The Funkster Still a Youngster
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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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.
Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign
A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.
Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.
Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.
And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”