Inside Fred Funks Decisions

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Mark Long, the caddie for Fred Funk, thought it was going to be a 7-iron from the moment he looked across the water as he approached the 16th green. Funk had just ripped a hybrid 3-iron onto the putting surface at the par-5 16th to set up a two-putt birdie to get to 10-under and the top of the leaderboard.
 
It was definitely the shot of the day, Long said of the 3-iron the morning after Funk had become the oldest player, at age 48, to win The Players Championship. Until, of course, the 7-iron.
 
Funk lives barely 10 minutes from the Stadium Course at the TPC at Sawgrass. But he rarely plays there, choosing instead to play locally at the very private Pablo Creek, a Tom Fazio design. It is a misconception that he knows the Stadium Course like the back of his hand. But he knows it well enough.
 
After the victory Funk and Long and about two dozen friends and family would repair to Funks house where they would eat pizza and drink champagne out of the trophy. It was actually pretty mellow, Long said.
 
But hours earlier, the wait on the wind-ripped 17th had seemed like an eternity and celebrating was the last thing on anybodys mind. This was the hole Funk was going to have to survive to protect his lead and his chances for the biggest victory of his career and a $1.44 million payday.
 
And then they noticed the tee markers were a few yards back from where they had been at the close of the third round earlier in the day. Ive caddied in this tournament for a long time, Long said. And Ive never, ever seen anybody hit a 6-iron.
 
Adam Scott hit ahead of Funk and pured it long into the water. Long, a veteran looper who misses very little, noted that Scott had chosen an 8-iron. And he noted the ball had come right off the meat of the club. I just want you to know, he told Funk, that that was an 8-iron and he murdered it.
 
It was a good thing because Funk, Long said, had started thinking about hitting the six. After Scotts tee ball, both Funk and Long were comfortable with the seven. I was trying to put as good a swing on it as I could, Funk would say in his press conference.
 
When it was in the air I would have bet everything I own that it was going to be hole high, Long said.
 
Instead, the ball made it all the way to the back top shelf. For one heart-stopping moment, it looked like the ball was going to be long and wet. It shocked me where it landed, Funk said.
 
But it stayed put. Yes, Funk, now fighting a balky putter, would three-putt for bogey. Yes, he would need par to win on the brutish 18th. And yes, he would hit his second shot into a greenside bunker on the last hole. But he had survived the diabolical 17th, a hole that hadnt always been kind to him.
 
One up-and- down later, Funk was in at nine-under. He would become the champion when Joe Durant and Luke Donald, playing behind him, couldnt birdie the last hole.
 
And now the process and the grinding was done for the day. Funk was almost speechless in the first few minutes after the victory.
 
Long turned off his cell phone. The right clubs had been pulled and hit and the proper time for celebration had arrived.
 
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