Funk, Johnson lead after two rounds

Friday, August 27th 2004, 8:21 pm
By: News On 6

CROMWELL, Connecticut (AP) _ Fred Funk and tour rookie Zach Johnson had near perfect outings Friday to share a one-stroke lead in the Buick Championship after two rounds.

Johnson shot a 5-under 65 and Funk had a 66 to move to 8-under-par (132) for the tournament, one better than Hank Kuehne (65). First-round leader Corey Pavin and Jose Coceres are two strokes back. A group of six golfers are three strokes behind the leaders.

Johnson, the Nationwide Tour player of the year in 2003, won the BellSouth Classic in March for his first PGA Tour title. The rookie hit all 14 fairways and had seven one-putts in the round. After two days, he's been the most accurate in the tournament, hitting 27 of 28 fairways.

He began the day five strokes off the lead, but finished with six birdies to tie Funk. It was his first appearance at the TPC at River Highlands and the rookie liked what he saw.

``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 (Funk) who doesn't hit it very far, but he gets it out there.''

And he's gets it where it counts. Funk, the most accurate driver on tour, treated the gallery to crisp shotmaking all afternoon. The only green he missed was his last one, and that cost him sole possession of the lead.

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

He was 9-under par 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.''

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 out, then double-bogeyed No. 16 when his drive landed in the greenside pond. Pavin finished the day with a 2-over 72.

Coceres, a two-time tour winner, finished with four birdies and had no bogeys for a 66.

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