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The Honolulu Advertiser

By Ferd Lewis

Posted on: Friday, January 15, 2010

Fujikawa's struggles quiet the crowd

 • Johnson shares first-round lead

A Tadd Fujikawa round of golf at the Sony Open in Hawai'i usually roars and pulsates like a floating block party.

Yesterday, it was more like a group tip-toeing through a library.

When you can hear the birds chirping, trucks rumbling down Kealaolu Avenue, port-a-john doors slamming or workers pounding bags of ice to a thaw on the Waialae Country Club course instead of the ever-present buzz of the crowd, it says almost as much about the day Hawai'i's favorite menehune is having as his scorecard.

Yesterday, amid sometimes swirling winds, it underlined the nearly five hours Fujikawa spent grinding his way to a 2-over-par 72 in the opening round at Sony.

Even for a Thursday, when crowds are the most sparse, it was a quiet, languid day.

Fujikawa, who often banters with a lively crowd, was more subdued and so, too, were his tethered faithful. His play, much of it waged in the rough and bunkers, lacked a spark and his following, attuned to his struggles, was unable to light one.

But when a day of errant drives and not-quite putts ended, the 19-year-old Fujikawa had sufficiently rallied to the point that he was still only one stroke over the first-round scores of the two years (2007 and 2009) when he made the cut in the PGA Tour event.

Of course, he shot a second-round 66 and 69, respectively, in those efforts and today, depending upon the weather conditions, he might need a 68 to make the 70-man (and ties) cut for the weekend.

Yesterday, a day that started promisingly enough with a birdie on his opening hole (the 10th), quickly evolved into a 7,068-yard survival session. Fujikawa bogeyed his second and third holes and it was all he could do to battle back to reach even-par at the turn.

But the sense of relief was erased by three bogeys in four subsequent holes the frustration from which was clearly evident when Fujikawa pounded his club into the sand on hole No. 4 (his 13th).

Not until two holes later, the 15th of their trying day, did caddie Shakil Ahmed lean over and inform Fujikawa, "that was your first up-and-down (today)." It drew a smile from both of them.

A birdie on the final hole earned Fujikawa his biggest applause of the day and set the goal for today. Said Fujikawa, "Hopefully (today) and this weekend it will be louder for me."