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Funk Surges Into Open, Shoots Sunday 62 at Rock Barn

It looks like Fred Funk finally found the bit of momentum that he needed to jump-start his seemingly lost season last Monday at Woodmont Country Club, shooting rounds of 67-68 to qualify for his hometown U. S. Open at Congressional this weekend.  Momentum is what he hoped to gain after his successful qualifier, and if his final-round performance at the Champions Tour's Greater Hickory Classic yesterday is any indication, Fred is now looking at a brand-new season.

Funk was coming off a miserable week on the Champions Tour last week in Iowa, finishing in the bottom ten of the field and looking far from the consistent Tour contender that he has proven to be for the last five years.  Comparatively then, his first round at the Hickory Classic could be deemed a success, as Funk shot a 3-under par 69 to place in the middle of the pack.  Most of Saturday looked like more of the same old deal, however, as Funk was even par thru 12 holes, at a ridiculously easy course that ultimately set the record for most combined birdies for a field in a 54-hole Champions event.  At that moment, with only 24 holes to play in the tournament, Funk was way back in the pack, in a spot where a top-25 finish seemed difficult.  He would need to go 5-under thru his last six holes to crack the top 25 going into Sunday.  A top-10?  Nearly impossible.

And then Funk found the game that he knows he has, the game that he talks about searching for, on the course during an event for the first time in months.  He did indeed birdie five of the final six holes to sneak into a tie for 23rd, finally allowing him to feel some positive vibes about his tournament play.  Even at that point, however, Funk probably couldn't even hope to expect what would happen on Sunday.

All Funk did on Sunday was fire a sizzling 62, his best single-round Champions score in six seasons of play, that enabled him to post a score of 18-under and sit with the clubhouse lead for over an hour.  This coming from a guy who was getting lapped by the field the day before, in a position that would have him teeing off on the 10th hole on Sunday if not for the finishing flurry.  Although Funk would ultimately come up a bit short, finishing a shot out of a playoff due to a semi-chunked chip on the very birdieable par-5 18th, the performance proved to be more than encouraging. 

"Considering how many guys were in there and how low everybody was shooting, to get myself in this position was pretty good," Funk said.  "It was nice to finish that good and really come back."

And with his final chance to compete at a national championship in front of hometown friends and family coming up this week, it was certainly the perfect time for an out-of-the blue performance, one that can bring confidence on the course for months to come.

Congressional will play very long for Funk, and as he would readily admit, his chances of contending or even making the cut are not great.  Especially when considering that he has missed five straight PGA Tour cuts, on courses much shorter than Congressional.  But a 62 is a 62, and a it is plausible to think that yesterday's round could translate to an even-par round at Congressional, where even par for two rounds should easily make the cut.

But most importantly, he will make sure to enjoy it the experience.

"It will be fun being there," Funk said.  "No matter how I do, it will be great playing at home.  It will be my last chance playing a regular U. S. Open at my hometown, so that is really exciting for me."

And now, it looks like Funk is finding good play to go along with the excitement.  The timing could not be more perfect.

 

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