|Greg Norman couldn't muster any momentum in the fourth round, although he finished fourth. (John Mummert/USGA)
By Phillip Howley
Colorado Springs, Colo. - The adage in golf is the fun doesn't start until the back nine - "fun" being a relative term.
There was nothing amusing whatsoever about the back nine at The Broadmoor on Sunday for Fred
Funk and John Cook, who both watched hopes of a U.S. Open championship go up in bogeys on the second half of the course.
In Funk's case, it was a triple the "fun" at No. 13, where his triple bogey effectively torpedoed his pursuit of Eduardo Romero.
"That was it," said Funk, who was six under for the championship and trailing Eduardo Romero by two going into the par 4. He was three under and trailing by four coming out, as Romero managed a bogey.
"If I had just made a bogey there, I'm OK," added Funk. "I was trying to force an issue a little too much, I guess, with that lie. I just hit a couple of loose shots."
After missing the fairway with the "forced" 3-wood at No. 13, Funk couldn't advance from a difficult lie next to a tree. He then came up short of the green with his third shot and, well, as he explained: "That was all she wrote."
In the end, Funk, played the initial nine holes in par but played the back side in five over to finish with a 75. He appeared to put a grip on the championship when he opened with a 5-under 65 on Thursday. But over the last three rounds, Funk played those nasty last nine holes on the course in 10 over par, including eight over on Saturday and Sunday.
"It's just a demanding back nine," said Funk, who finished second to Romero at two under for the championship. "And I just didn't get it in the fairway, and you end up making bogeys and unfortunately making triple-bogeys.
"You just can't do that. I'd have liked to at least kept it close. But Tom Kite had a tough day. John Cook had a tough day, I had a tough day and it became an easy walk for Eduardo."
Romero secured the championship by four shots by shooting a 3-over 73 in the final round. Kite, who was one under when the day began, matched Funk's 75 and finished tied for 12th at four over for the championship.
And Cook, for the second senior major in a row, struggled to reach the tape. Not yet 51 years old, the Champions Tour newbie was five under when the day began, three paces behind Romero. But Cook opened his round with a bogey, boxed another at No. 5, then got torched on the back.
After playing the second set of holes in 4-under 30 on Saturday, Cook fumbled through them in 5-over 39 on Sunday – a nine shot difference - and absorbed a 77.
"I had an 8-footer for birdie and missed it (on No. 10), and from then on it was a struggle," said Cook, who had 35 putts, or 1.94 putts - nearly two – per hole.
While the average overall score on Sunday was 73.15, or slightly more than three over par, the back nine was the main culprit. It produced an average take of 36.77, or nearly three over par.
"It's a testament to the golf course," Cook said. "Nowadays, well-designed and well-crafted golf courses will defend themselves. It doesn't have to be 8,000 yards. It doesn't need big humps and bumps in the greens. Oak Hill for our Senior PGA was just that way, and this course was the same. A well-designed course defends itself and this one certainly did."
At the same time, Cook couldn't help but wonder about his own ability to chase down trophies. After he won the AT&T Championship last October, Cook appeared to be on his way to big things in Silverado. And to be sure, he has been successful.
Still, he lost a sizable lead on Sunday in Scotland, then lost a playoff to Bruce Vaughn at the British Senior Open last week. His fifth-place finish (1-over-par 281) on Sunday at The Broadmoor was his 10th top-10 finish on the Champions Tour this season, pushing him clear of the $1 million mark in earnings. But he does not have a 2008 win.
To be fair, after the quick turnover from Scotland, Cook suggested he was mentally cooked.
"Yeah I felt that one get away last week, and this one," said Cook, an 11-time champion on the PGA Tour. "I knew what it was going to take and it just ... I knew even-par today would have been a good score. I was trying, I was battling. I kept hitting shots and, you know, my pace on my putts wasn't very good. I think that just comes down to being emotionally drained."
"If someone would have said, 'Yeah, you're going to finish fifth this week after last week,' I would have said, 'Cool!' But you know, when I had a chance to win again, I'm disappointed. I didn't finish it off and I have to figure out what went wrong and try to get better."
One thing might help, for sure: Avoid that back nine at The Broadmoor.
Phillip Howley is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on www.ussenioropen.com.