The Merry Funkster just won on the Champions Tour for the first time. It happened last week at the AT&T Championship, in his third effort at the elders tour. But what the hey ' Freddie looks like he isnt nearly ready to join the seniors.
He has played 28 times on the PGA TOUR this year, and he only missed the cut in three of them. He missed only once since the Nissan back in February, and that was in the Masters. Along the way he finished second once, finished in top 10 three times, and has won enough money (more than $1.5 million) to stand 46th amongst the juniors.
Pardon me, but why should he go over and join the mellow swingers when he can score that well with the kids? To prove the point, this week he will be right back on the regular tour, playing at the Chrysler Championship near Tampa.
The age thing I think is way overplayed, I really do, said Fred. I'm almost tired of hearing the age thing as an issue, because Jay Haas played unbelievable golf and still is right now. Loren Roberts could come out here (on the regular tour) and play. Hale Irwin was the epitome of a guy playing great at age 50.
You know, I think if you take care of yourself and you're motivated - really with this game, to a point, maybe there is when you get 55, 56, there seems to be a line where your physical abilities drop off a little bit. But if you take care of yourself and you're motivated, I don't think there's a reason you can't play.
Funk turned 50 in June, and he still looks like he is one of the better American players. Haas, remember, continued to take a regular turn on the PGA TOUR until he was 51, and in his 50th year he finished No. 27 on the money list. But in his 51st year, at age 51, he slipped to No. 151 and this year has confined his activity to mostly Champions Tour events. However, he has made the cut in five regular-tour events this year at age 52, and has risen as high as T-22 in the Wachovia Champions. Haas also made the cut in both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.
So Funk has plenty of precedent for playing the regular tour ' and playing it well. But no one has really played it well more than one year after they turned 50. By the time they are 52, everyone has to accept the smaller fields, the three-day schedules, the much greater sense of camaraderie. And Funk, who plays this game with such boyish abandon, probably will, too.
I think I'm going to cherry-pick a little bit, Fred said after his 50th birthday. He meant that, since he can now play whenever he wanted to on either tour, he would jump around a little.
Funk didnt win in either of his first two starts, finishing tied for 11th in both. And he had to overcome a 65 on the final day by Chip Beck to win the AT&T.
He has a rather humorous reputation of being the shortest hitter on tour (he ranked 201st this year.) But he will be right in the mix among the over-50 set ' 13th if you use his Champions Tour statistics of 280 yards, No. 28 if his PGA TOUR stats (271) are used.
However, he has to find a way to get more putts to drop. He would rank only around No. 40 amongst the seniors, and everybody knows that the Champions Tour is all about putting.
My short game has not been very good, Freddie confessed. You've got to have that. I've been struggling with my putter all year. I've been using the claw off and on, and that's been my most consistent. It's going to depend on my short game. I'm going to need to have that scoring part of my game to work. And everybody does here. That's the club you need the most. You got to keep it in play with the driver and then finish it off with the putter.
The senior tour definitely needs a winning Fred Funk, a consistently successful Fred Funk. When? As soon as possible. But first of all, he still has some unfinished business.
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