home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


April 13, 2005

Fred Funk


TODD BUDNICK: We thank Fred Funk for stopping in at the 2005 MCI Heritage. Fred coming off his big win at THE PLAYERS Championship a couple weeks ago, which has extended your stay on the PGA TOUR for another five years. Congratulations on that.

Here at the MCI Heritage you're making your 15th appearance and you've just missed one cut and you've made 12 straight here. You've got some good history here coming off of a 6th last year.

FRED FUNK: I don't want to know that.

TODD BUDNICK: First talk about the win at THE PLAYERS Championship. That was a great moment for your professional career.

FRED FUNK: It was a defining win, no question. By far the biggest one I've had. It's pretty neat to be called THE PLAYERS champion. A heard last week at Augusta a lot of guys staying you're THE PLAYERS champ. There's no corporate moniker there in the front; you're just THE PLAYERS champ, you won our tournament. It was a very special feeling to -- or feeling of accomplishment, I guess, to have won on that golf course under those conditions against the field that truly is the strongest field of the year, and it's my hometown. It just was an unbelievable, like "wow" accomplishment.

I didn't know it was coming. I didn't see myself playing quite that solid to win a tournament that big, but the game got -- I was playing really solid all week, and then when the conditions got brutally tough on Monday and I had to play 32 holes in it, hitting the ball as solid as I was hitting it really helped. I think the conditions helped me more than even the bombers because their balls are in the air so much longer than mine that they were affected by the wind so much more than me. It probably eliminated a lot of the guys that weren't hitting the ball quite as solid or the guys that were keeping the ball in the air a little too long because it was just brutal rough and brutal wind, a lot of cross winds and gusty conditions. Anyway, obviously it worked out.

Q. How much pressure was there coming down the stretch during that tournament?

FRED FUNK: You know, there was a lot. I was on 7 early, I made a bogey on 3, and I had just birdied 7, I was sitting there talking to my caddie, and I said if I can make a couple more birdies I can get myself right in this thing. It was obvious guys were going to be coming backwards because it was hard to go forwards under those conditions. He said, "Well, you'd better make five." I said, "Well, thanks." Then I birdied 8, and I really felt like I've got a little momentum going here.

I actually missed some birdie putts on 10 and 11, and then I birdied 12, and I felt really good about that, and then I hit a great shot on 13. I pulled it but it turned out to be a great shot and a pure putt, and I really didn't get excited about that because I knew there was so much golf to be played to the house, and I didn't know whether I had the lead or not. I didn't look at a leaderboard.

I had a tremendous sense of calm all week. I didn't have any panic. I don't have that all the time, and I don't think anybody does all the time, but for some reason, I didn't panic to the situation. I kind of just was focused on one shot at a time. I did mistakenly see the board on 14 before I hit my first putt, and I saw I had a two-shot lead. It didn't really affect my first putt or didn't affect me that much because I had such a brutal putt, my first putt. There was no way I could really keep this thing close I thought. I didn't mean to almost putt it off the green, but at the same time I didn't want to leave that -- the second half of the putt was downhill, downwind, hard left to right, and you don't want to leave a putt like that short because then you're faced with the same putt.

So I gave it a little extra. I didn't play enough break and putted it way past the hole, and I hit a great second putt, it didn't go in, and it didn't shake me too much, and then on 15, I mis-hit the 5-iron just a little bit and it came up about 50 feet short. I hit a bad first putt there because I didn't get it to the hole. I guess I was a little gun shy, so I was a little upset with that. I hit a perfect second putt that didn't go in. It made me mad more than it did panic. I hit a great putt there, I didn't deserve it. I actually was shocked that it went right at the end, and I saw the replay, and the announcers said it would go right, and I thought it was a right-to-left. I put it in the inside right of the hole, and it was going in, and I'm thinking it's going to break left and it kind of duped right, caught the lip and lipped out. It shook me to the point where I got mad.

My wife came over on 16 and wanted to see if I can okay. I said, I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm okay. I was really focused on the finishing hole. I knew I could reach 16 if I hit a good drive, and I hit two great shots, hit a great putt, misread it, the eagle putt, then you've got to wait on 17. 17 and 18 are hard holes regardless, but with those conditions, if there's any -- you've got to have doubt. There's some doubt that comes into your mind, "Can I possibly hit it green?" It can end up a great week on that one hole.

Assuming you survive 17, you've got to still face 18, and that's not easy to do. There wasn't really any panic but there was definitely anxiety coming down the stretch there.

But I stayed in the moment. That's what was really neat and unusual. I did that a few times in my career where I remember playing with Tiger at Hazeltine on Sunday, last year at Milwaukee I was trying to make a run for the Ryder Cup team and I finished 2nd there or tied for 2nd, and was as relaxed as I could be coming down that whole round, played a great round of golf and almost won the tournament. And where I wasn't relaxed was Hartford, where I blew the tournament last year. So it was totally polar mentality coming down the stretch. I felt like I had to do more than I had to do at Hartford. I tried to do a few things and forced it and ended up losing the tournament, and that really made me upset.

Then when I won Jackson later in the year, I was real relaxed and taking it -- I took my game up a notch on the back nine, made four birdies, birdied three of the last four holes to win the tournament. That was a great feeling to do that.

So THE PLAYERS Championship, not that I wanted to make it that exciting, but the way it finished and looking back on it, it just felt satisfying to finish the deal off on 18 the way I did.

Q. Obviously you are one of the happiest guys on the PGA TOUR and the fans really appreciate that. Will raising to this level change you in any way? Do you see getting more serious about being out there?

FRED FUNK: No, I hope not. I don't want to change at all. I'm just trying to see how good I can get. That's always been my goal. Fortunately I've been improving each year I've come out. I have realistic goals, I think. I think I can get myself in contention to possibly win the big tournaments on Sunday, but I've never closed the deal, and then I finally closed the deal at TPC, and that's very satisfying to have done that.

But at the same time, I know I need the right conditions for me to do that. I'm not normally a good wind player, I don't like playing in the wind, and that was severe wind that day on a really severe golf course, and I just happened to have a week I was hitting the ball so solid that I had great distance control and the wind wasn't affecting my ball as much.

Q. You have great interaction with the fans. Some of the players just tend to block everything out.

FRED FUNK: Yeah, I like interacting with the fans. Actually they relax me a little bit. Usually the looser I am, the better I am playing. If I can stay interactive with the crowd -- really what happened at Hazeltine when it stepped up the big notch was I went in there with an attitude that I was going to enjoy all my good shots, not worry about my bad shots, and purposely not -- I didn't purposely want to interact with the crowd, but I acknowledged the crowd when I did something good, and they acknowledged me back, and it ended up being just a back and forth thing where I was playing well enough that I gave the crowd something to cheer about. I acknowledged them back and they were real appreciative of that. It wasn't like a one-sided thing, tip your hat, like that; it was really getting the fans involved, and I was having a good time with them.

I've always tried to do that, it's just I can't do it all the time. Sometimes I'm just not -- for one, I'm not playing good enough to let the fans get involved. That's one problem.

When I'm playing well, I like getting them involved and having a good time with them. Now, that was my home tournament, so that was a little different deal. Even the people that weren't rooting for me at first were gravitating towards me just because it was a neat story.

Q. They think you're a neat story because you're kind of every man to them on the golf course.

FRED FUNK: Yeah, I think they look at me more of a guy -- I don't hit it that far, and have a work ethic, and I get the most out of what I do out here. I'm probably an over-achiever, if anything. I don't take that as an insult or anything, I think it's just something that -- I'm not afraid to go after a challenge, and it's always been a challenge for me to even get out here, and then to keep my card and to have some success and raise each level to get up there, I know I'm not -- I don't have the kind of game that I can dominate the game like the true superstars that are out here, but I can under the right circumstances on the right golf course -- if I'm playing really well, I can at least make them know that I'm out there.

Q. The bad weather has kind of followed the TOUR around obviously this year. Talk about this course, how differently it plays when it's windy, when it's rainy.

FRED FUNK: This is a ball-control-type golf course, a position-type golf course. We're getting fewer and fewer of these, and it's always one that's one of the favorites of almost all of the guys on the TOUR. I think if you poll them they're going to pick this one as one of their Top 5 for sure.

It varies on how it plays. It really plays hard when it's hard and fast, even though it plays shorter. The ball gets into trouble pretty quick, and any time -- actually any golf course, usually when it's playing firm and fast is more difficult, but one this narrow is much more difficult because if the ball is curving one way or the other, it always seems to find its way behind a tree or you're blocked out by a limb or things like that. So it's just a great golf course. You've got to think your way around it.

Q. As opposed to say TPC, a little different --

FRED FUNK: Well, TPC is a totally different animal. Augusta is a totally different animal. Everybody says, well, you're coming on a high from TPC going to Augusta, but every golf course is different in its own way.

TPC, though, was very important to keep it out of that high rough, and it's more of a position golf course because they've had -- if you look at the guys that have won that tournament or the guys that have played well in that tournament year in and year out, you look at the top 20 guys or 25 guys, and it's sprinkled with long hitters, short hitters, medium hitters, different types of games, and I think that's a testament to how good a golf course it is when you have a mixture of type of games that are filling out the top of the leaderboard.

Same thing happens here. You have Davis, who's one of the most powerful players out here, and he's dominated this tournament. Yet you go -- normally I would say at Augusta your top of the field are all long hitters, most of them, because it's just that kind of golf course. There's such an advantage to have a shorter iron into those greens.

Each golf course is a different test. It's good we have change. You don't want to be playing every week on a Harbour Town type layout. But it does seem to be more advantageous on a lot of golf courses to be extremely long. You just hit it as hard as you can.

You've seen the stats where a lot of winners have averaged four or five fairways a round and they're shooting 20-under par. That's just pure power. The rough hasn't been severe enough to penalize their off-line shots, and their lighting it up because they can hit the greens with 8, 9, wedges, and then when they do hit the fairways they knock those close and take advantage of it.

Q. You talk about the pressure at TPC a couple weeks ago. Obviously pressure at Augusta for everybody. Is this tournament kind of in contrast to some of those things, where you guys can just concentrate on golf and enjoy yourselves a little bit?

FRED FUNK: It's more of a family-type atmosphere for us. I've come off two high pressure, high intensity tournaments, and you come to a golf course that is fun to play, it rewards you when you play well, it's not tricked up, doesn't have the windmills and loop to loops on the greens. You can go out there and feel like if you play really well you get rewarded. It's not a fine a line between that 68 and that 78 that you have on those other golf courses.

I think in that regard, it does relax you a lot, and the relaxation disappears when you get in contention this week. When you get down to Saturday and Sunday and you're at the top of the leaderboard, all of a sudden it's a different story again. But it's still a different golf course. You can still go out there and enjoy it.

There's a few holes out there that scares the heck out of you, like No. 4, and other holes like that, but it's just a great test of golf and a fun golf course.

Q. I also wanted to ask about Tiger after The Masters. Is that win maybe symbolic of him getting ready for another run like we saw, or is it the depth on the PGA TOUR now so strong and is everybody so close that it's going to be hard for anybody to get away like he did then?

FRED FUNK: I don't see Tiger dominating like he did, I really don't. For one, I really don't think -- I'm really good friends with Tiger and this will probably get back to him, but I don't think -- granted, he was so far away from the other guys other than Chris last week. The loose shots he hit coming down in regulation I don't he would normally hit. The tee shot he hit on 16, flipped the 8-iron over and went long and left, I don't think he would have hit that shot years ago, and then he -- to not do that, he hit the block shot way right on 17 and then the second shot on 18, those are three shots in a row that weren't typical Tiger when he's on his game. In the playoff hole, he hit it so great in the playoff hole, he hit two great shots there, but he was lucky to get to the playoff when he hit the chip on 16. It took a miracle to beat Chris. Chris played great. He deserved to win as much as Tiger deserved to win, and it was great for golf to watch that kind of competition.

But I just don't think Tiger is in total control of his game like he was before, even though he says he's close all the time.

Q. Having said that, does his name still have an intimidation factor, or is it less than it used to be? Guys now know they can beat him.

FRED FUNK: I think it's less than it used to be, no question. He looks like -- especially the big guys. I mean, you talk about the Big Four, but there's more than the Big Four. They're not scared of him anymore. Phil took him all the way down at Doral and Vijay has played unbelievably great golf, ridiculous golf, the last two years, however long it's been, 18 months, two years.

And Ernie and then Retief and I think guys like Adam Scott are going to show up there at the top really quick, and then you have your bulldog in Chris DiMarco. I think Tiger and probably everybody else in the world thought he was going to win by seven or more. Tiger didn't look totally as comfortable all day like he usually does when he was really dominating.

Q. What's been the difference for you the last few years that's taken your game up another notch do you think?

FRED FUNK: I don't know what it is. Intestinal fortitude, a lot of hard work, just not really backing down. I think last year wasn't a great year for me statistically like it was. I think 2002 I had a great year statistically, and it was probably my best year -- overall game was really good. I was actually second in stroke average that year to Tiger in actual stroke average, and all my other stats were good.

And then last year I didn't play nearly as consistent, and it was harder for me, but fortunately last year when I played well, I played really well, and that was the difference, when I got myself in position I finished top two or three and won one, and that was the biggest difference last year, that at least the few weeks -- I wasn't as consistent Top 25 or Top 10, but when I played well, I played really well.

I think the biggest thing is I believe that when I'm playing well, I'm good enough to win. That's a good mentality to have.

Q. How about a five-year exemption at this point in your career? Does that change the way you look at two years from now?

FRED FUNK: Yeah, because next June I turn 50, June of '06. I have an immediate goal of the Presidents Cup team and hopefully I'll be high enough up to hopefully make the Ryder Cup team one more time. I really look at myself as someone that can really help the Champions Tour. I have nothing to prove out here. I never felt like I had anything to prove out here, but I'm going to really -- I have to focus on what I'm going to do because I really don't know what I'm going to do. My wife and my family don't want me to leave this tour. I'm not really sure I want to -- it may be time I can just kind of kick back a little bit, go to the Champions Tour, a little bit more laid-back atmosphere, great competition but less competition. The top of the Champions Tour has really great golf. I mean, our whole tour is strong from top to bottom, and that's the biggest difference is I feel like I can go out there and if I play well I can be in contention a lot more often, and that can be fun.

Q. Do you think it's reasonable for them to think they can be successful to do what Tom Kite is doing and playing a little bit of both?

FRED FUNK: Nobody has really had success playing both that I know of. A lot of guys say I'm not going to go to the Champions Tour and when they go over they don't come back, or if they come back they only come back for a few of them. I think it's difficult to focus on both. I think it's almost the same analogy as a guy that's trying to get his card through the Nationwide Tour and yet he gets a few exemptions to play -- like Bill Haas, to play an event on our Tour and skip an event that's out there. I don't know that that's the right way to go. I think it's a great way to go on our tour is to go through the Nationwide Tour and get on that and get your Top 20 to get out here, and to do it on the Champions Tour. I don't know what you're really gaining.

I understand Tom is doing it because somebody told him you're going to drop off that career money standing, if you don't go out you're going to lose it, so he used it, so it was a nice thing to do. Otherwise he wouldn't have had a chance to do it.

Q. This week there might not be the field here that there used to be at the tournament. Is that something THE PLAYERS look at and do you forget about it when play starts?

FRED FUNK: I don't think THE PLAYERS care. That's more media. All of us know how good the top and bottom of our tournaments are. Obviously when a marquee player like a Tiger or an Ernie, our key guys are not there, that these guys are not there and it weakens the tournament. It only weakens the tournament to the big picture of people bringing interest to it. Any time Tiger plays it's a big tournament for the tournament sponsor, it's a great draw.

But in the true big picture, the guys are really good from top to bottom. The guys that you haven't heard from -- I played with Vaughn Taylor and Adam Scott the last two rounds. Great player, unbelievable player. So many young guys now are just so good, and you haven't heard of them yet, but you're going to hear from them. It's pretty neat. This Kevin Na kid is an unbelievable talent, having a great year this year. There are so many guys that are ready to break through, and the talent is so deep right now. That's where the focus should be. Maybe spend a day on who's not there and spend the rest of the week on who is here.

Q. This field usually does have a pretty good field with some of the top players. Do you know why there's been a change this year?

FRED FUNK: I didn't even know. I had just registered today. I've been on the island for three days. I don't know who's here and who's not here. Probably just the timing. I mean, everybody is tired, playing the TPC and the guys that played Atlanta got worn out with the weather there and waiting in the locker room has been getting old, and then you go to Augusta, the guys that played there are worn out. It's been a tough year. I think everybody is just taking a deep breath hoping Mother Nature is going to cooperate a little bit and we can finish these tournaments. It would be nice to go four straight days in a row with no delays, and we haven't had that this year. I think guys are reevaluating their schedules, looking at where they're going to go in the future and try and figure it out.

Q. There's a lot of talk about power golf, and you mentioned bombers. Power has always been an advantage. Has it become too much of an advantage now that guys don't want --

FRED FUNK: I'm glad somebody asked that because last night I was watching Golf Channel and Wally Uihlein from Titleist said something about the golf ball not being a big issue or something with the new distance. It's the athleticism and everything else. I don't have a problem with anybody being more athletic, being stronger, having a better golf swing, out working you to get the golf ball.

Then they keep saying -- back up a minute, and then they say, well, the ball has kind of leveled out the last three or four years. They're negating that year when it spiked when the new balls came out, the Hex and the X ball came out, and I've got proof in the stats. I was playing a Callaway at the time, now I'm back to Titleist, but that year it spiked almost eight yards, and it made an exponential gain -- I don't know what the threshold is, but to have X number of club head speed with the perfect launch angle and the right spin, these two balls would not come out of the sky. They just stayed up in the sky.

The harder you hit a golf ball and the higher you hit it, the further it went. Well, the longer guys got that exponential gain. You heard guys going, man, I just picked up 12 yards in the air, 18 yards in the air. I didn't pick up 12, 18 yards in the air. All I did was change balls. It wasn't even the drivers; it was the balls. It was so aerodynamically good, it just stayed in the air. If I don't have that amount of spin, I didn't get it up high and fast enough to benefit from that newest technology, and that's where we lost it, I think. That's where we lost the curve -- geez, I think that's where the USGA or somebody should have stepped in and said, wait a minute -- acceleration off the club head may be legal, but they're so aerodynamically good that it truly benefitted these bombers and they got ridiculously long.

Now you've got a guy that didn't change anything but the ball and because he's gifted with body build and club head speed, they got this exponential gain and they created this advantage. Now the shorter hitters are shorter than they ever were. Wally Uihlein were saying they should bring the ball back five yards or five percent or ten percent whatever, and we would lose -- the short hitters would lose a certain amount of yardage and the longer hitters would lose a certain amount of yardage and the gap would still be the same. Well, the gap was widened two or three years ago. I guess 2002 I think it was. That's where it was all screwed up.

I wish that that didn't happen because I actually -- the balls before that, those two balls came out and then all the balls were like that. I actually picked up just a little bit and the long guys picked up just a little bit, but the gap was pretty narrow, and I remember seeing in the stats, I think it was 2001 to 2002, there was three guys over 300 and 13 over 290. The next year there was 13 over 300 and 65 guys over 290, and I picked up two yards (laughter).

Now, this year we've been playing so much rain it appears I've lost 15 yards off my driver. It's just playing so wet this year that everybody has dropped down. You've got Scott Hend hitting it 310. We've been playing wet conditions and this guy can fly it a long way. I think the Top 10 guys are right at 300. I just saw it in the paper yesterday.

If you saw Tiger last week, he drove it 350 on 1, ridiculous on 2 one day, hit it down over the hill. It's unbelievable how far some of these guys are hitting it. They couldn't do it with the old ball. I just wish that -- it's too late, they're never going to go back. They're going to say, well, technology is here and we'll never step back technology. It wouldn't be fair to play one ball because that one ball is going to benefit a certain group of players a lot more than another group of players. I couldn't play Tiger's ball. Tiger could probably play my ball but I couldn't play Tiger's ball. It wouldn't be fair. We do a lot of testing to figure out what's the best ball for us due to our spin rate and how quick the ball stops, how it feels around the greens versus how it feels off the driver. You've got to try to match that to your game. The One Ball I don't think would work either. It's getting them all to come back. It's too late.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you for your time today and good luck this week.

FRED FUNK: I'm glad you asked that. I don't know if it'll get written about, though.

End of FastScripts.

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297