Principal is a global company. The 2009 Principal Charity Classic was a global duel.
At the end of regulation play, three men were left standing: Zimbabwe natives Mark McNulty and Nick Price and Maryland’s finest, Fred Funk.
The three had finished play tied at 10-under-par 203. McNulty and Funk shot closing 66s. Price, the second-round leader, posted a 68. All three got to the finish line in different ways.
McNulty birdied the 16th and 17th holes. Funk parred the final seven holes. Price drilled a 20-footer for birdie on the 18th green to make it a three-man playoff.
“I watched his reaction, saw his fist pump,” McNulty said. “Then I heard the roar. Life goes quicker than sound.”
McNulty would go on to win, on the fourth hole, sudden death. Funk was a hard-luck runner-up. Funk had a 20-footer for birdie lip out on the 17th hole of regulation. And that was just the first chapter in Funk’s three-chapter “What if?” story
All three players two-putted for par on the first playoff hole, the 18th. Funk? Lipped out his 25-footer for birdie and the win.
Back to the 18th hole they went. McNulty got a good break when his drive caught a small tree the right rough and kicked his ball into the middle of the fairway.
“You make your own luck in this game, and I got a good break,” McNulty said.
McNulty then hit his approach to 12 feet. Funk did it even better, putting his ball 8 feet from the cup. Price, whose drive left him an awkward sidehill lie just outside a bunker, hit a first-rate shot to get within 25 feet from the hole.
Price missed, McNulty and Funk didn’t. And the two men still standing went to No. 17 for the third extra hole.
Funk had a 15-footer for birdie and victory. Again, his ball caught a significant portion of the cup, but defied gravity and spun out.
“That was the ultimate horseshoe there,” Funk said.
They headed to the 18th where the marathon finally ended.
Facing a 30-foot birdie putt on a similar line to the two putts he’d faced on that green earlier in the playoff, McNulty made it this time for the victory. He pumped his fist once, twice, three times. Three tries, one big make.
“One was a little shorter and one was a little longer, but it’s uncanny how close they were,” McNulty said.
Close, too, was Funk. Any one of his three putts that lipped out would have given him the $258,750 check that McNulty cashed.
“All three of them should have gone in, much less one of them,” Funk said.
This was one of three sudden-death playoffs in the history of the tournament, and the longest.
“How many holes was the playoff?” McNulty asked when it was over.
In the end, fans were rewarded with a riveting finish.
“We were playing some pretty high-quality golf,” Funk said. “Mark won it. None of us gave it away. I’m just glad we put on a quality golf show. Us old guys can still play.”
By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter