Funk has major blast despite fall to fourth

Joking with Woods, lauded by gallery, ex-UM coach has a tourney to treasure


PGA Championship

August 19, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

CHASKA, Minn. - There was one last standing ovation from the fans in the bleachers behind the 18th green, one last chant of "Freddie ... Freddie" and one last peek at the scoreboard in the distance. Fred Funk's most memorable week as a professional golfer had come to an end.

It didn't matter that Funk had finished the 84th PGA Championship with a bogey, or that after climbing back into contention early in the back nine, the former Maryland golf coach faded and finished tied for fourth, six shots behind Rich Beem.

It was Funk's best performance in a major and what made it all the more remarkable was that it was his only major this year.

"I was having a ball, I didn't want the thing to end," said Funk, who waved his cap on nearly every hole, high-fived fans from green to tee and blew them a kiss before he walked down to sign his scorecard.

There was some disappointment with his second straight round of 1-over-par 73. The most consistent player off the tee on the PGA Tour didn't always hit the ball straight and he missed some putts he made the first two days in sharing the lead.

"I made a few bad swings coming in," said Funk. "But if you told me I'd finish tied for fourth before the week started, I would have been ecstatic."

While the first three days were magical for Funk, the last round was memorable in the way he played with Tiger Woods.

After Woods made one of his trademark fist pumps when he chipped in from the fringe to save par on the opening hole, Funk gave one of his own when he saved par - from 4 feet away. He also got to do something he wanted to do on Saturday - do what Funk called his "Mini-Me."

The crowd roared and even Woods broke up laughing.

"He was giving me a hard time for that fist pump I made yesterday over on 16," Woods said. "He gave the little `Mini-Me' thing [from Austin Powers movies] and he said, `I got that out of the way.' I said, `What are you supposed to do? You're supposed to two-putt as a pro.'

"Freddie is a great guy and one that I've come to know very well over the last few years and become one of my good friends out here. It was really neat to play the final round of a major with one of my buddies."

Funk said he knew Woods would make things interesting.

"You could see it in his eyes," Funk said. "He knew it wasn't over. He made Rich earn it."

With fans waving handmade "Funk Fever" signs, Funk, 46, soaked up more adulation this week than he had ever received in his entire career.

"One of the best chants I heard was `Freddie for Governor.' Is Jesse [Ventura] out? I don't want to fight that guy," Funk said of the former wrestler.

Woods, teacher on outs

There was an interesting scene before yesterday's round began. Shortly after Woods came down to the practice range with caddie Steve Williams, Justin Leonard walked down with his caddie and swing coach.

Leonard has been working with Butch Harmon for the past 20 months, but Harmon is no longer working with Woods on a regular basis - if at all. The relationship that began when Woods was a teen-ager ended sometime after last month's British Open.

Asked last night if the relationship has changed, Woods said, "Has it changed? Yes, it has changed. Every player, as you get a little bit better and you understand your own mechanics, you understand your own game, you don't rely on a teacher as often. That's what's transpired with me. I still need Butch, but not as much as I used to. He's got a great eye for the swing, there's no denying that."

Harmon might have some work to do with Leonard after what happened yesterday.

Starting out three shots clear of the field, the former British Open champion shot a 5-over-par 77 to tie Funk for fourth place.

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