Field can't match Funk in season's final major

Saturday, August 17, 2002

CHASKA, Minn. -- After doffing his cap to appreciative crowds all around and looking as if he'd been in this exalted position before, Fred Funk will go to sleep on the lead for the second straight night, even if he has to return today to finish the last five holes of the storm-delayed second round of the 84th PGA Championship.

The 46-year-old former Maryland golf coach, who didn't turn pro until he was 32, seemed in total control of his game and his jubilant emotions as he opened his round with a 15-foot birdie putt on his first hole (No. 10). He was at 7-under through 31 holes for the tournament when play was suspended and subsequently halted at 6:38 p.m. with a major storm system bearing down on Hazeltine National Golf Club.

That total left him a shot ahead of four players at 6-under 138 who had long since left the premises after completing their morning rounds.

Justin Leonard, the 1997 British Open champion, and Rich Beem, the '99 Kemper Open champion, each posted course-record scores of 66 in the far more benign early conditions, when '89 British Open winner Mark Calcavecchia (68) and South African Retief Goosen (69), the 2001 U.S. Open champion, also took a share of the 6-under clubhouse lead.

Funk's lofty position at the top of the board also left him dreaming about what could happen this weekend.

"If I play the way I played today ... yeah, I could" win, Funk said.

"Obviously, I'm playing good right now, putting well, scoring. If I continue to do that, yeah, I can sneak one in on this kind of a golf course, if all the stars line up and everything. I'm not going to say yeah, I'm gonna win this thing. But I'm not going to back down."

Tiger Woods managed to right himself off the tee Friday, and his three front-nine birdies in a sizzling stretch of four holes allowed him to get to 4 under when he made the turn. He dropped a shot with a bogey at the 204-yard 13th hole, and also was unable to finish.

At 3 under with two holes to play, Woods is very much a factor, although more atrocious weather is on its way today. Woods shot 81 in the third round of the British Open in abominable conditions of sideways rain and 35 mph winds, costing him a possible Grand Slam attempt here. The same sort of big blow is expected here, with forecasters calling for winds gusting as high as 40 mph.

Woods went to the locker room when the initial horn stopped play. He left for a waiting car a few minutes later when the round was postponed without commenting.

Funk, on the other hand, was bubbling over to find himself in the media tent for a second straight day. He said he will worry about the weather Saturday, because he's having far too much of a good time to let anything spoil his fun right now. He also insisted he was just trying to act naturally with all those tips of his cap and upraised arms and fist pumps celebrating each of his four birdies, and a few par saves as well.

"I wasn't conscious that I was being that animated," said the Laurel, Md., native who now lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. "I'm trying to enjoy this moment, however long it lasts. If it lasts through Sunday, that's great. My caddie said it felt more like a Sunday afternoon out there. I hope I can give them some more things to cheer about, at least cheer for me."

Funk is playing in his first major of the season after not qualifying for the first three. He has won five times on the PGA Tour in 14 years and has finished second in two of his last three events, but he has never led this deep into a major championship since joining the PGA Tour in 1988.

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