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 havent 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 marshals 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 winners 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 Id 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.
"Im psyched." Faxon said. "Im 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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