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May 8 2010

5:55 PM

New grip, driver spark Funk to 66

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Ask Fred Funk to describe the 66 he shot on Saturday and he has a simple answer. “A good day with the putter,” the 53-year-old said with a shrug. “Just a good day with the putter.”

It was, indeed. Funk needed just 24 putts, his low total of the week, as he made six birdies, one eagle and two bogeys to move to 8 under for the tournament. The key, he said, was changing his grip on Friday.

“I hit the ball pretty good the last couple of weeks and I saw signs of it coming around but my putter was just horrible,” Funk explained. “The first round I putted poorly. I had a lot of opportunities and turned them into par.

“So I decided to go with the claw, or the pencil, of whatever you want to call it.”

His putter responded well in the second round, although Funk didn’t make as many birdies as he did on Saturday. Other than a 5-footer that he missed at the 14 th hole in the third round, the 53-year-old veteran was extremely pleased – particularly with that clutch 23-footer at the 18 th hole that salvaged par.

“I made a ton of putts, and making that last one after such a bad second shot makes up for a couple,” Funk said.

Funk, who won THE PLAYERS in 2005 and lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., really got his round going when he holed a “delicate” chip for birdie at the sixth hole. He went on to birdie four of his next five holes, too, as he made the turn.

“(I had a) perfect lie just didn’t have any green to work with,” Funk described the cup. “With kind of shot I was going to hit, flopping it up there, I probably had a foot to land it in and get it close. It came out perfect and I got on a little roll there.”

Not only was Funk using a new putting grip, he was playing with his third driver in three days. This one, the newest TaylorMade Burner driver, has a lower trajectory and tends to run further.

“That’s the one I like,” Funk said. “I got a lot more distance today because I had the run out on it. Trajectory-wise I was zipping it out there pretty good.”

The Champions Tour star, who had his right knee replaced in November, said he’s probably 75 percent right now. “But it was killing me the last 4-5 holes,” admitted Funk. “It’s getting better all the time, but it’s still got a ways to go.

“It’s just become a part of my every day deal.”

Funk said he is hoping that the greens on the Stadium Course will get “dry and cooked” as the day wears on. He couldn’t have asked for better scoring conditions, though, and the 66 he shot was one stroke off his career-best here.

“That’s one advantage of playing in the morning with the humidity that we’ve had and the softness of the greens, you get perfect scoring conditions,” Funk said. “I couldn’t complain about one spike mark.”

To replay Funk's round on Shot Tracker, click here. -- Helen Ross

FRED FUNK'S STATISTICS FROM ROUND 3

Driving distance Fairways hit Greens in reg. Putts needed Sand saves
268.7 yards 10 of 14 11 of 18 24 0 of 1
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