American Fred Funk has become the oldest golfer to win the annual Players Championship tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The win is especially satisfying for the 48-year-old Funk because the event is unofficially considered golf's fifth major.
Fred Funk sank a pressure-filled two-meter par putt on the final hole to finish at 9-under-par 279. He finished just one shot ahead of Americans Tom Lehman, Scott Verplank and England's Luke Donald.
At age 50, professional golfers are eligible to play on the senior tour. Rarely are they able to keep with the longer and younger hitters on the PGA Tour. Numerous rain delays set up a grueling final day as the players tried to squeeze in nearly two full rounds.
But Funk was able to hit more precise shots to remain relatively steady while others faltered in the brisk winds. It was a victory he certainly did not expect. "I did not fathom this happening coming into this week. And the fact that it happened, and with the conditions that we had to deal for 35 holes, 34 holes, whatever we played today, it was just a long, long week on a really hard golf course against a really great field. I am overwhelmed. I just can not believe it," he said.
The win gives Funk a five-year tournament qualifying exemption, meaning he will have the opportunity to extend his career on the main PGA Tour regardless of how well he is playing.
The Players Championship initially focused on the top three players in the world. But number one Vijay Singh of Fiji could only get within five shots of Funk. Third ranked Ernie Els of South Africa was another stroke behind while second ranked American Tiger Woods was an uncharacteristic 14 shots back.
Even with a strong start this season, American Phil Mickelson could not challenge for the win. He has one more week to prepare to defend his title at the first true major tournament of the year, the Masters in Augusta, Georgia.