Funk leads weather-marred PGA

Aug. 16, 2002 at 9:07 PM
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CHASKA, Minn., Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Fred Funk, relying on a hot putter to offset his lack of distance off the tee, owned a one-shot lead Friday when approaching tunderstorms stopped play in the second round of the PGA Championship.

With Tiger Woods able to make only a slight charge, the 46-year-old Funk stormed to the front and suddenly found himself to be a crowd favorite by one-putting seven times in 13 holes.

Funk was one of 42 players on the Hazeltine National Golf Club course when the action was halted. Tournament officials said play would resume at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, weather permitting.

After the second round is concluded, the third-round pairings will be made and the final major championship of the year will continue in what are forecast to be winds gusting to 30 miles per hour.

Funk, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, was in the next-to-last threesome off the 10th tee Friday. He was 3-under through the day and 7-under for the tournament when the dark clouds heading for the course began to be streaked with lightning.

Funk was on the 14th fairway at the time of the suspension and had a one-shot lead over Justin Leonard, Mark Calcavecchia, Retief Goosen and Rich Beem --- all of whom played early Friday and wound up with a 36-hole total of 138.

Pierre Fulke of Sweden was alone in sixth place at 4-under 140 while the group at 3-under included Woods --- who was on the 17th hole when the siren sounded to send the players heading for cover.

The forecast called for heavy showers overnight, followed by the same kind of winds that blew during the third round of last month's British Open and wrecked Woods' hopes for the Grand Slam.

Funk shared the first-round lead, but by the time he teed off Friday he was two shots behind. He promptly rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt at the 10th hole. Funk also birdied par-3 13th and then hit his second shot at the par-5 15th beyond the putting surface. But he chipped to within four feet and made the putt for a birdie that gave him the lead by himself.

With the crowds beginning to get behind him and cheering his every shot, Funk headed to the front nine and saved pars at the first and second holes with putts of eight and six feet. Funk then made a 12-footer for birdie at the par-5 third to move two shots in front. But he hit a greenside bunker at the par-3 fourth and eventually missed a three-footer.

Woods moved within two shots of the lead by firing a 3-under 33 on the front nine, but he three-putted the par-3 13th to slip back.

Woods is trying to become the first player in golf history to win three major championships in one year twice. He won three major titles in 2000 and Ben Hogan did so in 1953.

While Woods is seeking his ninth major championship, Funk is hoping for his first.

The former golf coach at the University of Maryland has been known throughout his career as one of the straightest drivers in the history of the PGA Tour. And once again, he is leading the tour in accuracy this year.

That accuracy has allowed him to overcome the fact that he is one of the shortest hitters on the tour, ranking 136th on the tour this season.

By hitting 85 percent of the fairways this year, he has been a consistent money winner, having earned $1.2 million in 21 tournaments. He has finished second in two of his last three stars -- at the B.C. Open and Buick Open.

In addition, he has drawn inspiration this week from his brother, who recently checked himself into a drug rehabilitation center.

"He is showing a lot of strength in what he has doing," Funk said of his brother. "If I'm not playing well this weekend, it's not because I'm going to be scared.

"That has been my attitude all week. If anythnig negative happens, it won't be because I'm scared. I am going to show the strength my brother has shown and I'm going to draw from him."

Because of an almost three-hour delay during Thursday's play, 39 players had to return to the course early Friday to complete the first round.

The second round then got underway in cool, sunny and generally perfect conditions and a host of players took advantage of the opportunity. But just as the morning starters were finishing their rounds, the winds began to pick up.

Calcavecchia and Leonard share the distinction of having won their lone major championship at Royal Troon. Calcavecchia captured the British Open there in 1989 and Leonard did so in 1997.

Calcavecchia, holder of the all-time PGA Tour record for low 72-hole score (256 at the 2001 Phoenix Open), is known for putting together stretches of brilliant play. His round Friday was highlighted by a chip-in for eagle at the par-5 15th.

"We had a great morning to play," Calcavecchia said. "I understand some weather might be coming in, so I'm glad to be finished.

"I've always been streaky. Sometimes I'm streaky bad, too. I was playing with some confidence and when I do, I try to stay aggressive. I don't try to keep it there. You try to get it as far under as you can when it is going good.

"Winning another major would be the ultimate. I wouldn't have thought that it was looking too good this week. My form hasn't been great. But that is the way I play. I hit three or four good iron shots in a row and there I go."

"It was as easy as we will see it." Leonard said. "I think the weather is going to change and we will see the real teeth of this course tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that. I would like to see it play as hard as possible."

Beem came to his final hole Friday one shot off the lead and drove deep into the rough.

But he carved his second shot around a tree and it ran onto the green, finishing just five feet from the hole.

Goosen, winner of the 2001 U.S. Open, also birdied the final hole to get to 6-under and he did it by holing a 25-foot chip shot.

Those tied with Woods at 3-under were Kenny Perry, Chris Riley, Charles Howell and Jim Furyk, all of whom had finished their rounds.

British Open champion Ernie Els was in the group at 2-under, but he had two holes to play.

It appeared a score of 4-over 148 would be good enough to make the cut and that was the score posted by David Duval, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia. Those certain to miss the cut included John Daly, Colin Montgomerie and Mark O'Meara.

Defending champion David Toms, playing in the group with Woods and Els, needed to bordie both the 17th and 18th holes Saturday to survive the cut.

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