So far, sky's the limit for Funk at rainy PGA

Looking for first major, ex-UM coach leads by 1 as storms halt play again

August 17, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

CHASKA, Minn. - Fred Funk played the second round of the 84th PGA Championship yesterday somewhere in the clouds. There were birdies piling up on his scorecard and fans joining his gallery as Funk surged into the lead at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

The only thing that stopped Funk's foray among the clouds were the clouds themselves. When they opened up early last night as a storm passed through the area, ultimately stopping play, Funk was 3-under for the round through 13 holes, 7-under for the tournament and one shot ahead of the field.

Funk was among 41 players, including Tiger Woods, who'll return this morning to finish their rounds, weather permitting. Funk was a stroke ahead of the clubhouse leaders: former major champions Mark Calcavecchia, Justin Leonard and Retief Goosen of South Africa, as well as Rich Beem. They were at 6-under-par 138.

Pierre Fulke of Sweden was at 4-under-par 140. Four others - Jim Furyk, who shared the first-round lead with Funk, along with Charles Howell III, Kenny Perry and Chris Riley - were at 3-under-par 141. Woods, who started the round at 1-under par, was also at 3-under with two holes left to play.

After making his only bogey shortly before play was called at 6:38 p.m. CT - Funk, who had started on the back nine, had missed a 3-footer for par on the par-3 fourth hole - the former University of Maryland golf coach seemed a bit disappointed to end the day with his only tangible mistake.

That he had to go to bed last night not knowing exactly what kind of conditions he would play in today was a bit unsettling, especially for someone unaccustomed to being in the lead at a major championship. Funk's best finish in a major was a tie for seventh in the 1993 U.S. Open.

"This is new to me," said Funk, 46, who has won five times in his PGA Tour career but has been winless since 1998. "I've got to sleep on what I've got tonight and figure out how to finish the round tomorrow. But you can't figure it out because you don't know what the weather is going to be."

One thing is certain: Funk is not going to go down without a fight. Much of that determination continues to come from his older brother Bernie, who has recently started rehabilitation for alcoholism and depression. Reiterating what he said Thursday, Funk is inspired by his brother's battle.

"I'm trying to show a lot of strength in what I'm doing, I'm not going to back down," said Funk, the tears welling in his eyes. "If I end up not playing well, it's not because I got scared. I'm going to show the strength my brother has shown and I'm going [to be] drawing from him."

Funk's biggest test today will not only be his nerves, but the 40-mph winds that are expected after it stops raining. While the conditions won't be as awful as in the third round of last month's British Open at Muirfield, they will provide a test of both skill and patience.

Funk and everyone else are aware that Woods is in the hunt. After starting the round at 1-under par, Woods got to 4-under through 12 holes before making a three-putt bogey from 40 feet on the par-3 13th hole. He then narrowly missed a 10-footer for birdie on the par-4 14th hole.

"I saw that he was playing very solid golf today," said Funk. "I'm conscious of where he was. He's pretty much like when you heard a generation ago ... when [Jack] Nicklaus showed up on the board, everybody knew he was there and they were watching him. Tiger is that way. When he shows up on the board, he intimidates everybody."

Playing on the opposite side of the course yesterday, Funk seemed oblivious to what Woods - or anyone else - was doing. After Funk played his first round with barely anybody following him, his gallery swelled yesterday. He acknowledged the crowds on nearly every hole, waving his cap and high-fiving fans.

"I wasn't really conscious that I was animated, but I'm just trying to have a really good time and enjoy the moment, however long this moment lasts," said Funk. "If it lasts all the way to the end, that's great. My caddie was saying that it feels like it's a Sunday afternoon, instead of Friday."

Woods is trying to win three majors in the same calendar year for the second time in his career while Funk is trying to win for the first time since the 1998 Deposit Guaranty Classic. Asked if he could win a major, Funk was his typically honest self.

"If I play the way I played today ... yeah, I could," said Funk. "Obviously I've got to keep the putter going. The cream usually does come to the top. Obviously, I'm playing good right now, putting well, scoring. If I continue to do that, yeah, I can sneak in one on this kind of course if all the stars line up."

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