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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2007 > PGA Tour > Mayakoba Golf Classic > Round 4
 

MAYAKOBA GOLF CLASSIC RELATED STORIES





Fred Funk holds on to win in playoff

The good thing about getting old is all the experience you gain along the way. Just ask Fred Funk.

Headed toward his 51st birthday and playing in his 577th PGA Tour event, he never panicked Sunday during the final round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic.

Not when his two-stroke lead dissolved into a tie. Not when his back started acting up again. And not when he was in a bunker on the first hole of a playoff with Jose Coceres.

"I didn't have any fear of that shot," he said. "I was upset that I was in it, but you've got to let that go and deal with the situation."

Funk saved par and got to keep playing because the less-experienced Coceres tightened up and missed a potential winning putt. On the second playoff hole, Funk capitalized on his chance to win, hitting a 6-foot putt with such authority and confidence that his victory punch was flying before the ball was falling into the cup.

The victory made him the fifth-oldest winner on the PGA Tour and the oldest since 1975. He also joined Craig Stadler as the only players to win on the PGA Tour after winning on the Champions Tour.

Another bit of history was winning the first PGA Tour event in Mexico. His reward was a 100-pound limestone chameleon, a jumbo version of the ones on the tee boxes of the El Cameleon course.

There's a fitting connection between an animal that changes colors and a golfer that can seamlessly go between tours.

"It shows that the old guy has still got something," said Funk, who at 50 years, 8 months and 12 days is more than a half-year younger than Stadler was. "It's a very satisfying win.

"I think I validated how good the players are on the Champions Tour. Even though you are 50 or 51 through 55 ... age doesn't really mean anything. I just want to see how long I can last."

Funk led the tournament since setting the course record with an 8-under 62 Thursday. He never lost the lead, but was tied several times, including from the 14th hole Sunday until his birdie putt in the playoff.

The former University of Maryland coach closed with a 1-over 71, matching Coceres (69) at 14-under 266 on the Greg Norman-designed course.

"It was not an easy day for me out there today at all," Funk said. "I owe it to my putter and I think my intestinal fortitude."

The eighth PGA Tour victory of his career was worth $630,000. By comparison, his two Champions Tour titles -- the 2006 AT&T Championship and the Turtle Bay Championship last month -- were worth a combined $480,000, which is another reason he enjoys challenging guys young enough to be his kids.

In fact, tied for 13th place at this event was Kevin Stadler, son of Craig, who in 2003 won the Senior Players and B.C. Open on consecutive weeks.

Stadler and Funk both have a bit of an asterisk next to their feats because their 50-something wins came against fields diluted by other, bigger events -- the British Open for Stadler, the Accenture Match Play Championship for Funk.

To Funk, though, a win is a win.

"These guys can play all the way down to the bottom of the list," he said. "You've got to play well to come out on top."

Coceres was pleased to have done so well considering he's been playing soccer in Argentina most of this year. This was only his second tournament in 2007.

"It made me a little bit tight," he said. "The pressure caught up with me."

Australian Peter Lonard, who played with Funk and Coceres, birdied the final hole for a 67 to finish third at 13 under. Ryan Armour (66) was 12 under, and Bill Hass (67) followed at 11 under.

Funk came into the final round with a two-shot lead and a back problem that bothered him so much Saturday he wondered whether he'd be able to finish.

He got off to an ominous start Sunday when his very first shot rolled to the lip of the "Devil's Mouth," the opening to an underground cave in the middle of the fairway. He had two bogeys on the front nine and wound up tied at the turn, when he saved bogey on No. 8 ("That felt like a birdie," he said.) and Coceres finally got a birdie to fall at No. 9.

Another problem was that Funk's back pain flared up on the fifth fairway. He had to lay down for massages from his wife on the sixth tee and from a tour therapist at the 12th tee.

"Then I found a stretch, putting my (left) leg on top of my (right) knee, working that one spot," he said. "I was fine coming down the stretch."

Funk reclaimed the lead with a birdie at 13, then made a bogey on 14 that left him tied with Coceres until the final hole.

The victory was Funk's first on the PGA Tour since The Players Championship in 2005. It wasn't his first title in Mexico, though -- he won the 1992 Mexico Open.

He's planning on returning to the Riviera Maya next year, and perhaps for many more years. The tour has a contract with this event through 2012 -- when Funk will be 55.

 

 




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