Fujikawa shoots 62 to move into Sony contention

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 Sony OpenHONOLULU ' Tadd Fujikawa returned to the putting green late Saturday afternoon, hours after his 8-under 62 put his name atop the leaderboard at the Sony Open and showed everyone he was serious about becoming the PGA Tours youngest winner ever.
 
With the sun setting behind him, Fujikawas shadow stretched across the green.
 
At 5-foot-1, he never felt bigger.
 
Tadd Fujikawa shoots 62 in Rd. 3 of the Sony Open
Tadd Fujikawa had nine birdies in a third-round 62. (Getty Images)
Fujikawa made birdies on half of his holes for the best round of his life, pulling him within two shots of former Masters champion Zach Johnson and giving golf its biggest buzz since the Ryder Cup.
 
Johnson had a bogey-free 66 for the lead, but its so crowded at the top that a dozen players were separated by three shots, giving just about everyone a chance to win ' even an 18-year-old senior in high school.
 
Two years ago, I just went out there to have fun, said Fujikawa, who tied for 20th as a 16-year-old amateur. This year, Im out there to win, and I know I can do it.
 
Maybe the kid isnt kidding.
 
He sure made believers out of the hometown fans who stood four-deep around the greens to watch him put on a show. He opened with three straight birdies, made three straight birdies around the turn, then closed with back-to-back birdies and a salute to a gallery that carried him along with cheers and Hawaiis famous Hang Loose sign.
 
Even larger crowds are expected on Sunday when Fujikawa, who turned 18 last week and will graduate high school in May, will try to make history no one saw coming. He had never made the cut on the PGA Tour since turning pro after his sophomore year in high school.
 
Johnny McDermott was 19 years and 10 months when he captured the U.S. Open in 1911.
 
Is it really possible?
 
I think hes got a bright future, said David Toms, who eagled the last hole for a 65 to join the group one shot behind. Obviously, a guy that can shoot 62 on this golf course on Saturday of a PGA Tour event has got a lot of talent.
 
Johnson was at 10-under 200, one shot ahead of Toms, Shigeki Maruyama (68), Brian Gay (68) and Nathan Green (69). Fujikawa, who on Friday made the cut on the PGA Tour for the first time as a pro, was tied for sixth, two shots behind.
 
Awesome, said Charles Howell III, who had a 67 and also was two shots behind. I cant even imagine shooting 62 when I was 18.
 
Geoff Ogilvy, who won the Mercedes-Benz Championship last week at Kapalua and is trying to join Ernie Els (2003) as the only players to sweep the Hawaii stops, had a 68 and was in the group at 7-under 203 that included Adam Scott (66).
 
Fujikawa changed to his green-and-white Sea Island golf bag as a subtle reminder. He used it when he spent two days qualifying for the Sony Open last week, earning a spot in the field and respect from the other players.
 
Relieved to have finally made a PGA Tour cut as a pro ' he had missed in his six previous tries over the last two seasons ' Fujikawa backed up his claim that his goal was to win. He birdied the first three holes, and when he birdied the par-5 ninth to make the turn in 31, the large crowd created such a bottleneck that it couldnt catch up to him until he was on the 10th green.
 
He birdied the 10th from 8 feet, then chipped in for birdie on the 11th, running toward the cup with his fist extended.
 
Fujikawa played with PGA Tour rookie Matthew Borchert, who shot 73 and enjoyed the show.
 
What a player, said Borchert, who had never played golf in front of 100 people, let alone 3,000. I figured thats what I would get when I saw the pairing ' a lot of birdies and a lot of upbeat people.
 
Not even Michelle Wie created this much energy when she was 14 and shooting 68, the lowest ever by a female competing against men. Fujikawa is revered on this island for his hard-scrabble upbringing.
 
He was born 3 1/2 months premature, so small he fit into his grandfathers palm. He was given only a 50 percent chance to live and has been overcoming long odds ever since. Fujikawa qualified for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot as a 15-year-old amateur, and as he tried to rebuild his confidence last year, his father was indicted on drug trafficking charges.
 
Through it all, he has kept a bright outlook and charming smile.
 
And as he showed Saturday, he can play.
 
From a buried lie in Bermuda grass, the wind in his face, he powered his approach over a bunker and onto the green. And he finished in style, hitting 4-iron to 6 feet for birdie on the 17th, then lashing a 3-wood out of the bunker and onto the par-5 18th green for a two-putt birdie and the best round of his life.
 
The leaders were still on the practice range, but Fujikawa kept a share of the lead for 2 1/2 hours until Johnson got to 9 under with a wedge-and-a-putt birdie on the par-5 ninth. Johnson added another birdie on the 12th, then came in with pars.
 
Johnson, who won the Texas Open during the Fall Series, didnt feel like he had a big advantage with the 54-hole lead.
 
Not out here, he said. One errant shot can be a matter of a two- or three-shot swing. Thats the beauty of this course. It doesnt surprise me that its congested.
 
But was he surprised that an 18-year-old is so close behind?
 
Yeah, I heard, Johnson said, shaking his head. Thats very impressive. Eight under anywhere is really good. Ive seen him swing it and seen him putt it, and hes very, very solid.
 
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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.