Funk Withstands Romero’s Charge

By Stuart Hall
July 28, 2008
A black bear runs across the 13th fairway Friday, in between color analyst Dottie Pepper, right, and Bernhard Langer and his caddie. (John Mummert/USGA)

Colorado Springs, Colo. — Fred Funk felt a pain in his neck. The majority of the field at the 29th U.S. Senior Open felt a pain in their scores.

On a day when The Broadmoor East Course turned downright nasty with firm playing conditions and nerve testing hole locations, Funk shook off a locked up neck muscle and three bogeys in his first eight holes to actually extend his lead.

Funk shot a 1-under 69 in the Friday morning wave to improve to 6-under 134 for the championship. Then Funk, 52, was able to watch as his lead grew to two shots heading into the weekend.

Eduardo Romero carved out an impressive 1-up 69 late in the day to reach 4-under 136, while Mark McNulty (70), Tom Kite (71) and John Cook (72) are the only other players in red numbers at 2-under 138. On cut day, which was established at eight over, 62 players advanced into the weekend.

One day after complaining of soreness from walking more than 400 steps two days earlier, Funk said his neck seized on him while on the 10th hole, his first of the second round.

"On the range I felt the best I have in a year-and-a-half, two years," Funk said. "Nothing was hurting, and I was like, ‘What's wrong with me?’ And then walking on the second shot on the 10th hole, all of a sudden my neck started locking up on this left side and just kept grabbing and grabbing and really couldn't hit through the ball."

Funk received physical therapy and the pain subsided, but not before slipping to two under for the championship after a bogey on the par-4, 545-yard 17th, his eighth.

"Really wasn't that frustrated because I felt like I was still playing pretty good and thought I could make some birdies," said Funk, who birdied the ninth for an outward 36. "I was hoping to get back to even par for the day, and I ended up getting to one under for the day. And so I was really pleased overall."

Also in the morning wave, Kite shot over par and was delighted. The same could be said for McNulty, who played the final three holes in three over to shoot 70.

"The golf course is really, really difficult," Kite said. "The greens are just so treacherous, and if you get on the wrong side of one of those ridges, it is really tough to get it down in two putts.

"It's going to be fun watching on TV."

Gruesome for those who had to play in the afternoon, though.

John Cook, who shot an opening-round 66, followed with a second-round 2-over 72, and considered himself "semi-pleased" and thought his ball-striking was as crisp as it was on Thursday. As for the course?

"It is right on the edge," he said. "There's no doubt. I hit the ball really, really well. And just between the wind blowing and gusting and the pin placements, which on a scale of 10, were 15, it was just all I could do to survive."

"I mean, six under par to me is that's pretty darn good. I know Eduardo shot a nice score today, so anything under par today was just outstanding. My hat is off to them."

Romero birdied the par-4 15th and 17th holes to post one of the five under par rounds of the day — the lowest being Ian Woosnam’s 2-under 68.

"Well, 69 is a perfect round," Romero said. "Before I started the round I say to my caddie, ‘one under par today is good round, make one under is very good.’ I didn’t expect to get one under today."

The round, which only featured six of 14 fairways hit and 12 greens in regulation, only bolsters Romero’s confidence going into the weekend.

"I have a lot of confidence, yeah," he said. "I tell you it's a dream to win this tournament. That's why I come here and my game is very good. My concentration is good. It's two more rounds to go. I'll be there."

The hot topic, though, were the greens or, more specifically, some of the hole locations. McNulty called them the "the toughest greens I’ve seen in championship golf."

The location at the 178-yard, par-3 eighth, for example, was tucked 5 yards from the left edge and 8 yards deep, but a nearby ridge created a 3-foot elevation drop to the hole and a slippery downhill comebacker from behind the hole. While the hole ranked as only the 10th toughest, the green was the only in which the putts average was more than two per player.

"Golly. What are they thinking about on No. 8?" asked Kite rhetorically. "You have to hit a perfect shot, and playing with Jay Haas today, he hit an absolutely perfect shot in there and landed and caught the ridge and then came back and ended up 5 feet above the hole. Literally, he just touched the putt. And if he misses the hole — he made the putt — but if he misses the hole, his putt's 5, 6 feet below the hole."

Greg Norman, who was expected to contend this week, fired a 2-over 72 in the afternoon and sits at 2-over 142 for the championship, was economical in his words, but no less direct.

"I'm not going to make a comment on the golf course," he said. "The USGA should know better."

Only the weekend will tell.

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