Funk's poor showing in first major a thing of the past

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Chris Condon/PGA TOUR
Fred Funk faltered at the season's first major, but he's back to being consistent at the second.
June 08, 2012
Cary Estes, Special to PGATOUR.COM

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- It was just two weeks ago that Fred Funk was sent home early from a Champions Tour major. At the Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor, Mich., Funk struggled with his iron shots, was befuddled by the greens and failed to make the cut following consecutive rounds of 3-over and 4-over.

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"I felt like I was behind the 8-ball on almost every hole," Funk recalled.

But those frustrating rounds at the Senior PGA Championship seem like nothing more than a bad dream for Funk this week. He has gone from missing the cut to being squarely in the hunt at the Regions Tradition, firing a 6-under 138 through the first two rounds. That places him in a tie for third at the midway point of the tournament, three strokes behind leader Bill Glasson.

Funk shot a 5-under 67 in Thursday's opening round at Shoal Creek, a day he said was "as fun as it could be out there." Then on Friday he recovered from consecutive bogeys to start the second round by making three birdies over the final 11 holes.

So how can the first two rounds of this major be so much different for Funk than the one held only a few weeks earlier?

"It's just the nature of the game. Every day is different," Funk said. "You have certain courses where you have a bad attitude toward a golf course or your body's not feeling really good or whatever.

"At Benton Harbor I got a little baffled at the greens. I didn't know how to read them, much less putt them. I didn't hit my irons that well. I couldn't hit it solid off those fairways, for whatever reason. I just didn't understand the concept of the design on that course."

What made the performance particularly puzzling for Funk was he had been victorious in his previous Champions Tour start -- the Insperity Championship presented by United Healthcare -- and then followed up missing the cut by finishing fourth in last week's Principal Charity Classic. Funk said he is not accustomed to his play being so erratic.

"I'm really known for my consistency. I expect to be consistent," Funk said. "I expect to hit the ball pretty solid and in play. When I lose my distance control I'm really struggling with my game, and that's what happened at Benton Harbor."

There are no signs that Funk will have similar problems this weekend at Shoal Creek, primarily because of how much he said he enjoys playing the 7,197-yard course.

"I love this golf course. It's a really good course," Funk said. "This is a venue where we can really grow the event and turn this thing into something special. This course rewards good play. If you're playing well you can make a lot of birdies out there. If you're not playing well you're going to struggle, and that's the way it should be on any golf course."

Funk, who continues to play periodically on the PGA TOUR, won the Tradition in 2008 and 2010 when it was held at Sunriver Resort's Crosswater Golf Club in Oregon. Those were two of the six victories he had during his first 4 1/2 seasons on the Champions Tour. His game was so consistent during those years that he posted top-25 finishes in 80 percent of his Champions Tour starts.

But a thumb injury in 2011 hampered Funk's swing, and he went winless with only seven top-10 finishes in 14 Champions Tour events that year. After getting off to another slow start this season, Funk made a significant change in his practice approach by working with a teacher -- Travis Fulton of the TOUR Academy at TPC Sawgrass.

"He works with my son, and he did such a great job with Taylor that I went to watch him," Funk said. "I'm pretty much self-taught. I've been to a lot of teachers to see what they say, but I don't like listening to them. I'm pretty stubborn and just figure it out myself. What I call digging in the dirt to find out what works for me.

"Travis really helped me come back from quite a few of the injuries I was dealing with last year, mainly my thumb. I got in a lot of bad habits compensating for that. Once it got better, I had to figure out how to get back to the basic fundamentals and rework my swing. I was playing so horrendous that I finally went to Travis and said, 'All right, I'm ready to listen. Just tell me what we need to do.' And we've been working on it ever since."

Halfway through the Regions Tradition, the works appears to be paying off. And with every successful swing, the memory of his Senior PGA Championship disappointment fades further away.

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