Funky Rounds for Fred and Tiger

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 20, 2003, 5:00 pm
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Fred Funk had one of those days Thursday, and so too did Tiger Woods.
The difference is Funk hopes his continues.
Funk needed only 23 putts on the tabletop Riviera greens en route to shooting 6-under 65 in the opening round of the Nissan Open.
He holds the lead over Cameron Beckman, Steve Elkington, Nick Price and Jeff Sluman. All four shot 3-under 68.
Darkness suspended play at 5:45 PM local time. Fifteen players resumed their first rounds Friday morning at 7:30 AM.
Only 15 players broke par, as afternoon rounds took roughly 5 1/2 hours on an increasingly windy Southern California Thursday.
Woods was among the last groups to finish. He shot 1-over 72, bogeying the 17th hole when he three-putted from six feet. After missing the short birdie putt, a cell phone went off in the follow-through of his four-foot par save.
'Turn off the [expletive] phone,' he shouted.
Woods cursed at the man as the cell phone continued to ring. It was still going off as he was escorted from the course.
'It was a long, tough day,' Woods admitted.
Woods is seeking his first Nissan Open title in his sixth start as a professional. He's played this event more than any other on tour without winning.
The pre-tournament favorite is fresh off his victory in the Buick Invitational ' his first start of the season after knee surgery ' and Funk is sure he will contend despite starting seven strokes back.
I expect him to be in the top five, top three, top one by Sunday, Funk said.
David Duval was in Tiger's threesome Thursday and had what he described as, 'Fun for the whole family.'
Duval twice chipped in and caught a magnificent break at the last when his approach shot ricocheted off a tree guarding the right side of the green and onto the putting surface, 30 feet from the hole. He two-putted for par and a round of 2-under 69.
'The first couple of events I played pretty well and didn't score. Today I didn't play all that good and scored,' Duval rationalized. 'It's in pieces, but I'm getting the puzzle.'
Defending champion Len Mattiace also shot 69. He double bogeyed his final hole of the day.
Funk dropped a shot at No. 9, his 18th, as well, but that was one of the only flaws in his gem of a round.
Starting at the par-4 10th, Funk made five birdies, including three putts of at least 20 feet. He also made a 15-footer for par at 13 and two-putted from 120 feet for par at 15.
Despite not taking advantage of the par-5 first, Funk saved par from 20 feet at the second.
'That was probably the best I ever putted for 11 holes,' he said.
He then made three consecutive birdies starting at No. 6, culminated in a 20-foot putt at the eighth.
The theme of the day was my putter was hot, said Funk, who had 11 one-putts.'
Funk, 46, had one of his best years as a professional in 2002. He didn't win, but ended 13th on the money list thanks to four runner-up finishes and a tie for fourth in the PGA Championship.
Last week, Funk tied for 28th, shooting 64 on the easier North Course, but 71-76-77 on the 7,607-yard South Course.
I was behind the 8-ball with the length of that golf course, he said. I couldnt even reach a couple of the par-4s the way I was driving it.
Though he hit only nine of 14 fairways Thursday, Funk entered the week once again leading the tour in driving accuracy at over 80 percent; however, hes 156th in distance at 276.6 yards.
My driver game is horrendous right now, he admitted. Im not a power player by any means, and Im even shorter lately.
This weeks venue has been stretched out to 7,174 yards. Funk believes the course is playable for the shorter hitters, even though he dislikes the revamped eighth hole -- 'a great example of golf-course design ruining a good hole,' he said -- and No. 12 -- 'The green is designed for an 8-iron coming in, not a long iron or wood,' he added.
And with the greens as hard as they are, it will take a few more magical putting days to keep him in the lead.
The one thing that makes it more difficult for the shorter hitters is the firmness of the greens, because I have to come in with more club, Funk said. It is going to bring the guys that hit the ball further up the leaderboard.
I would have to have three more days of 23, 25, 26 putts to stay up there. Not that I cant do it, but I am very realistic about my game.
Related Links
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