Saturday, January 20, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, January 20, 2001

Eagles help Faxon leave past behind

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

Brad Faxon had a birdie, a place atop the leader board and a definite spring in his step as he strode purposefully off the fifth green yesterday in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

He was standing taller than his listed 6-feet-one inch and feeling pretty good about himself.

Then, he ran smack into his Waialae Country Club past.

A veteran marshal, to whom Faxon said he had just given an autograph, noted pointedly, "You haven’t done very good here, have you?"

"I said, well, a couple of years ago (1996) I did pretty good. I lost in a playoff,’ " Faxon replied.

"Do better!" was the marshal’s retort, Faxon said.

Indeed, this has become a year of heightened expectation for Faxon, a reach-for-the-stars effort that could make his 19th year on the PGA Tour a campaign of breakthrough proportions.

With a 6-under 64 yesterday, good for a five-stroke lead at the halfway point of the Sony Open, Faxon is chasing a $720,000 payday that would double his biggest winner’s check. He is staring at an opportunity to move two-thirds of the way toward matching his best earnings year in this, just the first month of the schedule.

It is a year of simmering potential for the 39-year old Furman graduate and three-time best putter on Tour. It is a year he has enthusiastically looked forward to since November.

"I could have started right there," Faxon said of the Shark Shoutout win he vowed to use as a "catapult" into a memorable 2001.

But first there is the lingering matter of what he calls his "history here." There are 36 holes still to be negotiated on a course where he has made the cut only once in his past four attempts and challenged for the title but once in six tries.

There is a swarm of pursuers five strokes back at 133, including Jim Furyk, who edged him in the three-hole playoff for that 1996 Hawaiian Open Championship. So when Faxon made the turn yesterday and gazed up at the leader board to find himself 7-under par and with nobody to chase, there was at first surprise and then a recognition of the opportunity that awaits.

"I thought I’d see more guys climbing the board," Faxon said. "At the time I made the turn, nobody was in front of me and that surprised me. I thought there would be more guys."

But there has been nobody able to punctuate the close of back-to-back rounds with eagle-3s on the par-5s.

Faxon, who could remember but four eagles all of last year — both in the last two weeks of the campaign — is hot.

"I’m psyched." Faxon said. "I’m ready to go."

If he is to make good on the challenge of doing "better" here, there is no better time or opportunity.

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