Fujikawa fires 71 for kama'aina honors
By Bill Kwon
Special to The Advertiser
By Bill Kwon
The littlest guy made the biggest impression of the seven Hawai'i players in the Sony Open in Hawai'i after yesterday's opening round at the Waialae Country Club.
Tadd Fujikawa — a 5-foot-1, Moanalua High sophomore who just turned 16 Monday — had the best score of the Local Seven — a 1-over-par 71. And he didn't putt very well, he said.
Imagine if he did.
To put his round in perspective, Fujikawa outplayed PGA Tour members Dean Wilson, Parker McLachlin and 48 others in the 144-player field in the first full-field event of the 2007 season.
Wilson and McLachlin each shot 72 but a triple-bogey 6 at the fifth hole cost Wilson a chance for a round under par.
Kevin Hayashi, the Aloha Section PGA player of the year, posted a 74, Navy-Marine professional David Chin a 76 and Abe Mariano, another local sectional qualifier, brought up the rear with an 83.
Well, once a breath of fresh air in golf, Wie got off to a rocky 78 start and faced the reality of missing the cut for the fourth straight year. She'll need to shoot a 71 today just to match her worst 36-hole score (149) at Waialae.
She clearly wasn't having as much fun yesterday as Fujikawa, local golf's new breath of fresh air.
"It's a lot of fun. I really enjoy being out here, competing against the best players in the world and having all the people supporting me is just great," Fujikawa said. "It made me feel comfortable throughout the whole round."
As for his round yesterday, Fujikawa said, "I just did everything OK. Nothing was spectacular, nothing was really poor. I had a lot of opportunities to make birdies and I didn't take advantage."
Fujikawa flashed his winsome smile and waved to a following gallery of around 150, who loudly cheered some of his impressive shots.
His score could have been a lot better as he missed very makeable birdie putts at the second, fifth and sixth holes.
"I was leaving all my putts short. I couldn't get the ball to the hole. I'm not sure why, but the greens were a little slower than I expected, said Fujikawa, who played practice rounds at Waialae almost every day after qualifying for the lone amateur sponsor's exemption as a member of the Governor's Cup team.
His only birdie of the day came at the par-3 fourth when he flushed a 5-iron to 3 feet. He also made a great sand save at the par-3 seventh, putting his bunker shot to within a foot for par.
After playing his first five holes in par despite a "little shaky" opening tee shot of the day at the par-4 10th, Fujikawa suffered his only two bogeys in the round at 15 and 16.
He missed a 7-foot birdie try at the par-5 18th to make the turn at 2-over.
"I don't know if I pushed the putt or I misread it. But you can't do anything about it. That's history, you've got to move on," Fujikawa said.
Speaking of history, the then-15-year-old Fujikawa made it at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot last year as the youngest player in the 106-year history of the major championship.
He also hopes to become the first local amateur to make the cut in the PGA event at Waialae since Don Hurter, then a sophomore at the University of New Mexico, did it in 1981
And speaking of moving on, Fujikawa hopes he can play the weekend by surviving today's 36-hole cut. He's in a 16-way tie for 79th place at 71.
Asked about his chances, Fujikawa replied, "Probably not. I think the course is playing too easy and there are too many good players out here. If I can get to even par (140) that'll probably be right on the cut line. If I can get below that, that's great."
But playing partner Boo Weekley said golf fans, not only locally, will hear a lot about Fujikawa in the future.
"This little kid has a lot of talent. He's real disciplined, he's real well-mannered. That goes a long ways out here," Weekley said.
"When he gets a little more mature and plays a little more, he's going to be good. He's going to be the Next One out here, I know."