KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Fred Funk kept pushing back his departure to Hawaii, leaving five days later than originally planned. Although most players can’t wait to get to this tropical paradise, Funk was in no hurry.
He won’t be leaving anytime soon.
There may be no better way to measure the success of the 51-year-old Funk than his golf schedule for the start of the new season. Barring a bad back that hampered him last year, he will be the first player to compete four straight weeks in Hawaii.
The first two are on the PGA Tour. The next two are on the Champions Tour.
“I’m calling it the Hawaii Slam,” Funk said. “Not many guys have the opportunity to do this.”
Funk is the oldest player at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, courtesy of his victory last year in the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, and he will stick around next week for the Sony Open in Honolulu. Then comes the MasterCard Championship, the season-opening Champions Tour event at Hualalai, followed by his title defense in the Turtle Bay Championship on Oahu.
“It would be neat if I could come over and win the Hawaii Slam, but I’ve got to get past this monster first,” Funk said of Kapalua, a 7,411-yard course that is playing longer because of recent rain.
Funk is not the only player to bounce between the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour.
Jay Haas was still spending most of his time on the PGA Tour at age 52 before he began concentrating on the senior circuit and reaped big success. But he never became eligible for the Mercedes as a senior; his last PGA Tour victory came in Texas at age 39.
Craig Stadler won the B.C. Open at age 50 to qualify for the Mercedes, and he played three straight weeks in Hawaii in 2004. There was no Turtle Bay Championship that year.
That puts Funk in a class by himself, although he wants to do more than show up on the first tee.
When he first played the Champions Tour in 2006, Funk still was trying to make the Ryder Cup team. A year later, it was a long shot to make the Presidents Cup team, and even with winning in Mexico, he didn’t get past the second round in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Playing only 10 times on the Champions Tour, he wound up 16th on the money list.
That left him searching for a different goal, and he came up with a doozy.
Funk plans to play a dozen or so times on the Champions Tour and at least 15 times on the PGA Tour. His dream season would be to earn $2 million on each tour.
“Because I’m not playing enough to have a high-end goal on either tour — such as the Ryder Cup, the Schwab Cup, the FedEx Cup — I’ll try to win $2 million on each tour. Last year, I was $3,000 short of winning $1 million on both. Last year, I had a horrible year as far as my physical being. I’m hoping my health will be OK, and I can do something like that.”
The more he talked about it, the more improbable it seemed. But he wants to give it a shot.
Playing 22 times on the PGA Tour last year, including his victory in Mexico at an opposite-field event, Funk earned just over $1.2 million. He figures if his back holds up throughout the year, he can find an extra $800,000 somewhere, especially if he picks his schedule to play courses suited for his short but accurate game.
The stretch might be $2 million on the Champions Tour.
Haas and Loren Roberts were the only players to surpass $2 million last year, and they combined to play 50 events. Prize money on the Champions Tour ranges from about $1.6 million to $2 million, meaning Funk might have to win seven times to reach $2 million playing such a limited schedule.
“I’d have to be Tiger Woods on the Champions Tour,” he said. “It will be fun regardless. The biggest goal is to stay healthy and let it ride. I just threw those numbers out there as a fun number to go after. But it would be pretty fun if I could do it.”
Funk said he’ll switch to a full Champions Tour schedule one of these years, but for now, he’s enjoying the competition on both. He is a peashooter on the PGA Tour — Funk ranked 184th in driving distance last year — and figures only a few dozen guys on the Champions Tour can hit it a mile.
The biggest difference?
“If you’re playing well, I shouldn’t finish out of the top 10 out there (on the Champions Tour),” he said. “And I’ve got to play extremely good to finish top 10 out here, even top 30. But I still feel competitive. And that’s the biggest thing.”
Mark Calcavecchia, 47, is the second-oldest player at Kapalua, coming off a year in which he won the PODS Championship and finished 13th on the money list.
He played with Funk the first two rounds in Mexico and said winning at that age anywhere is impressive.
“Winning a tournament on the PGA Tour is a very hard thing to do for most mortals, and being an older guy … it’s nice to know we can still do it,” Calcavecchia said.
But don’t look for Calcavecchia to double dip on the PGA and Champions tours when he comes of age.
“I’ve seen enough of these kids,” he said. “I think I’ll have a hell of lot more fun out there.”