Furyk, Funk Share PGA Lead
Friday, August 16th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
CHASKA, Minn. (AP) _ The fourth and final major began as a battle between two Florida neighbors who botched the first three.
When brisk winds finally shooed the storm clouds away from Hazeltine National Golf Club, Jim Furyk and Fred Funk emerged as the early leaders Thursday in the PGA Championship with rounds of 4-under-par 68.
Enormous galleries tracked Masters and U.S. Open champion Tiger Woods and British Open champion Ernie Els, who each managed to hit one tee shot before lightning stopped play for nearly three hours.
There weren't many thrills in the sunshine, with Woods opening at 71 and Els making bogey on the final hole for a 72.
Furyk and Funk slipped by unnoticed.
They live a mile apart in Ponte Vedra Beach, and have more than a zip code in common. It has been a season to forget in golf's biggest championships.
Furyk missed the cut in all three majors, unusual for him since he had taken the weekend off at the majors only twice in his career.
``It's been a good year and a frustrating year, all in one,'' said Furyk, who became a father this summer.
For Funk it was worse. He didn't even qualify for the first three majors.
``I knew I was going to get in one of them,'' he said with a smile.
Funk certainly made the most of it on what turned out to be a glorious day in Minnesota. Taking only three putts over his final four holes, the former Maryland golf coach shot into a share of the lead, an unfamiliar position for him.
Whether the lead stands will be determined Friday. A storm delay of nearly three hours kept 39 players from finishing the round.
Greg Norman was at 2 under with three holes to play, while Retief Goosen was at the same score with four holes left.
Phil Mickelson, trying to win his first major in 42 starts, had a miserable time at the turn by missing short putts to make bogey and double bogey. He left the course in darkness after a birdie and was 3 over with three to play.
John Daly barely finished, which was the best thing he could say about his round. He took an 11 on the par-4 16th hole by hitting three balls in the water.
``I tried on every shot,'' Daly said, and the ``Wild Thing'' certainly kept trying after that. He had a 33 on his second nine for a 77.
Funk chipped in for birdie on No. 15, holed putts of 30 and 20 feet on the next two holes, then saved par with about a 10-foot putt on the last.
Furyk wasn't nearly that dramatic, but he was just as satisfied. Four of his five birdie putts were inside 10 feet, the exception coming on No. 6 when he got a good read from Jerry Kelly's putt and made birdie from 25 feet.
Furyk had a share of the first-round lead in the 1997 British Open and has reason to believe he can pick up his first major here. Eleven of the last 14 winners at the PGA had never won a major.
``I would like to put myself in position the next couple of days, but that history probably isn't going to help me too much,'' he said.
Justin Rose of England, suddenly a regular contender in majors, had a 69 and was joined by Peter Lonard of Australia.
Davis Love III made double bogey on the 16th and still shot 70, along with Lee Janzen, while Vijay Singh and Minnesota native Tom Lehman joined Woods in the group at 71.
Half of the field was still on the course, including Phil Mickelson and David Duval, and not all of them were going to finish the first round.
It was a bizarre beginning to the final major of the year. Minnesota fans were buzzing by the time Woods, Els and defending champion David Toms arrived on the 10th tee. They took up every inch of space down the fairways, standing 20 rows deep up a slope.
Whack! Whack! Whack!
All three drives found the fairways, and what followed was a sound that startled Woods _ the siren to halt play because of a fast-approaching storm.
Everyone could see the black clouds behind them, except for Woods, whose eyes were focused on the 10th fairway and perhaps the American Slam. No one has ever won the three U.S. majors in the same year.
He stiffened and looked back when he heard the horn.
``I didn't know what it was for, and David said there was lightning in the area,'' Woods said. ``I looked back and said, 'Yeah, let's get out of here.'''
After a long wait, they warmed up quickly.
From a sand-filled divot, Els came up short of the green and then chipped in from 60 feet. He added a 10-foot birdie on the next hole, while Woods hit a half-flop from thick rough to 10 inches for birdie on the par-5 11th and joined Els at 2 under with an 8-foot birdie on No. 12.
That's as low as either of them got.
Els struggled with club selection in the swirling wind. Woods struggled with his driver. Both are still very much in contention.
``Woods is right there and I heard he didn't play that good,'' Funk said.
Funk is one of the shortest hitters on tour, a guy known best for his accuracy. He's been known to pick out the stripes left by lawn mowers as his target off the tee.
But majors have been another story. His best finish is a tie for seventh, and he's only been in one other top 10. He recalls one time being tied for the lead after 22 holes, and another time being close to the lead on the weekend.
Furyk has had a few good chances already, especially the '98 Masters and British Open when he tied for fourth.
He's had some good reasons for playing poorly in the majors this year _ an inner-ear infection before the Masters, the impending birth of his daughter at the U.S. Open, and being a new father at the British Open.
Then again, he also won the Memorial with a final-round 65 for his seventh tour victory.
``When I've played well, I've played very well and put myself in position,'' he said. ``I've always missed a bunch of cuts. I try to look at the positive parts.''