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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF ROUNDUP

Eye-Opening 64 Gives Funk the Early Lead

June 05, 1998| From Associated Press

Fred Funk's play hasn't been much to look at this year, and even his 64 in the first round of the Kemper Open on Thursday had its warts. At least now he can see them better.

"I really just got frustrated with the contacts I had all the time," Funk said after his seven-under-par round in Potomac, Md., only two days past laser surgery on his eyes was good enough for the first round lead by one stroke over Chris Perry.

"I wanted to see if I could eliminate having contacts," said Funk, who has worn glasses for 15 years. "I see better now than I did with contacts."

Funk has missed the cut in five tournaments already this year but he got up and down from every bizarre corner of TPC at Avenel.

With one eye still bloodshot from the procedure that corrected his vision from 20-300 to 20-30, Funk chipped in once, holed out from a bunker another time, had a 100-foot two-putt and another two-putt from 72 feet in a scrambling round.

Mike Weir, J.L. Lewis, Tommy Armour III and Craig Parry were three strokes back at 67. Armour got into the tournament as an alternate when Tiger Woods withdrew because of a sore back.

Defending champion Justin Leonard and Masters winner Mark O'Meara were among a group of players at 68.

Woody Austin also finished at 68, but he had one of the rarest shots in golf--a double-eagle 2 on the 520-yard par-five sixth hole, sinking a one-iron from 216 yards. It was the first double eagle on the PGA Tour this year.

In a strange stretch of five holes beginning on No. 4, Funk made four birdies--only one of them in a routine manner.

He chipped in from 20 feet on No. 4, rolled in a 10-foot putt for birdie on the next hole, bounced his second shot off a tree and onto the extreme edge of the green on the par-five sixth hole and two-putted from 100 feet for a birdie, and then holed a 20-yard shot from a bunker so deep on No. 8 that his head could not be seen above the lip.

"You don't hole bunker shots like that one on eight," Funk said, admitting that he amazed even himself. "That was kind of a magic hole for me. That was fun."

It was especially fun since Funk was born in Maryland and from 1982-88 was the golf coach at the University of Maryland. He has also never played well in the Kemper, missing the cut five of the last eight years and never finishing above 27th place.

"It's good to play well here at home," Funk said. "It's been a frustrating experience here at Avenel."

Funk said he decided on eye surgery after talking with Tom Kite, whose vision was improved from 20-500 to 20-15, and hearing that both Nick Faldo's girlfriend, Brenna Cepelak, and Faldo's caddie, Fanny Sunesson, had successful eye surgery.

*

Woods' physical therapist said the golfer's recent back problems shouldn't keep him out of the June 18-21 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Keith Kleven, director of the Las Vegas Institute of Orthopaedic Sports and Dance Rehabilitation, confirmed what a spokesman for Woods said after the golfer withdrew from the Kemper Open.

"He's in doing some special kinds of exercises and they're all preventive things," Kleven told the Las Vegas Sun.

"It's all designed to keep progressing him through the program that he started several months ago."

Kleven said he has been working with Woods since the beginning of the year and has developed a program to keep the 22-year-old from developing further back problems as the result of the strain his powerful golf swing puts on his back.

*

Rain washed out the first round of the LPGA's Michelob Light Classic in St. Louis.

Organizers had hoped to get in at least a partial round, but by noon it was obvious that that would not happen.

The tournament was reduced to 54 holes, with the cut coming Saturday, after 36 holes have been played.

*

Scotland's Colin Montgomerie took the first-round lead in the English Open at Ware with an eight-under 64 on the 7,016-yard Marriott Hanbury Manor course.

Montgomerie missed tying the course record of 63 set last season by American Jay Townsend.

European tour newcomer Nicolas Joakimides of France shot a 65, with three players tied at 66: Nicolas Vanhootegem of Belgium, Stephen Leaney of Australia and Jon Robson of England.

*

Tim Jackson of Germantown, Tenn., a 39-year-old tax accountant who doesn't pick up a club each year until April 16, made his first trip to the famed Pinehurst No. 2 course in North Carolina a major success, winning the North and South Amateur by three shots with a 54-hole total of one-over 211.

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