Funk Holds On to Win Players Championship

By Sports NetworkMarch 28, 2005, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Fred Funk fought a balky putter on the back nine Monday, but managed to get up and down for par on the 72nd hole to close a 1-under 71 in windy conditions and win The Players Championship.
Fred Funk
Fred Funk celebrates his tournament-winning par putt on the 18th green.
'I can't believe I won this thing. It was such a hard day,' said Funk, who earned $1,440,000 for the win. 'I'm overwhelmed. I just can't believe it. This is a heck of a way to win in the twilight of my career. I'm just so excited about it, I'm beyond words right now.'
Funk, who became the oldest winner in event history by nearly seven years, completed the event at 9-under-par 279. With the win, he earned a five-year exemption for the PGA Tour and entrance into all four majors this year.
'I'm speechless right now,' Funk said. 'It was a tough day obviously with the wind and the conditions, but I hit the ball really good. I was in control of my swing and I felt good about that.'
The third and final rounds were both completed on Monday after serious weather problems forced the delayed finish. Players had to battle winds that gusted over 40 mph on Monday, which sent scores soaring.
The 18th hole, a par-4, yielded no birdies and played to a stroke average of 4.817 in the final round. The always difficult island green at No. 17 saw Bob Tway post a 12 in the final round after he knocked four balls in the water.
'If it's this breezy here, I don't go out. You don't even hit balls when its this windy,' summarized world No. 1 Vijay Singh, who practices at the TPC at Sawgrass regularly. 'The wind was really, really hard. We never play conditions like this. It was just brutal out there.'
Tom Lehman, the 1996 British Open champion, fired the round of the day as he closed with a 4-under 68 to share second place. He was joined at 8 under par by Scott Verplank (70) and third-round leader Luke Donald (76). Joe Durant, one of four second round co-leaders, ended in fifth at minus-7.
Funk began the final round four strokes behind Donald and was playing two groups ahead of the Englishman. Funk played his normal steady game early as he was 1 over through six holes.
The 48-year-old began to claw back into the tournament when he drained a birdie putt at the par-4 seventh. Funk made it two in a row as his birdie try at the eighth found the bottom of the cup.
Funk moved to 10 under and a share of the lead with Durant when he rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt at the 12th. The former University of Maryland golf coach converted his fourth birdie in seven holes at the 13th to move one clear.
The seven-time winner on the PGA Tour then began battling his putter. Funk three-putted for bogey on each of the next two holes to slide back into a tie for the lead with Donald and Verplank at minus-9.
'On 14, I had a brutal first putt and (at) 15 I hit a bad first putt, but both of those were really good second putts,' said Funk. 'I just hit a couple of shots on the wrong side of a hole, which you can't really help out here with the way the conditions are.'
Funk righted the ship with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 16th. He again three-putted for bogey on the island green at 17, but maintained a one-shot cushion as Verplank bogeyed the last and Donald bogeyed the 12th and 14th.
Funk, knowing he needed to at worst par the last, found the fairway off the tee. With the wind gusting from the left, he pulled his second shot into the greenside bunker left of the pin. He hit a stellar bunker shot to 5 feet and sank the par putt to enter the clubhouse at minus-9.
'It would have been nice to have a little more of a cushion there heading to the last, but I never make anything easy for myself,' Funk said.
Lehman and Verplank were already in the clubhouse at 8 under and therefore eliminated with Funk's par.
Donald and Durant had a chance to tie Funk at the last though. Durant's drive at the 18th trickled into the right rough, while Donald split the fairway.
Durant's second came up short and he needed to hole a difficult pitch to force a playoff. His chip came up well short and he eventually would walk away with bogey when he missed his 12-foot par putt.
Donald's second shot bounced right past the pin and ended up over the green on the fringe. His birdie try slid by the left edge and the crown was Funk's.
Lehman got into contention with his hot play on the front nine. He birdied four of five holes from the second to jump to 8 under. However, he played his final 12 holes at even par with two birdies and two bogeys.
'It was a very, very difficult day to play and I'm just very thankful that I was able to scramble around the golf course,' said Lehman. 'It didn't feel like I hit the ball all that great, I missed a lot of fairways, but I put the ball in the right position and made a few putts.'
Donald was done in by a 4-over 40 on the front nine of his final round. That included one birdie, three bogeys and a double bogey.
Durant, a three-time winner on tour, got off to a good start with a birdie at the second. However, it was all down hill from there as he bogeyed two of his next three holes. He finished two shots of the pace due to three back-nine bogeys.
Tim Herron and Steve Elkington shared sixth place at 6-under-par 282. Adam Scott, the 2004 champion, was one of four players one stroke further back at minus-5. He was joined there by Zach Johnson, J.L. Lewis and two-time Players Championship winner Davis Love III.
Golf's 'Big Four' - Singh, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson - never threatened the leaders in the final round. Singh posted the best finish, a tie for 12th, at 4-under-par 284. Els finished one stroke behind the world No. 1, while Mickelson came in at plus-2. Woods posted back-to-back 75s in the final two rounds to end the tournament at plus-5.
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    Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

    By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

    Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

    She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

    Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

    After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

    “The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

    Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

    It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

    “I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

    Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    “The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

    Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

    It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

    “I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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    Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

    CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

    The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

    ''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

    She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

    ''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

    Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

    ''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

    Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

    Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

    Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

    ''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

    She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

    ''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

    Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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    DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

    AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

    Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

    “He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

    The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

    It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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    Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

    BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

    Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

    ''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

    He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

    Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

    ''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

    Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

    ''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

    Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

    ''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

    Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

    Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

    Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.