Franco proves he's 'Milwaukee's best'

Updated: July 26, 2004, 2:29 AM ET
Associated Press

MILWAUKEE -- Carlos Franco hates to practice and loves to fish.

He didn't spend his free time at the U.S. Bank Championship on the driving range. Instead, he had a fishing pole dipped into a pond as much as possible.

The unorthodox approach helped Franco win the title Sunday. He carded a 3-under 67 at Brown Deer Park to beat Fred Funk (66) and Brett Quigley (69) by two strokes for his fourth PGA Tour win and second in Milwaukee.

"I fished three days. I caught plenty bass," Franco said. "I like to eat it too, my friend."

The Paraguayan didn't have to partake in any of Milwaukee's famous Friday fish fries because his wife, Celsa, cooked the day's catch herself.

She also ventured out to Brown Deer Park with her children to watch her husband play, something she hadn't done since he joined the PGA Tour full-time five years ago.

And what did she have to say to him after he won $630,000, his biggest paycheck ever?

"She doesn't speak to me, only crying," Franco said.

Patrick Sheehan (70), Billy Andrade (67) and Olin Browne (67) finished three shots back, tied for fourth place in the tournament formerly known as the Greater Milwaukee Open.

Only Franco and Funk carded four rounds in the 60s. Franco isn't known for his accuracy off the tee, but he did master Milwaukee's short, roughhewn course for the second time. How?

"Because maybe the Milwaukee course likes me," he said with a shrug and a smile.

Defending champion Kenny Perry (70) tied for seventh, his worst finish in five tries at Brown Deer, where he had been in the top five the last four years.

Franco is the seventh two-time winner in Milwaukee. He began the final round tied with Quigley and Sheehan atop the leaderboard, his first 54-hole lead since the 2000 COMPAQ Classic of New Orleans, which he won in a playoff to defend his '99 title.

Neither Sheehan nor Quigley, who teed off last, had ever led going into the final day of a tournament on the PGA Tour, and the inexperience proved costly.

Sheehan made the turn a stroke ahead of Franco at 3 under for the round, but posted a bogey on No. 11, a double bogey on 12 and a bogey on 13. Quigley, who also tied for second at the 2001 Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic, shot a steady but unspectacular round, never making a charge for what would have been his first win on Tour.

Nobody shot better than 4 under on a cool, breezy day. The golfers credited the demanding pin placements and wicked rough as much as swirling winds for the lack of low scoring.

Like Franco, Funk was accurate, hitting 87 percent of his fairways for the tournament on the 6,759-yard layout that is one of the shortest courses on the PGA Tour and puts a premium on iron play and putting.

"When I saw the rough, I really liked it," Funk said. "It's an equalizer for me with the guys who hit it a long way. I can't compete with the bombers."

But he couldn't quite catch Franco, either.

Funk admires Franco's celebrated non-practice habits, although "I think that's why he's so erratic sometimes."

"It's kind of surprising that he wins on this golf course. It's such a tight golf course. I don't think he's known for his accuracy," Funk said. "But he has a comfort level here. It must fit his eye.

"Plus, he likes that fishing from what I understand."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press