One year ago at the Sony Open, Tadd Fujikawa made a name for himself. Fast forward to 2008 and he's just another young player trying to make a living on the PGA Tour.
Fujikawa will be playing on a sponsor's exemption in this week's Sony Open, which starts Thursday at Waialae Country Club (7,044 yards, par 70) in Honolulu, Hawaii. The 17-year-old high school junior said Wednesday that he has plenty of vivid memories about last year's tournament, where he gained entry into the field as a qualifier.
"I think the thing that really sticks out for me the most is just seeing how many people came out to watch and how many people came out to support me," Fujikawa told reporters. "I think having the crowd there and having my family and my friends, it really helped me focus, but at the same time have fun."
Last year, Fujikawa sank a 15-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole to shoot a second-round 66 and become the youngest player in half a century to make the cut in a PGA Tour event. The Hawaii native, who is just five feet tall but can carry the ball 275 yards with his driver, wound up finishing 20th in the event at 5-under 275 and would turn pro later in the year.
Fujikawa admits that it will be difficult to top what he accomplished last year in the Sony Open.
"It was pretty special last year, just because I was kind of new to that thing and it just kind of came all of a sudden and I wasn't really ready for it, but it was fun," Fujikawa said. "I think the only way I could top last year would be if I win this year."
Fujikawa's surprising performance at the Sony Open ended up also being his best showing of the year. As a pro, he missed the cut in all three of his starts, falling short in the Reno-Tahoe Open, Frys.com Open and the Children's Miracle Network Classic.
However, the youngster said he feels good about his game heading into the 2008 PGA Tour season.
"Of course, I know this course pretty well," Fujikawa said. "I've been trying to get out here and play as much as I can and get ready for this tournament. I'm really feeling good about the way I'm playing, the way I'm hitting the ball and my putting is looking a little better than it had about a few months ago."
Fujikawa switched to a left-hand-low putting grip less than two weeks ago and plans to test it in tournament play for the first time this week.
"I had some struggles with my putting, but it's been getting a lot better," Fujikawa said. "I just switched my putting grip about a week and a half ago and it's been working pretty well. I'm really looking forward to this week and I'm really excited about it."
Veteran Fred Funk said he was impressed with what he's seen from Fujikawa.
"He played in front of me in the Monday Pro-Am, and he bombs it — little dude," Funk told reporters. "I was standing on the tee on 16, and I was just like, ‘That's good, that'll work.' He has a good golf swing. He's a neat kid."
While Fujikawa said he definitely has higher expectations this year, he's not going to place too much pressure on himself.
"I'm just going to kind of brush all that stuff off of me, and hopefully I can just go out there and do the best that I can," Fujikawa said. "I won't have any pressure put on myself, by myself personally, and I'm just going to do the best that I can and really have fun and basically try to do the same things that I did last year."
Paul Goydos is Sony's defending champion, breaking an 11-year winless drought in last year's event. He won by making a birdie on the final hole for a one-shot win over Charles Howell III and Luke Donald.
One player who won't be in the field is Michelle Wie, who played the previous four years on sponsor exemptions. She plans to concentrate on LPGA Tour events this season.
Also missing from this week's tournament will be Golf Channel announcer Kelly Tilghman. The network suspended her for two weeks on Wednesday for a comment she made last Friday, joking that Tiger Woods' fellow competitors should attempt to "lynch him in a back alley."
• SCHEDULE: Thursday-Sunday
• SITE: Honolulu, Hawaii
• COURSE: Waialae Country Club (7,044 yards, par 70)
• PURSE: $5.3 million (winner's share: $954,000).
• FEDEX CUP POINTS: 25,000 (winner's share: 4,500).
• TV: Golf Channel (Thursday, 7-10:30 p.m. EST; Friday-Sunday, 12:30-4 a.m. EST, 7-10:30 p.m. EST; Monday, 12:30-4 a.m. EST)
January 10, 2008
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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