Pair of Freds looking for first win of season in Calgary
CALGARY — A pair of Freds with opposing styles have set their sights on winning the inaugural Shaw Charity Classic.
Fred Couples and Fred Funk have each won eight times on the Champions Tour, but both are searching for their first victories of 2013 at the three-round event that starts Friday at the Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club.
Although they share the same first name, Couples and Funk have vastly different approaches to the game.
While Couples is known for belting long tee shots and being able to reach the green of almost every par 5 in two shots, Funk prides himself hitting the ball in the fairway and playing it safe.
“His talent is just superior,” said Funk of Couples. “He just has so much natural ability and hits the ball so well. He just can do things that not many guys can do with a golf ball.”
That being said, Funk will do everything in his power to finish ahead of Couples this weekend.
“Absolutely you want to beat him,” said Funk, who sits 11th in the Charles Schwab Cup points race, seven spots behind Couples. “You want to trounce him. Everybody wants to be everybody. You want to win. That’s what we’re out here for.”
Other golfers in the top 10 points race competing in Calgary include David Frost (third), Duffy Waldorf (fifth), Michael Allen (seventh), John Cook (eighth), Tom Pernice Jr. (ninth) and Russ Cochran (10th).
Couples ranks second on the Champions Tour in driving distance behind John Huston, while Funk is second in driving accuracy percentage behind Jeff Hart.
“Fred Funk is maybe our best driver of the ball out here,” said Couples, who has played on the Champions Tour for four years, while Funk has eight years of experience on the senior PGA circuit. “Once you get past that, you have to putt well and he does that too. There’s advantages to everyone’s game. If you’re going to come here and like the course, Fred would like it because it’s very tree lined.”
Couples also enjoys tree-lined courses although they don’t necessarily benefit his playing style.
“It’s a little tight for my game, but also the par 5s, I can reach every one of them if I hit good drives,” said Couples, who will serve as captain for the U.S. team during the Presidents Cup in Columbus, Ohio, from Oct. 1 to 6. “That’s an advantage for me, just like he might not be in the trees once this week.”
Funk can only hope that the tight layout of the 7,117-yard, par-71 course plays to his advantage.
“It’s a good course for me if I’m playing well because you’ve got to drive it straight and I’m a pretty straight hitter,” he said. “We’ll just see how it all plays out. You’ve just got to get a hot flat stick.”
Veteran golfer Nick Price, who will captain the international squad at the Presidents Cup, stressed that those who hit the fairways most often on the weekend will put themselves in a good position to win on Sunday.
“The fairways are running nicely, which is good, but it makes the fairways a little skinnier when the ball runs,” Price said. “There’s going to be a premium on driving the ball and putting the ball in the fairway off the tee.
“The guy who wins here is going to bring his ’A’ game, there’s no doubt.”
Being able to attract players of the calibre of Couples, Funk and Price has been a boon for the Shaw Charity Classic, said tournament director Sean Van Kesteren.
“They’re happy to just be involved with the Champions Tour and have these great events that they can still can play in and earn a living,” Van Kesteren said. “These guys, they know how to entertain. It’s a golf tournament, but it’s also an exhibition for golf and the PGA Tour.” Van Kesteren commended tournament organizers for putting together a great event in less than five months.
“We pulled off something really special in such a short period of time,” he said. “We’ve done that with a lot of help from Shaw and the folks here at Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club and some good staff.” Funk assured that he and his fellow competitors will do their best to put on a great show for the fans in attendance.
“They get a chance to see us when we’re the ripe old age of 50-plus and see that we can still play,” Funk said. “It’s great that Shaw came on board and the town is so behind it. It’s exciting for us any time we have a new event, we’ve got to showcase what we can do.”
The field also features three Canadians in Dave Barr of Kelowna, B.C., Jim Rutledge of Victoria and Rod Spittle of Niagara Falls, Ont., who is ranked 34th in the points race and 32nd among money leaders with US$367,756 in earnings.
“Rod Spittle’s been playing great golf this year,” Van Kesteren said. “Wouldn’t that be nice to have a Canadian win? Who knows how it’s going to shape up?”