Funk Up by One at Buick

By Sports NetworkAugust 28, 2004, 4:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)CROMWELL, Conn. -- Fred Funk only managed a 1-under 69 Saturday, but it was good enough to keep the lead after three rounds of the Buick Championship. He stands at 9-under-par 201 and leads by one at the TPC at River Highlands.
 
Tom Byrum shot a 3-under 67 and is tied for second place with Corey Pavin, who carded a 68 on Saturday. They are knotted at 8-under-par 202 and are part of the interesting dynamic making up the three at the top of the leaderboard.
 
All three players are over the age of 40, have not won on tour in at least six years, and none are considered long hitters by today's standards.
 
'I'm actually playing and swinging so much better than I have been, even in the last 10 years,' said Byrum, whose last tour victory came at the 1989 Kemper Open. 'That's given me a little more confidence even than I've had.'
 
On Sunday, Byrum will be trying to catch Funk, who shared the 36-hole lead with Zach Johnson. Early in his round, Funk looked like he would be impossible to catch as the 48-year-old, who just made his first Ryder Cup team, holed a 45-foot birdie putt at the first, then a 5-footer for birdie at No. 2.
 
Things fell apart for Funk before he made the turn. He bogeyed six and seven, but parred the eighth hole. Funk drove into a fairway bunker at nine, then sent his approach over the green. He chipped so far past the hole that his ball went off the green and Funk two-putted for another bogey.
 
Funk clawed back with an 18-foot birdie putt at the 11th, but fell once again thanks to a bogey at the 12th. He birdied the 14th from 10 feet to get within one of Byrum's lead at the time.
 
Byrum dropped a shot at 17 when his drive landed in the rough and laid up short of the water. Pavin joined the leaders at 18 when his approach settled seven feet from the hole and the 1995 U.S. Open champion sank it.
 
Funk, who once again leads the PGA Tour in driving accuracy percentage, split the fairway at 17. He hit a 9-iron from 146 yards to 4 feet to set up birdie and go one shot ahead.
 
At the 18th, Funk played conservatively, going 25 feet right of the pin. He lagged his putt up to tap-in range and will take the 54-hole lead.
 
'I got off to a great start today and then I let it go at the end of the front nine,' said Funk. 'I got it back coming in. I salvaged a 69. That was a tough 69 for me.'
 
Unfortunately, Funk does not have a great record with the 54-hole lead. He won the first three times he took the lead into the final round, but has not won the last four times he has possessed at least a share of the third-round lead.
 
'Tomorrow, I'll just go out and relax,' said Funk. 'I've been struggling with Sunday leads. I'll play well.'
 
Besides improving his Sunday record, Funk can continue the momentum of the U.S. Ryder Cup team heading into the matches in three weeks. Stewart Cink won last week's WGC-NEC Invitational and Funk can make it two in a row for the American side.
 
'Hal (Sutton) told me before the week started, 'Go out there and do a Stewart Cink,'' said Funk. 'That gets you fired up pretty good when the captain's in your face telling you to go out there and win this thing.'
 
Byrum got off to the best start with four birdies in his first 11 holes. He took the lead at 9 under par, but his first mishap came at 14. Byrum birdied the 15th from 6 feet, but stumbled to a bogey at 17.
 
'It's been good,' said Byrum, who tied for fourth at this year's Buick Classic. 'I feel good out there, and hopefully I can take it up a notch tomorrow and see what I've got.'
 
Pavin, winless since the 1996 Colonial, was only 1 under on his round through the front nine, but a 15-foot birdie putt at the 13th tied him with Byrum atop the leaderboard at minus-8.
 
Pavin's second at the 17th went over the green. He chipped to 12 feet, but could not convert the par-saving putt. Pavin inched within one at the last and is now in position where he thinks he can win again on tour.
 
'We've got a golf course that requires a lot of intelligent play,' said Pavin. 'You have to work your way around the golf course and think your way around this golf course. You just can't get up there and kill it off the tee and hit at every pin because if you do, you're going to have some high scores. That's what I think is so nice about playing here.'
 
Hunter Mahan fired a 5-under 65 on Saturday and is tied for fourth place with this year's Wachovia Championship winner Joey Sindelar, who carded a third-round 68. They are tied at minus-7.
 
Daniel Chopra (65), Tim Herron (65), Skip Kendall (66), Woody Austin (66), Hidemichi Tanaka (67), Tom Pernice, Jr. (68), Kirk Triplett (69), Hank Kuehne (71) and Jose Coceres (70) share sixth place at 6-under-par 204.
 
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.