Funk Up by One at Buick

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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.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Buick Championship
  • Full Coverage - Buick Championship