Surging Funk highlights field for Boeing Classic

Surging Funk highlights field for Boeing Classic

Credit: AP

Fred Funk tees off on the third hole during the third round of the Champions Tour JELD-WEN Tradition golf tournament in Sunriver, Ore., Saturday, Aug. 16, 2008.

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by Associated Press

NWCN.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:35 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 24 at 12:35 PM

SNOQUALMIE, Wash. - Remembering that Denis Watson actually won last year's Boeing Classic is the hard part.

No one forgets the caravan of seven players -- carts, caddies and bags in tow -- hiking up the 18th fairway during the record-setting playoff that Watson eventually won.

"I have a lot of fond memories from last year ... but I hope it doesn't happen again," Watson said.

David Eger, who finished well before the leaders on that day, sat in the clubhouse with a cold beer in front of him watching numerous collapses by several contenders. As the mistakes of others started to mount, Eger's beer remained closed while he scrambled to get ready.

"It was a little surreal. You still knew what was going on, and you knew someone was going to win, but you knew the odds weren't in anyone's favor when that happened," said Eger, the 2005 Boeing Classic champion. "From my perspective having finished early and having been behind by two strokes ... you never expect to be in a playoff."

Watson wound up outlasting the other seven by making an eagle putt on the second playoff hole, then watching R.W. Eaks' 12-footer slide past the cup. It was the largest playoff in the history of the Champions and PGA tours.

Watson is back to defend his title, but has been bothered by a knee injury for part of the season and finished tied for 52nd at last week's JELD-WEN Tradition. He hasn't finished higher than 26th since winning the FedEx Kinko's Classic in May, the event where he injured his knee.

The greater concern for the rest of the field is surging Fred Funk, who finished second at the U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor, then ran away to win the Tradition last week in Sunriver, Ore., making 26 birdies over four rounds and finishing 19-under par.

His consecutive high finishes have vaulted Funk into third in the Charles Schwab Cup points race, a title Funk considered an afterthought at the beginning of the season when he planned to split his schedule between the Champions Tour and PGA Tour.

Funk himself had knee problems earlier in the season, which derailed his hopes of playing more regularly on the PGA Tour and qualifying for the FedEx Cup.

"Trying to balance the schedule between the two tours got a little difficult because I kept putting self-imposed pressure on myself," Funk said. "I kept feeling like I had to play good every single week, whether it was the Champions Tour or the regular tour. You just can't do that."

So Funk went ahead and had minor surgery on his knee and saw his game rapidly improve at the Senior Open before rolling to a three-shot win in the Tradition. Funk is approaching the rest of the Champions Tour schedule as his preparation for next winter when he plans to go back out on the PGA Tour full-time. He intends to play the rest of the Champions Tour schedule, along with one PGA Tour appearance, before the end of the year.

That begins on Friday at the 7,183-yard TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, which only got longer with untimely rain that has fallen every day this week, making the course a bit soggy.

"That's my hope, to get my game back, to get my mind back, to practice the right things," Funk said of his ambitious schedule. "I still feel like there is something out there for me. With the way competition is, you've got to always feel that way."

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