Originally created 09/23/05

Global golf can be small



GAINESVILLE, Va. - The Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., bunch gathered on the first tee for another photo op, and Sharon Funk greeted Tabitha Furyk in their matching outfits.

"It's our neighbors we never see," Mrs. Funk said.

This is the nature of tour golf and illustrates the biggest difference between the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup. The most competitive match of Thursday's foursomes included three neighbors from the PGA Tour's hometown.

Welcome to the small world of global golf.

Jim Furyk and Fred Funk shared the same uniform just as they share the facing pages in the PGA Tour media guide. Vijay Singh lives down the oceanfront from Furyk and can usually be found on the back of the same driving range at the TPC Sawgrass.

And you wonder why the Presidents Cup atmosphere is so cordial.

"A lot of these guys on the other team are our neighbors," said Furyk. "I practice next to Vijay throughout the year quite a bit. If one side is going to win this week, you can bet that one of us is going to be crowing a little bit, all winter, talking about the matches."

They will have to wait to give the needle after an all-square halve in the opening alternate shot match. When Furyk's downhill birdie on the last hole slid barely past the cup, the International's 3-footer was conceded and a half-point posted on each ledger.

The almost-all Ponte Vedra Beach scramble was left undecided and the teams were split up for the next round.

"Nobody has bragging rights now," said Funk, who practices at Pablo Creek instead of the PGA Tour headquarters and is an Intracoastal waterway resident. "It's just a push."

"It's probably appropriate it was a halve because we both played our hearts out out there," Furyk said.

The PVB power match certainly provided the best and most consistent drama of the opening day. Neither team ever lead by more than one hole. The lead flip-flopped constantly, going back to all square five times.

Singh and Hensby took 1-up leads after the first, 11th, 13th and 16th holes. Furyk and Funk won back-to-back holes at Nos. 3 and 4 to hold a 1-up edge for six holes before entering the back nine when they fought back to all square at the 12th, 14th and 17th holes.

The match came down to the 18th with a gallery of teammates cheering on what they all knew would be a critical point.

"When Tiger (Woods) and Freddie (Couples) come out to see you after their match is over, that's pretty cool and you don't see that anywhere else," Funk said.

The grittiness of the match was in some ways exemplified by Furyk's physical condition. Furyk pulled a rib muscle during last week's 84 Lumber Classic and it went into spasm again on his first swing of Thursday's match.

All the way around the course he received massage therapy. At one point he sprawled across the No. 9 tee box during a delay while a trainer worked out the muscles in his lower back.

"He had a horrible time trying to walk," said U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus, citing Furyk's status for today's four-ball matches as "uncertain."

That would be tough on Furyk, who finally got his wish to be paired with Tiger Woods in the final best-ball match today against Australians Stuart Appleby and Hensby.

If Furyk can't play today and never starts, International captain Gary Player will sit either Appleby or Hensby and send the other out in a singles match against Woods. If Furyk tees off but has to withdraw, Woods will have to take on both International players alone.

That's not a situation either side wants.

Meanwhile, Funk and Singh will have another shot at each other. They'll each absorb one of the losers on their respective teams and go for bragging rights again today. Funk will play with Stewart Cink while Singh will partner with Tim Clark.

Hensby, the outsider who calls Arizona home now, said the Ponte Vedra Beach boys didn't try to recruit him or offer any advice on a good realtor.

"I don't know," he said of the idea of relocating. "It was a friendly group."

What else would you expect in the neighborly Presidents Cup?