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 pump fists 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.

The performance here followed two recent second-place finishes. Funk earned $235,000 and an automatic invitation to next year's Masters, though with over $1.5 million in prize money this year, Funk was likely to finish in the Top 40 anyway.

But the money probably won't mean as much to Funk as the memories, more lasting than any he has had in his five previous victories on the PGA Tour.

Funk, 46, said he spoke yesterday morning, as well as Saturday night, with his older brother Bernie, who recently began treatment for alcoholism and depression.

M-fI was really upset at first because some of his friends found out by watching the television that he was suffering from alcoholism and depression,M-F Funk said. "He was taken back by it coming out. But today he said he felt he could help someone else. I'm just so proud of him."

TV ratings soar

The PGA Championship's third round drew TV ratings 37 percent higher than in 2001.

CBS Sports' coverage from 2-8 p.m. EDT Saturday had a 5.6 overnight rating, the second-best ever. Only the third round in 2000, when Woods went on to win, drew a higher number (5.8).

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