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November 4, 2010

Fred Funk


PHIL STAMBAUGH: Fred, 33, 32, and 65, 6-under par for your opening round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. A few general comments about the day. We've had a couple guys in. Then go through your rounds.
FRED FUNK: Well, it was one of the best rounds I've had. Actually in the last three weeks I've been hitting it like this, and I hit a lot of greens today and gave myself a lot of opportunities and actually made a few.
So it was a real fun round. Pretty stress-free, except for missing that the last one. The par on 18 didn't taste too good. But other than that, it was really good playing. Solid.
Actually made some long putts that were nice to make, and I missed three short ones that really could have been a ridiculous round if I made those. Like four-, five-, six-footers right out of the gate. On 1 I think I had a four-footer and didn't even hit the hole.
Then made a nice birdie on 3 and 4.
Par-3, hit a 5-iron in there about 12 feet and made it, and then a wedge on the next hole to about eight feet and made it. That settled me down a little bit.
Then I hit it pretty close on 6, and it broke a lot more.
Then 8 I made a nice -- first green I missed was 8, par-3. Chipped it by about four, five feet and made it for par. Then so that felt good.
I made two nice ones in a row on 9 and 10, both par-5s.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: You hit wedges in there?
FRED FUNK: Yeah. I was int eh bunker on 9, and hit a wedge to the other hole -- actually to the back fringe, and probably made two 20-, 25-footers in a row.
Then I knocked a 5-iron in there to about seven feet on 11 and missed that one. It was like up and down, up and down.
And then I made a nice 18-footer, because we paced it had off, on 13.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: What did you hit in there?
And then 15 I left it short.
But 16, the par-4, I made a nice wedge in there to about seven feet and made it.
And then had about an eight-footer on 17.
Then 18 I hit a good drive and just missed it to the right. Had a really bad lie in the rough and made a pretty good chip but missed the putt.
That was the only really disturbing putt because it was downhill and real fast, a little left to right. I just babied it. Put a terrible stroke on it unfortunately. Just came up short. It was like I had a cashmere insert in my putter or something. Came off really soft.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: What did you hit off the tee at 17 there?
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Okay. Now we'll go to questions.

Q. Fred, Tom Kite, who's a little older than you, was talking about the fact that he and Watson are the only two 60-year-olds, and that all of sudden you're not quite as consistent. Wasn't too many years ago you won the PLAYERS. Do you find much difference in your game, and do you notice age at all in hitting the ball or distance? I know you never had a lot of distance, but do you feel older? You were the one that said pop -- what was it?
FRED FUNK: There's boom, boom, and then there's (indiscernible.) It's really not fair for me to answer that, only because I've gone three years in a row with really bad knee problems. My game has been way up and down with my knee. I've been really, really good at times, and really, really bad at times, not because of my age, but more because of m knee.
My knee is finally coming around. I got my new one now, and I have no pain in it. I'm probably about 80%, 85% now. Just as the knee really got better -- I mean, really, the last two years when I managed to rundown Jay a couple years ago and had a chance to win and then last year I had a chance to win again - a real good chance. All I had to do was just play a good solid game of golf, and I just couldn't because I couldn't even walk.
Anyway, so it's not fair to really say that. But the guys -- Tom Watson is in great shape. He's got his new hip and he's not in pain anymore. You know, if he played more out here -- you know, he plays a pretty limited schedule. I don't know what he's played, maybe 12, 14 events, 15 events. He kind of picks and chooses his events. If he played every week, he would be right there at the top all the time.
Tom is in great shape. Obviously the guys -- look at Freddy Couples, how good a shape he's in right now. Best he's ever been.
Yeah, you're looking at the 60s. I look at Hale Irwin. If he had his putter still working for him, physically he's not quite where he used to be, but he still hits the ball really well.
And Gil Morgan, he's got some issues this year physically. But when he doesn't have 'em, he's one of the best ball-strikers I've ever seen, and he's 64 or 65 years old.
You can do it out here. I did just happen to look at this thing where it shows ages and percentages of wins at a certain age, and it definitely drops off a whole a lot.

Q. Two years ago at Sonoma where you had a chance, and your knee was bothering you there. If I remember, you and Haas and somebody else, it was three ways, coming down the stretch in the tournament on the last day.

Q. You were having knee problems then.
FRED FUNK: Yeah, I had the operation three years ago. It left me bone on bone, and then I had it drained 18 times and that 16th one gave me a staph infection. I was sicker than a dog from that.
And then I went through all last year with trying to come back from the staph, and that was a slow, slow process. That was slower than coming back from the knee replacement by a lot. It put me kind of behind the eight ball with everything, with my knee and everything.
At the end of last year, when I walked off the course at Sonoma last year, I said, That's it. I'm done. I went in and told the doctor. He thought I could get two or three more years out of it, and I said, I want a new knee, and I want it as soon as I can get it. So November 18th last year I had my new knee. At 6:00 in the morning.

Q. Of retiring, in other words, would you say, Okay, I've done what I needed to do in golf? I know you started late because of the coaching and everything.
FRED FUNK: No, I feel totally energized and I feel like I'm still improving. I think I'm a better player. When I'm physically able to play, when my body works, I can play better than I've ever played. If I can get the putter going -- like any of us, you're still only as good as that stupid putter.
But when I get the entire -- if I'm hitting on all cylinders, I feel like I can really play. I still have two years on the regular tour I can go play. I'm going to play, eight, nine, ten out there next year and fill in, the courses I really like playing. There will be a lot in the beginning of the year, West Coast and Florida swing.
Then I'll more focus back over on the seniors, or Champions, whatever you want to call it out here. The following year I'll reevaluate, because I can use the career money spot in 2012 if I want. It's pretty neat to be 56 years old and still be exempt on the regular tour when that time comes.

Q. You're sort of on new ground having the knee replacement and coming back successfully. No one has really done that. How does it feel to sort of be the first person to really be able to do that?
FRED FUNK: Well, I'm the first one to win, and not -- mainly because there are not many of us that have a new knee competing at this level. But, you know, I won the one tournament with a new knee. Watson almost won - and should have won -- wish he did win the British Open when he had the new hip. That wasn't even publicized that whole week. Didn't hear much of it on TV.
But it's pretty neat. I've been pushing it, and always do at the doc. McNulty had it done earlier this year and took the whole year off. I just was talking to Tom Lehman the other day, or he asked me the other say in the fitness trailer, he says, You regret coming back so early?
I said, What do you mean early? He said, Well, you came back awfully quick. I go, Well, my doctor says you can come back whenever you feel like you can come back.
I was hitting balls at six weeks. I really wanted to play Hualalai, but he wouldn't let me go to Hualalai, so I think 12 weeks later I was competing again. Not very well, but I thought it was easier to do my rehab out here and get it strong while I was limping around and trying to figure out my game.
But the problem with it is that while you're favoring that, something else goes bad, which is really what happened the last three years. Never had back problems, and my back bothered me a little bit, and my left hip, the opposite side, was compensating, and that got sore. There's always something.
But coming back quick, there is no way I could sit at home and just watch everybody go play all year long. McNulty had the totally opposite. He said, I'm not coming back till I'm ready. I said, Well, that's fine.
We don't have many years left. I didn't want to miss a whole year. Yeah, that's kind of the way I look at it. I remember saying he ought to get certain courses on a rotation that we come back to. What's the one we played at the British Seniors three years ago?
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Sunningdale.
FRED FUNK: Sunningdale. I said, We've got to get Sunningdale on our rotation. It's such a great golf course. They said, Yeah, we'll try to do that. I said, no I mean, we need to have it on our rotation like every three or four years, because we die. (Laughing.)
You didn't can't go at a 10-year rotation out here on a Champions Tour. That's a one-time hit.

Q. When you came of the course last year at Sonoma and said, I'm done, you meant with the knee?
FRED FUNK: With the knee.

Q. So you never thought you were done golf-wise?
FRED FUNK: Oh, no, no, no. I was done with the knee.

Q. As an extension of that, can you sort of articulate how different is it to play on a reliable knee now?
FRED FUNK: I'm just not in pain anymore. I don't have the full strength in it yet, but I have zero pain. That was the neatest thing when I came back. I couldn't get in a bunker. Any uneven lie, and for three years, to dig in, I couldn't do that with my knee.
I remember coming back, and the doc says, All right, it's been six weeks. You can go try to hit balls. I went and was hit wedges and it didn't bother me at all, so I said, I'm going to walk over into that sand.
I just kind of walked in the sand. I didn't have any thigh strength, but just took my foot and went (making noise) it didn't hurt. I went a little more and then really dug it in and I didn't bother me at all, and I went, Wow, that is great.
So now I can get back in the bunker, and so then my bunker game came back because I could dig in. All of a sudden I could dig -- I hit it in the bunker before and I was done. I had to just stand there on top of the sand. I'm usually a pretty good bunker player, and I just couldn't do anything with it.
It just shows there's things you got to be able to do in this game fundamentally and physically to be able to play.

Q. Left or right?
FRED FUNK: Right. Thank goodness it was the right. I think the left knee would have been more of an issue.

Q. Just curious how this tournament feels compared to the rest of the year? It's like a major; it's four days, but then you also have the Schwab Cup element. How does that feel this week as far as the motivation and everything?
FRED FUNK: Motivation is always there. It's always a special feeling to be in a limited-field event. Like Hualalai or on the regular tour when you qualify for Kapalua or get in the old NEC tournament at Firestone. Any of those special events that were smaller fields, it was always a special feeling to be a part of those.
I think the same way with these on the Champions Tour. When you came Hualalai and you make the Schwab Cup, it's pretty good. So it's a special event for all of us. And even though there is only two guys that can win the Schwab Cup itself, it's better than having just one guy.
I mean, those two guys played really good. I think our system works pretty good, our little chase that we have.

Q. It's the right knee?

Q. When did it start bothering you? When you were playing the regular tour, or just the last couple years?
FRED FUNK: Probably right when I turned 50. My first year on the Champions Tour, my knee just -- something was bothering. I went in, and they said, Probably got a tear in there. When they went in there, it was already torn off the bone. The cartilage was scooped out instead of cut out. It was bone on bone from there.
So then it was just a matter of time. I was just blessed with a shitty knee. That's what the doctor said.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Thank you very much.
FRED FUNK: All right.

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