Funk Wins Champions Event On Final Hole
THE WOODLANDS (AP) – Fred Funk can attach one more good memory to the Woodlands Country Club.
Funk birdied the final hole Sunday to beat Tom Lehman by a stroke in the Champions Tour’s Insperity Championship.
With 16-year-old son Taylor carrying the bag, Funk birdied four of the last five holes to win on the same course where he won the Houston Open in 1992 for the first of his eight victories on the regular tour. He met his second wife, Sharon, at a post-tournament event that year and Sharon was the first person to run onto the green and hug him Sunday.
“It was a storybook-type week,” Funk said.
Tied with one hole left, Funk hit his approach on No. 18 to 2 feet. Lehman missed his birdie putt, and Funk tapped in for a 5-under 67 and his seventh victory on the 50-and-over tour and first since the 2010 Tradition. He finished at 14 under.
The 55-year-old Funk became the first player in five years to win a regular tour and Champions Tour event on the same course. Tom Watson won the 1980 British Open and 2007 Senior British Open at Muirfield.
More importantly, Funk feels is if he has finally returned to form after three years of health issues. He developed a staph infection and had knee replacement surgery in 2009 and had two surgeries on his left thumb late last year.
“I wasn’t sure whether I was going to have a career,” Funk said. “I’ve been really blessed with this opportunity to play again, and play at a high level. I didn’t want to give up yet. I love it too much.”
Lehman closed with a 68. He made three straight birdies on the back nine to build a two-shot lead, but then hit his approach to the par-5 15th over the green and settled for a par. Funk birdied the 15th and made a short birdie putt on the par-3 16th to tie for the lead.
“The whole tournament kind of turned on 15,” Lehman said. “I haven’t been this disappointed after a tournament in a long time.”
Mike Goodes (70) finished third at 10 under, and Michael Allen (71) was in a group at 8 under. Allen, the season points leader, was seeking his third straight tour victory.
Lehman had a one-shot lead at the turn, but bogeyed No. 10 to fall back into a tie with Funk. Lehman knocked wedges close on Nos. 12 and 13 to start his birdie run, and hit a 4-iron to 5 feet on No. 14 to reach 13 under.
“I hit good shot after good shot after good shot,” Lehman said.
Both found the fairway with their drives on No. 18. Funk played first and hit his 174-yard approach to 2 feet with a 5-iron. He turned to Taylor and flashed a confident smile when the ball stopped.
“I think that’s one of the best shots I’ve ever hit,” Funk said. “I was really proud with my son, and we were really enjoying that moment.”
Lehman, a three-time winner last season, hit a 7-iron from 157 yards that landed about 12 feet away.
“I thought it was going to be a lot closer, actually,” Lehman said.
He also thought he hit a perfect putt, but he said the ball hit a damaged spot near the cup and veered offline. It just missed the right edge, and Lehman flipped his putter in the air in disbelief.
“The cup had a bunch of junk on the right edge,” he said. “Maybe I should’ve had an official actually look at it before I putted, because I think it kept it out of the hole.”
Funk then calmly tapped in and thrust his arms in the air, earning his seventh title on the Champions Tour. It was also Funk’s first victory with his son serving as his caddie.
The winner of the last 18 Champions Tour events has played in the final group in the last round.
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