Golf: Funk sees his chance to shine

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FRED FUNK, fresh from surgery to improve his eyesight, scrambled for a seven-under-par 64 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Kemper Open in Maryland.

Funk, who underwent surgery on Tuesday, birdied eight of the first 15 holes before his lone bogey at the par-four 16th hole.

He had a one-shot lead over Chris Perry, who had a bogey-free 65, and a three-stroke cushion over J L Lewis, Tommy Armour III and Australia's Craig Parry. The defending champion, Justin Leonard, and the Masters winner, Mark O'Meara, headed a group of 12 players on three-under 68.

Scotland's Sandy Lyle made a solid opening with a 70, a scored he shared with Fiji's Vijay Singh.

Funk is seeking his fourth career win and first since the 1996 B C Open. His best finish this year was a tie for sixth at the Greater Greensboro Classic in April.

Fred Couples, who won The Memorial on Sunday, is not entered this week, nor is the former Masters champion Tiger Woods, who has gone to Las Vegas for treatment on his back.

Woods' physical therapist, Keith Kleven, who is the director of the Las Vegas Institute of Orthopaedic Sports and Dance Rehabilitation, said yesterday he had been working with Woods since the beginning of the year and has developed a program to keep the 22-year-old from developing further back problems as the result of the strain his powerful golf swing puts on his back.

"Tiger has had back pains on and off but his parents have always assumed they were growing pains," Bev Norwood, a spokesman with Woods' management group, said. "This is a precautionary measure to ensure that he is ready and able to play in the U.S. Open."

Kleven, who has worked with such notable athletes as Mike Tyson, Greg Maddux and Mike Morgan and the golfers Paul Azinger, Mark O'Meara and John Cook, said Woods presents a challenge because of his incredibly hard golf swing.

"Because of the forces and the strength and the physical capabilities that he has, it has to be attacked a little differently than someone else," Kleven said of Woods' conditioning program. "It's very specific to him. He has gone through lots of testing, all kinds of strength testing.

It was back to the good old days for Brian Waites yesterday as he finished within a shot of the lead in the Jersey Seniors Open at La Moye. Waites hit a four under par 68, with only one dropped shot marring his round, coming from what he thought was his best of the day.

An eight-iron at the 17th looked perfect, but it went through the green and under a bush. "I stood back and admired it and then couldn't believe where it finished," he said. "Other than that I was very solid, picking up a few birdies like I used to on the main Tour. It was like the old days."