Teen Shines but There are No Guarantees

By Associated PressJanuary 15, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 Sony OpenHONOLULU -- The e-mail arrived two hours before Tadd Fujikawa teed off in the final round of the Sony Open. It was from a marketing agency, offering expert opinion on the kid's endorsement potential.

Five days earlier, hardly anyone knew who he was.

Five years from now, the 16-year-old might only be a trivia question.

All that anyone knows at the moment - and probably won't soon forget - is that the 5-foot-1 sophomore with a big heart and an infectious smile made golf fun last week at the Sony Open.

He amazed even himself by becoming the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut on the PGA TOUR. He shot consecutive rounds of 66 to get his name on the first page of the leaderboard, and finished with a respectable 72 to tie for 20th.

Six-time major champion Nick Faldo told him he had the game to compete on the PGA TOUR.

``I thought that was really nice of him to say that,'' Fujikawa said. ``That really motivates me right there. Now I know that I can play against the top PGA pros and compete with them. Not only play against them and do very well, but I can actually beat some of them.''

The proof was on the scoreboard.

He was one shot better than John Daly, two better than Vijay Singh.

Fujikawa is the hottest golf commodity in Hawaii, making the island forget for the moment about another teenager, Michelle Wie. She sent the golf world into a frenzy at the same tournament four years ago when she shot 68 and missed the cut by one shot at age 14.

But when Fujikawa returns to Moanalua High School on Tuesday, it might not be a bad idea to study up on his history.

One week doesn't make a career, especially in golf.

Remember Ty Tryon?

He was 16 when he qualified for the Honda Classic, made the cut with rounds of 67-73 and went on to tie for 39th. Later that year at the B.C. Open, he led after the first round before finishing in a tie for 37th. Then he went through three stages of Q-school and earned his PGA TOUR card. And he hasn't been heard from since.

Tiger Woods celebrated Tryon's feat at the Honda Classic, but he issued a caution that is still true today.

``Anybody can have a great week,'' Woods said in March 2001. ``Can you repeat it? That's the key. There are so many times that players have gone out here and played well one week, and then they're gone.''

It is tough to use Wie as a comparison because she dabbles on more than one tour. Against women, she was atop the leaderboard on the back nine Sunday at three majors this year. Against the men, she is making it a habit of finishing last, or close to it.

But there are similarities between the two teens from Hawaii.

Wie had no worries and no fear when she first played the Sony Open in 2004. It wasn't a job, it was a dream. And it was fun. Wie played 18 holes every day at Waialae, and even when she teed off in the morning, she hung around until late afternoon on the putting green or on the practice range. This was her one week to be on the PGA TOUR, and she soaked up every minute.

That was Fujikawa last week at Waialae.

Jim Furyk was on the putting green late Thursday in twilight when he saw Fujikawa chipping, goofing around, having fun.

``It didn't strike me until I was driving home that he played in the morning, and he probably hung out and had fun and enjoyed it,'' Furyk said. ``He looked like he was having a blast on the putting green. It was refreshing to see that.''

Furyk remembers his first PGA TOUR as a freshman in college, missed the cut in Tucson and didn't want to leave.

``I still went back on Saturday and Sunday just to hang out,'' he said. ``I went in the locker room, ate lunch, acted like I knew what I was going. I just wanted to hang out and be part of the tournament.''

Wie no longer stays at Waialae very long.

She gathered with her family, a few friends and a few agents in the dining room for lunch, hit a few balls and was gone before twilight when she played Thursday morning. Since that first Sony Open, she has competed 11 times against the men (including a U.S. Open qualifier at Canoe Brook). Now it's a business.

Fujikawa wants this to be his job, and he certainly has the skills. Never mind that his driver is almost as tall as him. He gives it plenty of pop, and hit 6-iron into the 551-yard 18th hole from 207 yards. He could spend hours on the putting green, a lesson for all juniors.

Fujikawa qualified for the U.S. Open last summer, the youngest to do that since 1941. He missed the cut (so did Woods) with rounds of 81 and 77 and probably didn't get much credit for being there because he only beat a field of 10 at the Hawaii sectional.

That didn't change him. He says this won't, either.

``I'm still going to practice golf,'' he said. ``It has been a little different for the past six months, since I qualified for the (U.S.) Open. But I think this tournament really got me out there and opened some eyes.''

He already was looking toward next year, hopeful he can make it through the Aloha Section qualifying to get the only spot offered to an amateur. Maybe the tournament will give him a sponsor's exemption, and some think he deserves one as much as Wie.

For now, he's going to stick to his own age group, and he knows there is plenty of competition.

``They're no pushover, either,'' he said. ``I'm just going to go out there and do my best, like I've been doing. If it doesn't work out, then I guess I've got to practice harder.''

Related Links:

  • Leaderboard
  • Full Coverage - Sony Open in Hawaii
  • Golf Channel Airtimes

    Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Getty Images

    Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

    By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

    The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

    They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

    Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

    Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

    Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

    ''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

    The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

    In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

    Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

    Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

    It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

    The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

    Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

    Getty Images

    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.