Avenel replay: Funk folds, Appleby wins 3rd-round leader opens door for one-shot win

June 08, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

POTOMAC -- The final round of the Kemper Open turned into bridesmaid revisited yesterday at the TPC at Avenel. The ghosts who have swallowed up a number of past third-round leaders made Fred Funk their latest victim.

What has happened to other journeyman players with lesser credentials in recent years happened to the former University of Maryland coach. And what has happened to other up-and-coming players happened to Stuart Appleby.

Funk not only opened the door for Appleby over the first five holes, but he gave him the keys to the house, as well. But if Funk fell out of contention early, Appleby didn't secure his second PGA Tour victory until his approach shot to the last hole. Holding a one-stroke lead over Scott Hoch going into the final hole after missing a short birdie putt, Appleby drew a 3-iron into the wind and rain from 200 yards away. The ball stopped 15 feet from the cup, and Appleby two-putted to preserve the victory.

"It's a scenario most players probably see, having to gut it out to win the tournament," said Appleby, who had led by as many as four shots midway through the round. "Very rarely do you get to coast home with three or four holes to play. It's very satisfying doing what I did."

It gave the 27-year-old Australian a round of 1-over-par 72, a four-round total of 10-under-par 274 and a first-place check for $360,000. Hoch climbed into second place with a 1-under-par 70 and Funk finished in a five-way tie for third at 6-under-par 278 after a 6-over-par 77.

"I couldn't have had a nightmare as bad as that start," said Funk, 41, who took home a $90,200 consolation prize. "I don't know what happened. If you had told me before that I would have

finished third at the Kemper Open, I would have taken it. But this is disappointing."

Funk had taken himself out of contention by playing those five holes in 6-over par. It was as painful as watching Mark Wiebe miss short par putts on the last two holes a year ago to lose to Justin Leonard at Avenel or Bobby Wadkins hitting a tree and making a costly double-bogey in 1994.

"What happened today was nerves," said Funk, who has won four times in his 10-year career and was trying to go wire-to-wire for the second time. "I wanted it too much. I felt fine on the range, but I think it got to me. I didn't rise to the occasion. When I've had the lead before, I've always won. It would have been easier doing it somewhere else."

Funk self-destructed quickly. He three-putted from 25 feet for bogey on the par-4 first hole to fall into a tie with Appleby and Chris DiMarco, who would fall apart with a 79. Funk then bogeyed the par-3 third hole after sailing his tee shot over the green to lose the lead for the first time since taking it during the opening round Thursday.

But it was the par-4 fourth hole that caused much of the damage. Funk hooked his tee shot into the water hazard that guards the left side of the fairway. He dropped his ball only 30 yards in front of the tee, misclubbed badly on his next shot and LTC wound up 15 feet short of the cup on his approach.

"One terrible golf shot," Funk said of his tee shot on the fourth hole. "It was horrible. I knew I was in trouble. Then I bogeyed the fifth hole and I was just flabbergasted. I shot 77, but it could have been 90. I was proud of the way I hung in there. I talked with my wife and she told me to settle down. I didn't want to waste a week's work."

Funk, who had laser eye surgery Tuesday, missed an opportunity to put some heat on Appleby by narrowly missing potential birdie putts on the next four holes. It appeared that Appleby was feeling some pressure, and bogeys at the par-3 ninth and par-4 12th holes cut his lead to one.

Hoch, whose own history includes missing a 2 1/2 -foot putt in sudden death to hand the 1989 Masters to Nick Faldo, would have been the beneficiary of Appleby's shakiness. But even though he closed the deficit to a shot with a birdie at 18, Hoch three-putted twice for bogey.

"I had so many chances," said Hoch, whose second-place check for $216,000 made him the tournament's all-time money winner with over $553,000 in 18 trips. "I left a lot of shots out there."

As usually happens when you win golf tournaments, Appleby didn't.

He made a terrific save on the par-4 seventh after hitting into trees to the right of the fairway on his drive, and across the fairway into the left rough on his second shot. After Hoch bogeyed the par-4 14th, Appleby took a three-shot lead by making an 18-footer for birdie at the same hole.

With a 25-mph wind whipping in from the north, and rain starting to pelt the course, Appleby faltered briefly when he flew a 6-iron over the green at the par-4 15th and bogeyed. He missed a chance to put it away with a five-footer for birdie on the par-3 17th.

"I felt great on the putt," he said later. "I thought it went in. I wasn't thinking about the 18th tee."

By the time he got to the 18th tee, Funk was trying not to think about what had happened earlier in the day. He was trying not to think about having to qualify today for the U.S. Open. He was trying to enjoy the moment that came with his best finish in what has been a disappointing year.

But it was difficult.

"I know if I hadn't played the first six holes in 5-over, I might have won," he said. "If I shot even-par, I would have won by two."

He smiled.

"It would have been a great story," he said.

Instead, it was bridesmaid revisited at the Kemper Open.

Kemper Open

The winner...

Stuart Appleby 72-274

... and selected followers

Scott Hoch 70-275

Mark O'Meara 69-278

Brad Fabel 73-278

Clark Dennis 73-278

Tommy Tolles 74-278

Fred Funk 77-278

Complete scores, money winnings.

Pub Date: 6/08/98

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