Tuesday, March 29, 2005

No Funk for Fred

I think Fred Funk was one of only about six players not in a funk at the Players Championship. What yesterday proved is that drama CAN exist without the Big Four in the mix (it should be the Big Five with Goosen included, but I am not part of the mainstream golf media!) What a show yesterday at Sawgrass.

Let’s start with 49-year-old champion Fred Funk who will be exempt on the PGA tour for FOUR MORE years. He’ll also get to play in the Open Championship (that’s in Great Britain for you neophytes) and the Masters for three years, will be exempt from qualifying for our Open Championship and will automatically qualify for the PGA Championship. What a fantastic story for one of the most likeable guys on the tour. (As a side note, at last year’s U.S. Open I had my cap signed by only major champions – with one exception: Fred Funk. Is the Players a major? Well, not really, but it’s at least half a one!)

Watching him come down the stretch I was wondering if Funk’s flat stick would cost him the tournament. He did not putt that well, especially at seventeen, but nobody else could drain one either. His six-footer at eighteen was nothing short of brilliant, especially when you consider what was on the line. It’s really too bad this didn’t happen on Sunday, when more folks could have watched (I have TiVo to thank!)

Kudos to the series of grinders who really held in there: Verplank (costly three putt at eighteen), Lumpy Herron, Tom Lehman, Joe Durant and Luke Donald. Donald just threw too much away on the front nine. It’s also nice to see Steve Elkington back (whose caddie was on my bag for a round last summer!)

As for the other titans, well, they couldn’t hold up. That wind will get a lot of players most of the time. And if you are not striking pure shots, it is going to hammer you. The rough was unforgiving (and to Tiger unforgivable – he says there shouldn’t be any on the course. Stop whining – it’s not as if it was only there for you, pal!) I did agree with Mr. Woods that the seventeenth should not be the seventeenth. It should be the eighth. It’s a stupid hole, but to have it potentially determine the outcome (Len Mattiace) makes it even stupider!

I am glad the breeze stiffened up Monday – it separates the wheat from the chaff. I play in the wind all of the time and I love it. It makes you think and adjust. And it blows for everyone! These guys are too often presented with “perfect” conditions – no wind, soft greens and generous fairways. Wrong! Perfect is just the opposite. Sometimes I think these guys don’t like to scramble like the rest of us.

Next week takes us to Atlanta for an event no one really cares about except Bell South executives and their major customers. Let’s face it, the week after is where it’s at and I think this Masters will be legendary (Caution: my predictions are usually dead wrong!)


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