On Wednesday, Fred Funk had to withdraw part way through the pro-am event that preceded the PGA Tour's B.C. Open in Endicott, N.Y. Back and shoulder stiffness sent him to the sidelines, and, in the midst of a hot streak, he was concerned about being able to play the next day.
As it turned out, not only was the Maryland native able to play, but he wound up with his first win of the year, beating Pete Jordan on the first hole of a playoff.
"The back and shoulder froze up on me and I had to stop after nine holes," Funk said after his fourth victory in eight years on the tour. "I have a history of back trouble, and this was a case of not warming up properly.
"The people in our fitness facility worked on me for about five hours Wednesday and a couple of hours Thursday before my tee time. I've had some nagging things in the past, but you just put them aside and play golf.
The victory came after Sunday's final round was canceled because of rain and the third-round tie for the lead necessitated the playoff. Playing No. 18, Funk hit a 7-iron shot to less than a foot and tapped in for a winning birdie.
"In the past, I've played my best golf in the summer, but I've been playing solid for the last month, as my game has shown signs of life," he said. "I'm really relaxed and have a different attitude." The University of Maryland graduate and former coach of its golf team for eight years has had four top-10 finishes in his last six events.
The winner's check for $180,000 boosted him to No. 24 on the money list with $647,384, all but guaranteeing him a place in the top-30 field for the season-ending tour championship.
"I've been making a big drive to make the top 30, and now [either with that or the win] I'm exempt for the U.S. Open. That was a major concern. I didn't want to come for the Kemper and then leave town. Having to qualify would have been extremely difficult."
Next year's U.S. Open will be played at Congressional CC in Bethesda, across the street from the Kemper site, TPC-Avenel.
He sees at least one good reason for his summer-fall success. "Those desert courses [winter events] are wide open and favor the big hitters. Later in the year, we get to the rolling, tree-lined courses, with the rough up -- that's where I'm comfortable."
Pub Date: 9/24/96