Funk leads merry dance on the grave of 'Fab Four'

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The Independent Online

Funk was not the only four-letter word being repeated over and over again yesterday morning as the golfing world cast its disbelieving mind back over five days that helped deconstruct yet further a few more of the sport's perpetual myths.

Funk was not the only four-letter word being repeated over and over again yesterday morning as the golfing world cast its disbelieving mind back over five days that helped deconstruct yet further a few more of the sport's perpetual myths.

The first is that it is now a game for the big-hitters and the big-hitters only. Wrong. See The Players Championship and Fred Funk, 181st on the PGA Tour rankings in driving distance, but No 1 in driving accuracy. "What's going on?" said the 48-year-old local, after becoming the oldest-ever winner at Sawgrass. "Me beating all these power guys and I'm hitting these little pea-shooters out there and they're bombing it 40 yards past me?"

The second is that there are four blessed geniuses out there - inevitably known as the "Fab Four" - who will continue to divvy up the big prizes between them for the foreseeable future, starting with next week's Masters. Wrong. See The Players Championship and a different FF prevailing. See, also, that not one of Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods managed to finish in the top 10 and that the latter - who is rumoured to be not too ropey at this grand old game - only scraped inside the top 50.

The third is that the young Europeans who have recently swarmed all over the world's top 50 are all cool and dandy in the collective melting pot of the Ryder Cup but cannot begin to stand the lonely heat of the individual cauldron. Wrong. See The Players Championship and England's Luke Donald who agonisingly watched a glorious winning chance crumble in his quivering hands and then still had the gumption to launch a final salvo that impressed all who saw it in both its craft and courage.

True, the 27-year-old did fall one short with his final-round 76 after holding the lead after 54 holes, but the manner in which he strode up the last fairway, chasing the lost cause that said no one had birdied that monster all afternoon and then came within the shortest whisker of doing so, suggested that a cheque for £320,000 would not remain his biggest pay day for long and that his leapfrogging of Darren Clarke to become the highest-ranked British golfer in the world was a personal turning point.

"If someone had offered me tied second at the start I'd have said 'Yes'," said Donald, who had missed the cut on his two previous Sawgrass sojourns. "I'm disappointed, but still proud of myself that I was able to finish as strong as I did and at least give myself a chance."

The fourth myth is that courses now have little or no defence against the modern, hi-tech professional. Wrong. See The Players Championship and the most delicious carnage wreaked since the US Open at Shinnecock Hills nine months ago, where the greens resembled a bikini-waxed Matterhorn and two-foot putts were rolling 50 feet away. Here, it was a simple little 137-yarder - admittedly over 120 yards of water with another 20 yards waiting behind - that had the Mashie Mob swinging with the fishes.

With crosswinds of more than 35mph on the final day, some 54 balls ended in the 17th lake as an incredible 37 of the 84 competitors saw efforts taking a splashdive. Poor Bob Tway was the wettest of all, racking up a record nine-over-par 12 with four dunkings. "You're playing great," said the shell-shocked American, "and all of a sudden, in one hole, you might as well be finishing last."

The fifth, and final, myth is that interrupted golf can more or less be guaranteed in the Sunshine State in late March. Wrong. See The Players Championship and more delays that your average British railway departure board. Was this Ponte Vedra? Or was this Pontypridd?

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