Funk Regains Confidence at Buick

Saturday, August 28th 2004, 12:10 pm
By: News On 6

CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) _ Fred Funk has his confidence back. The 48-year-old Funk, preparing for his first Ryder Cup appearance, shot his second straight 4-under 66 on Friday for a share of the lead with rookie Zach Johnson after the second round of the Buick Championship. Johnson, the Nationwide Tour player of the year last season who won the BellSouth Classic in March for his first PGA Tour title, had a 65 to match Funk at 8 under.

``I've got that where-it's-fun-to-play feeling again,'' Funk said. ``I haven't had that in a while so I'm really looking forward to going out, no matter what I do.''

Long-hitting Hank Kuehne (65) was a stroke back, and first-round leader Corey Pavin (72) and Jose Coceres (66) were another shot behind.

Johnson hit all 14 fairways and one-putted seven greens.

``Any time you start hitting your driver well, 3-wood well off the tee box, you feel like you can do something,'' said Johnson, who has missed only one fairway in two days.

Johnson and Funk have played together this season in a threesome with Jack Nicklaus at the Memorial in May. That's where Funk realized that Johnson is no ordinary rookie.

``They're just so much more seasoned than when I came out on tour,'' Funk said. ``They're not scared of anything. Sometimes their minds get in the way, but I don't see Zach as one of those players. He just has the total game.''

Johnson began the day five strokes off the lead, but finished with six birdies to tie Funk in his first appearance at the TPC at River Highlands.

``I like every hole to be honest with you,'' Johnson said. ``It's got everything. This golf course can suit anybody's game. You've got Hank Kuehne, who's playing well, and you've got Fred, who doesn't hit it very far, but he gets it out there.''

And he gets it where it counts. Funk, the most accurate driver on tour, treated the gallery to crisp shotmaking. The only green he missed was his last one.

The fans got behind him, especially down the stretch when he made three birdies on the last five holes.

Funk was 9 under heading into the final hole when he had to contend with a tricky lie on a fairway mogul and pushed his approach into the deep rough to the right of the green. A poor chip left him about 15 feet from the hole and he two-putted for his only bogey in two days.

``I just got unlucky,'' Funk said. ``You never feel good finishing with a bogey. That was really the only downside of the whole day.''

The big-hitting Kuehne hit just 50 percent of his fairways, but averaged 294 yards off the tee when he did hit in regulation. He started the day six strokes off the lead and played himself into contention with four birdies in what he called ``a low-stress round.''

Pavin was coming off a career-best tying 62 on Thursday, but faltered early in the second round. He started on No. 10 and bogeyed his third hole, then double-bogeyed No. 16 after his drive landed in the greenside pond.

Eighty players made the cut at 1 over. Those heading home for the weekend included Fred Couples, Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton and former tournament champ Nick Price.

Divots: Dudley Hart was disqualified for carrying a non-conforming club. ... Ken Green was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.