NAPLES, Fla. – A different odd couple – Jason Gore and Fred Funk – is atop the leaderboard after the first round of the Franklin Templeton Shootout.

Long-hitting Gore, 31, and accurate Funk, 49, fired a 9-under-par 63 Friday to take the lead at Tiburon Golf Club. Gore and Funk survived a bogey in the alternate shot format, rebounding with a birdie on No. 17 before just missing a 10-footer for birdie on the final hole.

“We probably stole a few and left a few out there,” Gore said. “That’s kind of what you have to do in alternate shot.”

The Gore-Funk team has a similar makeup to two-time defending champions Hank Kuehne, 30, one of the longest hitters on tour; and Jeff Sluman, 48, an accurate iron player.

“I’ve never really been paired with a guy who’s as long as he is,” Funk said of Gore. “The game’s a lot easier from where he plays it. That’d be nice to be able to hit it that long.”

John Huston, a late replacement for injured Scott Hoch, teamed with Kenny Perry at 8 under, and Mark O’Meara and Nick Price matched it to tie for second along with Fred Couples and Adam Scott.

Huston and Perry birdied Nos. 12, 13, 14, 16 and 18 on the back nine to take the early lead. O’Meara and Price birdied two of the final three holes. Couples and Scott had a six-birdie stretch in seven holes, but then were 1 under over the final seven.

Ryan Moore, a late replacement for Fredrik Jacobson, and Jesper Parnevik were even par after five holes, but played the next 13 in 7 under and are in fifth.

Kuehne and Sluman were just 1 under at the turn, but played the back nine in 5 under to get within three shots, along with Paul Azinger and Olin Browne.

Tournament founder Greg Norman, playing one month after minor knee surgery, struggled with partner Steve Elkington. They finished 3 under and were 11th.

Teams play better ball on Saturday and a scramble on Sunday. The winners split $630,000 of the $2.6 million purse.

Gore and Funk had a stretch of six birdies in seven holes to get to 9 under after No. 14.

This is a new experience for Gore, who hasn’t played in a team event since he was 15.

“It’s been a while, but it’s pretty comfortable to sit here and to play with such a professional as Freddie is,” Gore said. “He’s such a great cheerleader and makes me feel so comfortable out there. I was pretty nervous.”

AP-ES-11-11-05 1608EST


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