The U.S. Open champion is, with rare exception, a player near the top of the list in greens hit in regulation, and the first step toward hitting a green in regulation is avoiding the thick rough--a hallmark of the Open--on your tee shot. Nobody hits more fairways than Fred Funk, who has led the Tour in driving accuracy for seven of the last 10 years.
Funk, who will turn 49 on June 14, is a short hitter by Tour standards (his 268.1-yard average off the tee is 188th best) but straighter than a slide rule. Since 1980, when the Tour began keeping stats on driving accuracy, only Calvin Peete, who led the category for 10 straight years, has been more precise.
It was no coincidence that Funk, who led the field in fairways hit, won the weather-plagued Players Championship in March. The already-long rough at the TPC at Sawgrass was too wet to mow and thus became more and more of an impediment as the week went on. Nor is it a fluke that Funk has finished in the top 10 in four of the last six PGA Championships, an event that also places a premium on staying in the short grass. "It's a geometry thing," says Funk. "The longer you hit it, the bigger your dispersal pattern and the more you can hit it off-line. The shorter you are, the less dispersal."
Funk, whose best Open was a sixth last year at Shinnecock Hills, says, "I've always felt I should do better in the U.S. Open. One problem is, when I miss a fairway, I don't miss it by enough. I'm usually in the thickest part of the rough just off the fairway."
The secret to Funk's straightness? "I don't curve the ball much," he says. "Usually when I miss, I simply pull or push, not hook or slice. I don't have many moving parts in my swing, so there isn't a lot that can go wrong." --Gary Van Sickle
Fred Funk's Four Keys to Straight
1 "I visualize railroad tracks at setup, with the ball on the right rail and my feet on the left rail."
2 "My only swing thought: Move the left shoulder parallel to the target line to initiate the swing."
3 "Maintain your posture throughout the swing to keep your axis from changing."
4 "Balance is critical. Sometimes I get on my toes and reach for the ball, which gets me out of position."
DARREN CARROLL/ICON SMI
¬†Funk's win at this year's soggy Players was no fluke.
FOUR COLOR PHOTOS
DAVID WALBERG (4)