Senior Moment Funk Prevails in Mexico

By Associated PressFebruary 25, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 Mayakoba Golf ClassicPLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico -- Fred Funk won one for the old guys Sunday.
Playing with an achy back befitting his senior status, the 50-year-old Funk won the Mayakoba Golf Classic on the second hole of a playoff with Jose Coceres to became only the second man to win a PGA TOUR event after winning on the Champions Tour.
Fred Funk
Fred Funk gives his son, Taylor, a hug after his victory. (WireImage)
'I think I validated how good the players are on the Champions Tour,' Funk said. 'Even though you are 50 or 51 through 55 ... age doesn't really mean anything. I just want to see how long I can last.'
Funk led the tournament -- the PGA TOUR's first in Mexico -- since setting the course record with an 8-under 62 Thursday. He never gave it up, but was tied several times, including from the 14th hole Sunday until sinking the birdie putt in the playoff.
The former University of Maryland coach closed with a 1-over 71 to match Coceres (69) at 14-under 266 on the Greg Norman-designed El Camaleon course. Funk earned $630,000 for his eighth PGA TOUR victory.
Craig Stadler became the first Champions Tour winner to win a PGA TOUR event when he followed his 2003 Senior Players win with a victory the following week in the B.C. Open, played opposite the British Open. Funk has won twice on the Champions Tour, including the Turtle Bay Championship in Hawaii last month.
Funk one-upped Stadler in another way: At 50 years, 8 months and 12 days old, he jumped ahead of The Walrus as the fifth-oldest PGA TOUR winner. All four guys ahead of him pulled off their feats in 1975 or earlier, emphasizing the rarity of someone his age topping fields that include foes old enough to be their kids.
In fact, Stadler's son, Kevin, was in this field.
The only downer to Funk's feat is that he didn't beat the PGA TOUR's elite: The world's top 64 players were in Arizona for the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Australian Peter Lonard, who played with Funk and Coceres, birdied the final hole for a 67 to finish third at 13 under.
Ryan Armour (66) was 12 under, and Bill Hass (67) followed at 11 under. Kevin Stadler tied for 13th at 6 under.
Funk came into the final round with a two-shot lead and a back problem that bothered him so much Saturday that he wondered whether he'd be able to finish.
He got off to an ominous start Sunday when his very first shot rolled to the lip of the 'Devil's Mouth,' the opening to an underground cave in the middle of the fairway. With two bogeys on the front nine, he wound up tied at the turn, and with his back bothering him again.
He laid down for massages from his wife on the sixth tee and from a tour therapist at the 12th tee.
'Then I found a stretch, putting my (left) leg on top of my (right) knee, working that one spot,' he said. 'It went away again and I was fine coming down the stretch.'
Funk got the lead back with a birdie at 13 but a bogey on 14 left them tied again. Coceres made about a 10-footer to keep it knotted on 15, then nearly putted in from off the green at 16, patting his heart and smiling after the ball curled around the lip of the cup.
More close calls prevented the Argentine from giving the tour's first trip to Latin America a winner from Latin America.
There were birdie tries on 17 and 18 that didn't fall, then a great chance on the first playoff hole -- No. 18 again -- after Funk found a bunker. From about the same distance he had when playing the hole a few minutes earlier, Coceres left it way short.
Funk didn't make the same mistake when he had about a 6-footer on the second extra hole, nailing it with so much confidence that he threw a victory punch before the ball even fell.
The victory was Funk's first on the PGA TOUR since The Players Championship in 2005. It wasn't his first title in Mexico, though -- he won the 1993 Mexico Open.
Funny thing is, Funk almost backed out of this tournament. He committed to playing the Champions Tour event in Florida, but ended up coming here because he'd promised them long ago.
The victory likely will bring him back to the Riviera Maya next year, and perhaps for many more years. The TOUR has a contract with this event through 2012 -- and he'll be only 55 then.
Related Links:
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