Funk maintains lead in Turtle Bay Championship

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KAHUKU, Hawaii (AP) – Wind or no wind, Fred Funk is tough to beat.

Funk had another spectacular day on the greens, shooting an 8-under 64 for a three-stroke lead after the second round of the Turtle Bay Championship.

The 50-year-old Funk had his second straight bogey-free round to break the tournament record with a 15-under 129 total.

Japan’s Kiyoshi Murota, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, shot a 65 to finish at 12 under. Tom Kite (66), coming off a second-place tie in the MasterCard Championship, was another stroke behind in the Champions Tour’s first full-field event of the year.

Unlike the wind-swept opening round, it was unusually calm on the 7,044-yard oceanside Palmer Course.

Funk had eight birdies and, using a wider stance he picked up during the pro-am, putted just 24 times. After holing a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-4 17th that gave him a three-stroke lead, Funk swung his putter as if he hit a home run.

Funk, who tied for 28th in the 41-man MasterCard last, is seeking his second Champions Tour victory in his fifth start. He joined the senior tour after turning 50 in June and made three starts last year, going wire-to-wire to win the AT&T Championship and tying for 11th in the U.S. Senior Open. He also had three top-10 finishes last year on the PGA Tour.

The former University of Maryland coach has seven PGA Tour victories, including the 2005 Players Championship.

With several players making a move early, Funk birdied Nos. 3 and 5 to reach 9 under. He made a 10-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole to make the turn at 32 and regain the outright lead.

Funk also sank an 18-foot birdie on the next hole that was set up by an 8-iron from the left rough.

Murota, a six-time winner on the Japan Tour, made his move early with five birdies on the front side that moved him to 10 under, a stroke behind Funk. He also closed with two birdies, just missing an eagle on 18.

Murota tied for 17th last year at Turtle Bay and is trying to become the first sponsor invitee to win since Christy O’Conner Jr. in the 1999 State Farm Senior Classic.

The 57-year-old Kite, who won twice last year, birdied five of the first seven holes on the back nine to shoot up the leaderboard. His only mistake was a bogey on the first hole.

Vicente Fernandez had a 64 to join Denis Watson (65), Tom McKnight (69) and David Eger (69) at 8 under. Bob Gilder (65), Mike Reid (67), Tim Simpson (67) and D.A. Weibring (69) were 7 under.

Hale Irwin, going for a record seventh victory in the event, rebounded from an opening 74 that included a quadruple bogey 8 with a 67. He was at 3 under with seven others.

Irwin had a 23-under 193 total at the MasterCard last week to beat Tom Kite and Jim Thorpe by five strokes for his tour-record 45th victory and first in 15 months.

Seventy-one-year-old Gary Player shot his age and was at 3 over. It was the 14th time in his Hall of Fame career, including the third time in his last five rounds, he has shot his age or better.

Last year, Loren Roberts snapped Irwin’s Turtle Bay winning streak at five and completed a two-week Hawaiian sweep, holing a 9-foot eagle putt on the final hole for a two-stroke victory over Scott Simpson.

Divots: Tadd Fujikawa, who two weeks ago became the youngest player in 50 years to make a PGA Tour cut, was a guest commentator in the Golf Channel booth alongside Mark Rolfing and Frank Nobilo. When Rolfing asked Fujikawa if he enjoyed watching golf on TV, the candid 16-year-old replied: “Not really. The first two rounds are pretty boring.” Before putting on the microphone, Fujikawa strolled around the course with his parents and signed autographs. He said life hasn’t been the same since he tied for 20th the Sony Open. “It’s been hectic and a little busy,” he said. The sophomore at Moanalua High School said he was impressed with the seniors, many of whom were stars before he was born. “All of them have won tournaments and done really well. You have to look up to them,” he said.

AP-ES-01-27-07 2214EST

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