Funk wins Turtle Bay Championship by record 11 strokes

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KAHUKU, Hawaii (AP) – Fred Funk had the most-lopsided victory ever in a 54-hole Champions Tour event, shooting his second straight 8-under 64 on Sunday for an 11-stroke win in the Turtle Bay Championship.

The 50-year-old Funk, still a regular on the PGA Tour, ended the suspense early with six birdies in a front-nine 30 and finished with a tournament record 23-under 193 total in the tour’s first full-field event of the year.

Funk earned $240,000 for his second Champions Tour victory in five career starts. He also went wire-to-wire to win the AT&T Championship, the last full-field event in the 2006 season.

Funk, who missed the cut in the PGA Tour’s Sony Open and tied for 28th last week in the Champions Tour’s 41-man MasterCard Championship, put on another show with his sweet putting using a new wider stance he picked up during the pro-am.

“Probably my best three days of putting I’ve ever had,” said Funk, the only player in the 78-player field without a bogey in three days.

Tom Kite, who tied for second last week in the MasterCard, went double bogey-bogey on the last two holes to close with a 71, dropping him into a five-way tie at 12 under with 2006 winner Loren Roberts (66), Tom Purtzer (66), Denis Watson (68) and Kiyoshi Murota (72).

Tim Simpson (68), D.A. Weibring (68) and David Eger (69) were another stroke back at 11 under.

The legendary surf was up on Oahu’s North Shore, but the wind wasn’t. It was calm for a second day, setting up the layout for birdies.

Funk made it a race for second by swirling in a 9-foot birdie putt on the 574-yard ninth to reach 21 under for an eight-stroke lead over Murota and Kite. Funk made the turn at 30 and was relaxed as he strolled along the oceanside Palmer Course, smiling and waving a hang-loose sign to cameras.

The seven-time PGA Tour winner broke the previous 54-hole record of 195 set by Jim Colbert in 1991 when the event was played on Maui on a par-70 course.

Hale Irwin, a six-time winner in the event, closed with a 69 to finish at 6 under. He said he knew of only one way anyone could stop Funk from winning.

“Go hire a hitman,” said Irwin, who had a 23-under 193 total at the MasterCard last week to beat Kite and Jim Thorpe by five strokes for his tour-record 45th victory and first in 15 months.

Irwin’s run for an unprecedented seventh title in the event ended on the first day with a quadruple-bogey 8 on the seventh hole.

“I kind of dug my grave right then,” he said.

With a three-stroke lead over Murota to start the day, Funk never got himself into trouble. He had a two-putt birdie from 40 feet on the final hole for the 11-stroke rout. The previous record was nine held by three players.

Kite holed an 8-foot birdie on the par-4 10th to move ahead of Murota for second place, seven strokes behind Funk. Kite birdied Nos. 10 and 12 to trim Funk’s lead to six with six to play.

But Funk dropped a 7-foot putt to save par on the 201-yard 13th to maintain his six-stroke lead and made a 15-footer on the next hole to gain another stroke.

Kite, a nine-time Champions Tour winner, couldn’t get any closer.

He was alone in second place at 15 under with a three-stroke cushion when his second shot on the par-4 17th sailed left and bounced over the cart path into the bushes. He took a drop and hit it left into the rough. He got up-and-down for a double bogey to drop to 13 under.

His second shot on the 54th hole fell in the lake. He missed a 10-footer that would’ve saved par and given him second place.

Funk’s next tournament will be the FBR Open on the PGA Tour, where he plans to spend most of his year. He had had three top-10 finishes on the regular tour last year and won The Players Championship in 2005.

The Champions Tour will take a one-week break before the Florida swing, starting with the Allianz Championship.

AP-ES-01-28-07 2233EST

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