Funk leads Southern Farm Bureau Classic

Nov. 1, 2001 at 6:36 PM
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MADISON, Miss., Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Fred Funk, using a possible invitation to next year's Masters as an incentive, shot a 7-under 65 Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic.

Dicky Pride, Mark Brooks and Cameron Beckman were tied for second at 66 in the last full-field event on the PGA Tour this year. Some players are trying to earn enough money to retain their PGA Tour cards and others are trying to get into The Masters.

Funk is aiming for the latter. The top 40 players on the money list after this week will make it to Augusta in 2002. He is 48th with $1,073,804 and needs the $432,000 top prize to have a chance at first major event of the year.

"I'd love to win this thing and not only (reach) the top 40 and get into Augusta, but also Kapalua," he said, referring to the winners-only event in Hawaii.

Funk will have to continue to shake off a bad hand in order to move up on the money list. He injured it in a June motorcycle accident when he flipped over the handlebars and landed on his left shoulder.

"The shoulder part is a lot better," said Funk, who has one top-10 finish since January and is winless since 1998. "I have tendinitis or bursitis in my left hand."

Funk received a cortisone shot in the hand three weeks ago. He was scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday but said there were "too many ifs" because of the injury's proximity to a nerve.

"I'm scared of what it might do," he said.

While Funk battles his injury, he does not have to battle to retain his playing privileges for 2002, which cannot be said for a host of others.

If they have not done so already, the top 125 on the money list after this event will retain their tour cards for next season. Bradley Hughes entered the week 125th and shot a 72 to tie for 67th.

Among those chasing Hughes is Pride, who has earned just $133,422 in 26 starts and needs his first win in seven years to remain a tour member.

Kirk Triplett shot a 67 and leads a group of five players tied for fifth. Among them is Brandt Jobe, who is $9,257 -- about a 42nd-place finish in this event -- behind Hughes in 126th.

Veteran Steve Pate, a six-time winner on the tour, also shot a 67. He needs to place no lower than third to jump into the top 125.

The top 30 money winners excluding No. 2 Phil Mickelson, who is home after the birth of his second child, are in Houston this week for the Tour Championship.

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