THE wonderfully named Fred Funk holed a two foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the 2012 Greater Hickory Classic in North Carolina by a stroke.
Funk, 56, closed with a 3-under 69 at Rock Barn’s Jones golf course to finish at 15-under. It was his second US Champions Tour title of the year and eight overall.
Australia’s Peter Senior threatened all tournament after opening with a 68 but his final charge faltered coming down the stretch and he finished tied for fourth.
Funk opened with a pair of 66s to take a one stroke lead into the final round and made it hard for other competitors with a faultless if unspectacular front nine. (He actually managed a bogey-free tournament and has gone 60 holes without a bogey since the 13th hole last week in the final round of the SAS Championship. He also extended his run of bogey-free holes at Rock Barn to 84 since the event last year.)
“I really wanted to win here really bad,” Funk said. “I’ve been knocking at the door on this tournament a lot … but I was feeling the heat. When you get in contention, you always want to finish it.”
Funk made his first birdie of the round on No. 12 after hitting his second shot out of a fairway divot, and added a second birdie on No. 14. The birdies allowed Funk to keep a share of the lead with eventual runner-up Duffy Waldorf, who began the day at 8 under but climbed into contention with six birdies. Waldorf finished with a 66.
“I had two great days of putting, and that made the difference,” said Waldorf, a four-time winner on the US PGA TOUR who became eligible to play the 50-and-over tour in August. “That really got me going. I would’ve liked to have hit the ball closer a few more times, because I was rolling in the putts.”
However, Waldorf came up short on a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the lead. That opened the door for Funk, who put his second shot on the fringe, then chipped to set up the winning putt.
“I assumed Duffy was going to birdie No. 18,” Funk said. “When I saw that I needed a birdie to win, I played real aggressive with my tee shot. I just smoked a 3-wood, and hit a great chip. Still, I was pretty nervous about that putt.”
Defending champion Mark Wiebe (70) also birdied the last to take third spot on 10-under. (Wiebe 1st round hole-in-one video below)
First-round leader Dan Forsman (70), Chip Beck (71), Jay Don Blake (68) and John Cook (68) were tied in fourth spot with Senior (70) on 9-under.
Senior started with a bang with five birdies in the first 10 holes but a bogey on 2 and then a double on the par five fourteen ended his winning chances. It was the 53 year old’s 10th top ten finish in 21 starts this year. He’s had a second placing and a third this year but is still search for that elusive first Champions Tour win.
Charles Schwab Cup points leader Bernhard Langer retained his top spot with a final round 69 to finish at T9 at 8-under. Chief rival Tom Lehman (71) remains 111 points behind him in the season-long Cup race after finishing on 3-under tied for 24th.
Senior rose one spot to 11th in the rankings with just one full field event – the AT&T Championship in San Antonio in Texas – next week before the 30-golfer Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Arizona from November 1 – 4.
2012 Greater Hickory Classic Final Leaderboard2012 Greater Hickory Classic Final Leaderboard