PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Funk going next level to extend career
Heading to San Diego to train with a guy that works with Navy SEALS
March 20, 2019
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- March 20, 2019
- Fred Funk hasn't played on PGA TOUR Champions this year due to injury. (Getty Images)
All Fred Funk wants to do is rejoin his pals on PGA TOUR Champions.
But his body has betrayed him for the past 16 months, and he is in yet another rest-and-rehabilitation stint after aggravating a hamstring injury while attempting to make his 2019 debut.
Funk flew to California last week mostly on a whim for the Hoag Classic in the hopes he could play for the first time since missing the cut at the U.S. Senior Open in July.
“I hadn’t played but probably eight holes in four months,” said Funk, who has not played this year because of a hamstring injury. “But I had four or five good days in a row and said, ‘I’m going,’ even though I wasn’t close to tournament-ready.
“I was champing at the bit to get out there. I wanted to see the guys, and it’s good course for me.”
Indeed Funk, 62, had five consecutive top 20s in Newport Beach from 2012-16, with a best of T5. But during the Wednesday pro-am he aggravated his right hamstring and was forced to withdraw.
Funk has had problems with both hamstrings for over a year and has had platelet-rich plasma (PRP) shots twice in each leg. He believes the hamstring injuries, a Grade 1 tear in the right and a Grade 2 in the left, were caused by tightening in his back that began in 2017.
Funk said he first felt a hamstring go at the pro-am for the Invesco QQQ Championship in late October 2017. He said he should have withdrawn, but somehow he continued to play so well (a T5 to advance to the Charles Schwab Cup Championship) that he went ahead and finished.
“I could only hit it about 220 yards (off the tee),” Funk recalled. “Every swing hurt like hell, but I just kept waiting for a stretch where I was playing poorly and I never did. I was on 13 in Sunday’s round and had a putt to tie for the lead. I was like, ‘This is ridiculous. I can’t even swing and I could win this thing.’
“I just kinda laughed. I scored incredibly well. I was on 15, the par 3 over the water. I thought I hit it in the water, and it cleared by a foot. It hopped in the rough and I chipped in. On the last hole I had 160 yards and took a 4 hybrid. I missed it so badly I didn’t even watch the ball, and it hit a rock and came out of the water and went to the back of the green. I got up and down for par. I could have made double-double and made birdie-par. It’s crazy how I finished.”
But Funk had nothing left for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. He shot three rounds in the 70s and finished dead last.
Because of ongoing issues with his hamstring and back, Funk was able to make only 13 starts in 2018. He withdrew four times and missed one cut. He had two top 25s in the eight tournaments he completed – a third at the Boca Raton Championship and a T18 at the Principal Charity Classic.
By July he had to shut it down, with pain in his right hip running down his right leg. He said he flew all over the country getting various medical opinions and that no one could agree.
“Three weeks prior to going to Newport, I called Jay Haas and said I’m ready to go to your guy and get a rhizotomy, where they burn the nerves in your back,” Funk said. “I had some relief instantly, and that’s what inspired me to go to Newport. My back was functional again. I had four or five days in a row where I thought I could swing full speed. But then when I tried it hurt a little bit.
“I’m hoping to get back for Atlanta. That’s my goal.”
Funk is referring to the Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Georgia. It begins on April 19.
In the meantime, he’s headed to San Diego on Friday to do visit with a trainer, Joe Hippensteel, who has worked with the Navy SEALS.
“It’s a little bit of everything but a lot of stretching for the whole body, not just hamstrings,” Funk said. “I’ll work with him for five days. He gave me two exercises for my back and hips and I’ve been doing them for four days and I feel a lot better already.”
Funk has been beyond frustrated. He just wants to feel the rush of competition again and enjoy the camaraderie of the PGA TOUR Champions.
“I really believe I can go out there and compete if I’m feeling well,” Funk said. “I’m hoping I can get to that. If I can I can go out there and be a factor for a few more years … “
The veteran’s voice faded softly, like a Nicklaus drive on a dogleg right.
“I know my window is closing. I don’t want to go out the way I’m going now. I don’t want to go out because physically I can’t play. I’m not ready yet. I love playing. I love the guys. I love the Champions Tour. It’s a really good gig.”