Notes Skins Game Finally Set to Get Funky

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Fred Funk already has enjoyed a dream career, considering where he started and what he's got.
 
He spent six years as the golf coach at Maryland, and for a guy who feels like Herbie on a road full of Corvettes, his short-but-straight tee ball has brought him seven PGA Tour victories, more than $17 million in earnings, two trips to the Presidents Cup and one to the Ryder Cup.
 
The latest example of his success: Funk is going to the Skins Game.
 
``They called and told me I was in the Skins Game and I said, 'Which Skins Game? The one over Thanksgiving?''' Funk, 49, said last week at the Presidents Cup. ``I said, 'How the hell did I qualify for that?'''
 
He got in by winning The Players Championship, making him the oldest winner in its 32-year history.
 
The foursome for the Merrill Lynch Skins Game, to be played Nov. 26-27 at Trilogy Golf Club in La Quinta, Calif., will be rounded out by some usual suspects -- defending champion Fred Couples, Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam, who will be playing for the third straight year.
 
Funk, who ranked 192nd in driving distance last year, now faces some big pressure for the silly season. Along with trying to win skins, his big concern is not being the shortest hitter in the group.
 
``Tiger came up to me the other day and said Annika is the fourth,'' Funk said. ``He said, 'If she outdrives you once, you will never, ever, ever hear the end of it.'''
 
WGC AWAITS
Vaughn Taylor closed with a 67 to tie for 39th in the Texas Open, but it was just enough to get into his first World Golf Championship.
 
Taylor earned $14,700 to jump past Fred Couples and Brad Faxon and into 30th on the PGA Tour money list. Monday was the first deadline to qualify for the $7.5 million American Express Championship, to be played Oct. 6-9 at Harding Park in San Francisco.
 
Faxon is recovering from knee surgery and couldn't play, anyway. Couples was at the Presidents Cup, but he already got in for being among the top 50 in the world ranking. There is still one more week to qualify, in part to give those at the Presidents Cup a chance to make money or improve their ranking.
 
Also getting into the Amex was Olin Browne, who started the year with conditional status on tour. He won the Deutsche Bank Championship to pick up $990,000, then finished second at the Texas Open and went to No. 22 on the money list.
 
It will be the second WGC event for Browne. He lost to Davis Love III in the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship five years ago.
 
Browne took the news in stride.
 
``I'm not a goal setter, so this is all gravy for me,'' he said. ``If I set goals and I don't get to them, I'll be bouncing off the walls. And if I do get to them, then I'm not trying hard enough.''
 
PARTNERS
Tiger Woods was in the locker room at Firestone last year, a month before the Ryder Cup, when Jim Furyk's name came up in conversation.
 
``He's the toughest guy on this team,'' said Woods, who had beaten Furyk in a seven-hole playoff at the NEC Invitational three years earlier. ``I would love to play with him.''
 
The Presidents Cup was the eighth time they were on the same team, but the first time as partners. They went 2-0-1 against strong competition, and one can only suspect Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman was taking notes.
 
``Even though we have a different style of games, our personalities are very similar in how we approach the game of golf and how we compete,'' Woods said. ``So from that standpoint, it's kind of a no-brainer.''
 
What took so long?
 
``It might just be the difference in length,'' Woods said. ``That sometimes can be something that deters captains from putting guys together.''
 
ALL IN THE EYES
As well as Michelle Wie swings the club, there is some concern about her putting. Her father thinks the solution is in her eyes.
 
``We discovered a vision problem with Michelle,'' B.J. Wie said. ``Somehow, the left eye it too dominant, and when she looks at an object, the right eye is not paying attention. She has a problem with depth perception.''
 
He said his daughter was doing exercises for her eyes to help improve her vision, and a doctor she saw said the problem could be corrected in a month.
 
``She has a good putting stroke,'' B.J. Wie said. ``But I noticed she cannot read putts well because of the eye vision problem. Whenever she has a caddie who can read putts, she improves her putting.''
 
CHANGING THE GAME
Tiger Woods was supposed to hit a golf shot in Central Park on Monday during a whirlwind visit to New York to promote his new EA Sports game, but his back was still bothering him.
 
He already did the heavy lifting for the game, though, deciding to wear a skintight suit with tiny nodes that allow his image to be transferred to the video game. Woods figured his swing has changed substantially since he first did the EA Sports game in 1999, and it was time to give the consumers what they see on TV.
 
``My swing has evolved and changed over the past year and a half, and we wanted to get something that was realistic to the gamers -- not something that was old -- and make it more up-to-date,'' Woods said in a conference call Monday for the Target World Challenge. ``If you look at my swing now versus when it first came out in 1999, you'll definitely see a dramatic difference.''
 
Woods said he would rest and lift light weights to get ready for the American Express Championship next week.
 
DIVOTS
In another example of how far Jason Gore has come this year, he now gets to play in the silly season. Gore has been added to the Franklin Templeton Shootout because Ian Poulter had to withdraw. He also will compete in the ADT Skills Challenge at Trump International in south Florida. Also in the ADT Skills field is 19-year-old Solheim Cup star Paula Creamer. ... Fresh off the Solheim Cup, Crooked Stick has been chosen to host the 2007 U.S. Women's Amateur. ... A few months after Kiawah Island was awarded the 2012 PGA Championship, the golf resort on Tuesday named Roger Warren as its president. Warren is president of the PGA of America, and previously worked at Kiawah as its golf director.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Greg Turner in 1998 is the only captain's pick on the International team to produce a winning record in the Presidents Cup.
 
FINAL WORD
``(Nothing).'' -- The International team, which did not attend its news conference after losing the Presidents Cup.