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Funk heads crowded leaderboard

CHASKA, Minn. -- Fred Funk was reluctant to leave Hazeltine
National Golf Club when the storm arrived. He was holing every
putt, slapping every hand, leading the PGA Championship and having
the time of his life.

Wait until he sees what's in store when he comes back.

The forecast calls for strong wind, with gusts that could
approach 40 mph.

Play was supposed to resume at 8:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, but it was pushed back
two hours because the course wasn't ready. Hazeltine got 3 inches
of rain in a three-hour period Friday night, and not even the
raging wind Saturday morning could dry it out quickly.

''I think par will be about 78,'' Funk said Friday.

Making it even tougher are the cast of characters behind him -- a
collection of major championship winners, including Tiger Woods.

''I'm just trying to have a really good time and enjoy the
moment, however long this lasts,'' said Funk, a 46-year-old with
five PGA Tour victories, none of them even close to resembling a
major. ''If it last all the way to the end of Sunday, that's
great.''

The first step is finishing off the second round.

Funk charged up the galleries with one birdie after another,
including one on the 636-yard third hole that put him at 8 under.
He made his only bogey on No. 4, hitting out of the bunker to 3
feet and missing the putt.

Then, the siren sounded to stop play and Funk's day in the sun
was over.

He was at 7-under par and has five holes to play when Funk and
40 others return to the course at 7:30 a.m. Saturday to finish the
round.

Already in the clubhouse are Mark Calcavecchia, Retief Goosen,
Justin Leonard and Rich Beem, all of them at 6-under 138. Lurking
is Woods, who put together an early charge and was at 3 under with
two holes to play. Ernie Els was another stroke behind.

''I'm not going to back down,'' Funk said.

Such confidence comes from a strong-but-short game and his knack
for holing just about every putt. Perspective comes from an older
brother, 57-year-old Bernie Funk, back in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.,
who recently decided to seek help for a drinking problem.

''I'm so proud of him,'' Funk said. ''It's been very emotional,
and I've been using him a strength, because he showed a lot of
strength to do what he's doing. If I end up not playing well, it's
not because I'm scared. I'm going to go out there and give it my
all.''

It certainly showed.

Funk swung the putter like a baseball bat when putts stopped
short of the hole, pumped his fist and doffed his cap when they
dropped for birdie, and exchanged high-fives to everyone along the
way.

''I was having fun,'' he said. ''I was enjoying being in the
lead at the PGA.''

Can he stay there?

Someone asked Funk if a 46-year-old journeyman with a reputation
for not being able to hit the ball out of his shadow (136th in driving
distance at 275.2 yards) can really win the PGA Championship.

''I'm playing good right now, putting well, scoring,'' Funk
said. ''If I continue to do that, yeah, I can sneak in one on this
kind of golf course, if all the stars line up.''

The stars already are lining up behind him.

That includes Woods.

The winner of the Masters and U.S. Open, Woods swiftly moved
into contention with a burst of birdies -- a tee shot into 2 feet on
No. 4, a 15-footer on the next hole and a two-putt birdie on the
par-5 seventh.

He wasn't immune to blustery conditions late Friday afternoon,
leaving his tee shot on the par-3 13th some 60 feet short and
taking three putts for bogey.

Goosen, the U.S. Open champion last year, chipped in for birdie
on the 18th for his second straight 69. Calcavecchia ('89 British
Open) went at every pin and made it pay off for a 68. Leonard ('97
British Open) made five birdies in a 10-hole stretch for a 66,
matching the lowest competitive round at Hazeltine.

Joining them was the happy-go-lucky Beem, who hit out of the
trees and into the slope on the 18th green, the ball stopping 4
feet away for his eighth birdie of his round of 66.

''If I had missed the cut this week, it would not have been a
big deal, not a blow to my ego at all,'' said Beem, a former stereo
salesman. ''I'm still new to the ballgame. I'd like to find out how
good I can get.''

The usual contenders were nowhere to be found.

Phil Mickelson made double bogey on his final hole for a 72 and
narrowly made the cut, although he'll likely spend the next eight
months contemplating another year gone by without a major.

David Duval couldn't find the fairway and shot 77. Sergio Garcia
charged and retreated and wound up with a 73. All of them were at
4-over 146.

Beem is showing plenty of game this week.

He has better stuff than his pedigree might indicate,
fundamentally sound in all aspects and only lately showing some
results. His victory two weeks ago at the International was his
second on the PGA Tour, and perhaps a major is the next step.

''I'm just as surprised as you all that I'm sitting here,'' Beem
said. ''What I'm not surprised is that I'm playing well. I know
I've got some game, but at the same time, this is a major and I
haven't really done anything in the majors yet.''

Considering this is only his fourth major and he had made only
one cut (tie for 70th in the '99 PGA Championship), that would be a
fair assessment.

No debating his outlook on the weekend, either.

''I don't know exactly what's going to happen tomorrow, but it's
going to be fun,'' Beem said. ''Unless I shoot 90. Then it won't be
fun.''

Unless the wind blows like it did at Muirfield in the third
round last month. Then, 90 might not be so bad.

''People like seeing train wrecks,'' Funk said. ''You're going
to see some train wrecks when you have this. Everybody is going to
be struggling in it.''