DULUTH, Ga. - Fred Funk has spent most of the summer in rehab. A week before the U.S. Open at Southern Hills, Funk fell off his son's dirt bike and wound up with a sore shoulder. A week after the Open, he was racing up a hill during the Buick Classic against Brett Quigley and came up lame.
"I was winning at the time," Funk recalled yesterday.
The race, not the tournament. The previous injury was tendinitis and made him alter his swing. The latest injury, a badly bruised knee, kept him home in Florida for three weeks.
That didn't give Funk, Maryland's former golf coach, the highest expectations coming into the 83rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
As long as Funk stays away from his son's toys and doesn't do extra wind sprints - and plays the way he did in an opening-round 4-under-par 66 - he might have a chance to stay in contention.
Funk was briefly tied for the lead with Ernie Els at 5-under par until bogeying the final hole, the par-4 ninth. Funk wound up in a logjam with eight others in second place, two shots behind Grant Waite of Australia.
It also left Funk searching for an explanation.
He was still having trouble with his swing, but his putting saved the day, as he made four birdies in five holes on the back nine, including back-to-back 30-footers on the par-3 seventh and par-4 eighth.
"I can't say I'm overly confident with my swing," Funk said. "When you're playing well, you're like a camera and you're focusing in on where you want to hit it. When you're struggling, you're thinking too much about your swing. It's hard to let it go. I'm kind of in a steer mode."
Yesterday's round equaled Funk's best in 12 PGA Championship appearances, and one of his best in a major. Tied for ninth in this tournament last year at Valhalla, Funk is hoping for better.
"I always believed I could play well in the U.S. Open and the PGA because of the high rough," said Funk, whose best finish in a major was a seventh-place tie in the 1993 U.S. Open. "I'd love to contend. I'd like to be in there Sunday and have some fun."
Funk, 43, has learned something about himself.
"I still get hurt like I used to, but I don't heal like I used to," he said.
Senior Tour star Larry Nelson, who won the first of his two PGA championships and three major championships here in 1981, climbed up the leader board with five birdies and a bogey on the first 12 holes before late bogeys knocked him back to 2-under 69.
"I wouldn't come here if I didn't think I could win," said Nelson, 53, who hasn't contended in the PGA Championship since winning in a playoff over Lanny Wadkins at PGA National in 1987. "It's not nostalgia or anything like that. If I get to the point where I didn't feel I could win, I won't play."
Nelson has won four times on the Senior Tour this season.
Bruce Zabriskie, from West Palm Beach, Fla., shot a 69 - one of five club pros whose scores were better than two-time defending champion Tiger Woods. While it wasn't much of an accomplishment yesterday - Woods was 100th out of 150 - Zabriskie's son was impressed.
"He's a real Tiger Woods fan," Zabriskie said of 6-year-old Evan. "In the classroom, they have a leader board and they're following the tournament. When I called him Sunday night, he said, `Did you beat Tiger Woods?' "
Zabriskie got the same question the next two nights. Yesterday, he would have an answer.
"I get to tell him that I beat Tiger Woods," said Zabriskie, 44.
DeFrancesco's going rough
Woodholme assistant pro Wayne DeFrancesco got off to a shaky start with bogeys on two of his first three holes. After playing the back nine first in 5-over-par 40 that included a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 18th, DeFrancesco finished with a 6-over-par 76.
"I lost what I had been doing a little bit," said DeFrancesco, who qualified for his third PGA Championship by winning the PGA Club Professional tournament in June in Sunriver, Ore.