Funk Says Sahalee Suits His Game

By: Jeff Shelley

Fred Funk made an appearance via Skype at a media day event Tuesday for the 2010 U.S. Senior Open at Sahalee Country Club east of Seattle. Last year Funk blistered the Pete Dye-designed Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., going 20-under par and cruising to a six-shot victory over Joey Sindelar for his first-ever USGA title.

"Pete Dye is a little pissed off at me," Funk kidded about his resounding victory in 2009. "It was a good week."

Funk ranked the win as the highlight of his fine career, which includes a victory in the 2005 Players Championship and stints on Presidents Cup (2003 and '05) and Ryder Cup (2004) teams.

"[The U.S. Senior Open] is the highest level of tournaments. It means a lot to me. The Players was a big deal, and representing the U.S. on the Ryder Cup was the best as a team deal. But from an individual standpoint, winning the Senior Open is the best."

The 54-year-old, who has somehow overcome knee-replacement surgery, is looking forward to taking on Sahalee. He doesn't believe he - or anyone else for that matter - will shoot as low as he did at Crooked Stick. "But if someone does, I hope it's me," he said with a chuckle.

Funk also thinks that the "Really Big Freddie" - as he called Fred Couples, the Seattle native who's serving as the honorary chairman of the 2010 U.S. Senior Open and is playing in the championship - could make a splash. "You've got Freddie (Couples) coming. Who knows what he's going to do," Funk said.

Yet the winner that may emerge at a 6,900-yard layout lined by towering evergreen trees could very well be a short-hitting, straight shooter such as the diminutive Funk, who last played the course in the former World Golf Championship-NEC invitational - now called the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational - in 2002. "I can't think of another course like Sahalee - some holes are claustrophobic. From what I remember, you're rewarded for good golf.

"But if you're out of position, you're really out of position."

Funk added that he enjoys the course designed by the late Ted Robinson. "I think if I were a member, I'd enjoy it every day. That's the sign of a great golf course. It has history, and it's a beautiful venue. Lots of guys are looking forward to it."

The USGA's set-up person, Jeff Hall, said Sahalee will play the traditional "firm-and-fast conditions" for the organization's major championships. He's pleased with how that's progressing. "We made very few changes to the golf course from an architectural standpoint, just some minor adjustments to fairway widths," he said. "It's been pretty much untouched. We could play tomorrow."

Similar to the NEC Invitational and the 1998 PGA Championship at Sahalee, the North and South nines of the 27-hole facility will be used for the U.S. Senior Open. Instead of the normal par-72 configuration, the world's best over-50 golfers will play a par-70 layout, with the sixth and 18th holes - par-5s for the members - converted into brutal par-4s.

With the fairways firmed up in the weeks leading up to the event to be held July 29-August 1, players can hit what they feel are decent shots, only to see them carom into dense forestry. "Firm gets in the heads of players as soon as they get out of their cars in the parking lot," Hall said.

Hall added that the course will fit a player of Funk's skill. "It'll be connect the dots," he said.

This suits the Maryland native just fine. "You gotta be in the fairways with all the trees," Funk said. "And you must be in total control of your game - especially with a U.S. Open set-up."

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