No, not Freddie Couples.
Funks stated goal all year has been to make the United States Ryder Cup team that will attempt to regain bragging rights from the Europeans in September at vaunted Oakland Hills in Michigan.
The 48-year-old Funk has never played in a Ryder Cup and this will probably be his last good chance to make the American squad. After finishing tied for second Sunday at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, Funk jumped to No. 8 on the U.S. team point standings. If he stays in the top 10 through Aug. 16, he will automatically earn a berth.
This will be a crowning achievement of Funks late-blooming career. Yet Funk, after his fast finish in Milwaukee Sunday, found himself fielding short-hop questions about why he had passed on the Open Championship at Royal Troon earlier this month in favor of the more prosaic B.C. Open on our side of the pond. There had been criticism of this choice from the media and among his peers on the practice range.
Royal Troon, in the prevailing winds, simply would not have set up for Funks game. He is not a long hitter by PGA Tour standards. And the back nine at Royal Troon, into the teeth of the wind, would have made it difficult for him (and many other players) to reach several of the late par 4s in regulation.
So Funk went to the B.C. Open. He didnt finish in the top 10 and he didnt earn any Ryder Cup points. But when he arrived at Milwaukee he wasnt battling jet lag. He fought his way to second place late Sunday. And he probably earned enough points to make U.S. captain Hal Suttons squad.
Yes, the Open Championship is a major. And, yes, great players play in great tournaments. But most American players wouldnt hesitate to tell you that, given the choice, theyd prefer one shot at a Ryder Cup slot than one shot at the British Open.
For that matter, this is the same British Open that yanked 10-year exemptions out from under the noses of former U.S. Open champions Lee Janzen, Corey Pavin and Steve Jones without even bothering to inform them.
So youll excuse me if I cant summon up very much undying loyalty to the Open Championship right now. And I certainly cant find any righteous indignation in my heart for Fred Funks decision to stay home and chase the Ryder Cup points.
Fred Funk might not be the Champion Golfer of the Year at the moment. But he, and guys like Jerry Kelly and Chris DiMarco, who wear their Ryder Cup hopes on their sleeves, can play on my team any day of the year.
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