perfectly. One of his goals is to win $2 million on both tours, something that will be easier to accomplish in his 15 to 17 scheduled appearances on the PGA. He's playing 13 times on the Champions Tour, which doesn't leave much time for anything else.
"I'm basically cherry-picking a lot more, trying to pick courses that are more suited for my game or where I've got a good history," Funk said. I've never really done that. Actually, when I went through the schedule, it was actually pretty hard to pick 15 events that were good for my game."
Waialae was not one of the difficult choices. And if he keeps winning with the younger crowd, the old folks are just going to have to wait awhile before he swings with them full-time.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org