Funk pins hope on new caddie

Sunesson's Augusta touch may help ex-UM coach get game back in order

Notebook

Masters

April 05, 2000|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Fred Funk was out to dinner last month with some friends during the Doral-Ryder Open at a landmark Miami restaurant known for its hard-shell crabs and long waits. Theirs was going to be 2 1/2 hours until one member of the group was recognized.

"We instantly got a table," Funk recalled last week.

It wasn't because of Funk, the former University of Maryland golf coach whose profile has increased steadily throughout an 11-year PGA Tour career that has produced five wins and more than $6.5 million in earnings. It was because of Fanny Sunesson, 32, a caddie who worked nearly a decade for Nick Faldo and had begun working for Sergio Garcia.

Sunesson has been friends with Funk and his wife, Sharon, since staying with them at their Florida home during The Players Championship in 1994. Funk has used a number of caddies over the years, including his wife, and used Sunesson last November when he finished tied for seventh at the World Golf Championships in Valderrama, Spain.

"It was a situation that we said if she ever became available again, I'd be the next guy."

The opportunity came after Sunesson was fired by Garcia when he missed the cut at The Players Championship, the latest disappointing performance by the 20-year-old Spaniard. Funk, who has had his own problems with his consistency of late, immediately hired Sunesson.

It couldn't have come at a better time for Funk heading into the 64th Masters that begins here tomorrow. Except for 1997, when Funk finished tied for 17th, his game has lived up to his name at Augusta National. He has missed the cut three times in six trips, including the past two years.

That is in stark contrast to Sunesson's former boss. She started working for Faldo in 1990, the year he became the first player since Jack Nicklaus in 1966 to win back-to-back titles at the Masters. Faldo also won the tournament in 1996.

"Her success at Augusta, her comfort level, will certainly help me," said Funk. "Nick and I hit it about the same distance [off the tee]. But after coming off Sergio's bag, she's going to have to throttle down a little. He's a 12-cylinder. I'm a six-cylinder."

After earning more than $1 million in each of the last two seasons and finishing a career-high 16th on the money list last year, Funk is in need of a tuneup on his game. While he managed to squeeze a respectable tie for 13th out of the Players Championship, Funk is ranked 51st in earnings with $257,612.

"Fred's a good guy," said Sunneson. "I'm looking forward to working for him. I'm really positive."

Elder anniversary

This marks the 25th anniversary of Lee Elder's appearance here. Elder was the first black player ever invited to the Masters, after winning the Pensacola Open the previous year.

Elder came back to Augusta National to watch Tiger Woods play the final round of his victory three years ago and returned yesterday at the invitation of Masters chairman Hootie Johnson.

Asked when he felt comfortable during his first visit, Elder said, "After I missed the cut. I stayed around to watch, and so many people came up to me to tell me what I great job I did."

20th for Norman

Greg Norman will be playing in his 20th Masters this week. His legacy here is one of crushing defeats either by his own undoing or by someone's else magic.

It began when Norman air-mailed a 4-iron over the 18th green in the final round in 1986 to lose by one shot to Jack Nicklaus, continued when Larry Mize pitched in from 40 yards to win in sudden death the next year, and reached its nadir when Norman blew a six-shot lead to Faldo in 1996.

Norman, 45, hasn't given up the idea of winning.

"I'll go on record as saying, realistically, the way I feel about myself, in the next two years if I stay focused, then I can perform," said Norman, who finished third last year. "You need to stay in performance ready shape to win a golf tournament of this magnitude."

Odds shorten on Woods

London oddsmakers have slashed the odds on Woods winning the Grand Slam from 250-1 to 33-1. Bookmakers William Hill have listed Woods at 9-4 to win this week's Masters.

Woods goes into the Masters having won or finished second in 10 of his last 11 PGA Tour events.

After Woods at 9-4, William Hill lists other Masters favorites in this order: David Duval (12-1), Davis Love III (16-1), Colin Montgomerie (18-1), Ernie Els (20-1), Phil Mickelson (25-1), Jim Furyk and Tom Lehman (28-1), Jesper Parnevik, Nick Price, Hal Sutton and Lee Westwood (33-1), Fred Couples, Justin Leonard, Vijay Singh (40-1), Garcia, John Huston, Norman, Mark O'Meara and Jose Maria Olazabal (50-1).

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Pairings, tee times

Tomorrow's first round 8 a.m.: Byron Nelson, Sam Snead.

8: 15 a.m.: Doug Ford, Billy Casper.

8: 26 a.m.: Scott Gump, Craig Parry, Brandt Jobe.

8: 37 a.m.: David Toms, Retief Goosen, Rocco Mediate.

8: 48 a.m.: Fuzzy Zoeller, Sung Yoon Kim, Notah Begay III.

8: 59 a.m.: Glen Day, Skip Kendall, Gabriel Hjertstedt.

9: 10 a.m.: Raymond Floyd, Danny Green, Vijay Singh.

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