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Fred Funk claims Skins Game title

Tiger Woods might want to think twice about needling Fred Funk.

Sure, everyone had some side-splitting laughs on the third hole of the Skins Game when Funk pulled on a pink skirt, his penalty for failing to outdrive Annika Sorenstam. It was Woods who first suggested that Funk would face eternal grief if one of Funk's straight-but-short drives didn't measure up to one by the LPGA star.

Well, the yuks and double-entendres made way for some serious golf on Sunday, when Funk set rookie records by winning the Skins Game with a whopping $925,000 and 15 skins.

Funk had a two-putt birdie on the par-5 18th, collecting the final $550,000 and six skins when none other than Woods missed an 8-foot birdie putt.

"Wow," said the 49-year-old Funk, who became the oldest Skins Game winner.

"I'm still in shock that I got asked to be in this thing," said Funk, who was invited to his first Skins Game after winning The Players Championship in March. "I've always watched it on TV and was shocked to be part of it. It's something that I didn't even dream of, actually. First of all, I didn't dream that I'd win The Players Championship."

Said Woods: "It started off with some nice birdies at first, and after that Funky just took over."

Coincidentally, Funk won $775,000 and 12 skins on two par-5s. The $925,000 and 15 skins were records for a rookie.

Almost as surprising as Funk winning practically the entire purse was Fred Couples, the King of Skins, getting shut out for the first time in 12 appearances.

"Getting nothing is not the end of the world," said Couples, who still holds the Skins Game career records with $3,515,000 and 77 skins. "I've gotten my share. So I'm tickled pink just to be here."

Woods won the other $75,000, on the third hole on Saturday. Sorenstam was shut out for the second straight year.

"This course is long for me to start with, and you put some wind and some firm greens, it made it really tough for me to get it close," said Sorenstam, the LPGA star playing in her third straight Skins Game. "It's an honor simply to come here. This is a great experience for me."

With more than half the purse up for grabs on the final hole, Funk played it brilliantly. As usual, his drive was in the middle of the fairway on the 524-yard, par-5 finishing hole, although Woods and Couples had more distance. Funk's approach shot left him with a 30-foot eagle putt, which curled just to the left, leaving him a tap-in for birdie.

"Obviously I'm not a power hitter at all," said Funk, who hit a 284-yard drive and a 3-wood from 241 yards.

"I wasn't sure, into the wind, that I could get home, but I hit a really good drive and a really good 3-wood to get it up there," he said. "I didn't think birdie would win it, but you just never know in the Skins.

"Again, timing's everything," Funk said. "It was very difficult to make putts. You saw a lot of putts go right up to the hole and break off. Freddie and Tiger hit a bunch like that. It's just difficult trying to read these things and you don't know where they go."

Woods needed to make his birdie putt to halve the hole and force a playoff. He missed just left.

Funk also won $150,000 and three skins with a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-4 12th, the day's third hole.

The previous oldest Skins Game champion was Gary Player, who was 48 when he won it in 1983.

Funk won the most money in one year and won the biggest hole in a regular Skins Game -- not including the 2001 event that was played under a validation format. Greg Norman won $800,000 on one hole in that 2001 event, and $1 million overall.

Woods and Couples both had chances to reel in Funk, who won $225,000 and six skins on Saturday.

Woods had a sensational approach shot out of the right rough on the par-5 16th and could have won $280,000 and four skins, but his 25-foot eagle putt stopped about 4 inches short of the cup.

"Don't do that, don't," Woods said to the ball before covering his face.

"Nice lag," Sorenstam told him.

"I've got a pretty pink skirt for you," Funk said to Woods.

On the par-3 17th, which was worth $350,000 and five skins, Funk hit into the water and Woods and Couples both missed long birdie putts. Sorenstam made a par putt, forcing Woods and Couples to do the same to halve the hole and carry the money over to the 18th.

November 28, 2005

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