Teen Star Fujikawa Turning Pro at Reno-Tahoe Open
Tadd Fujikawa, the 16-year-old who became the youngest player in more than 50 years to make the cut on the PGA Tour, said Thursday he was giving up his amateur status and would make his pro debut in three weeks at the Reno-Tahoe Open.
'I'm really ready for this,' he said. 'It's something that I want to do.'
Fujikawa made his announcement at a news conference at the Waialae Country Club, where in January the 5-foot-1 Fujikawa sent the gallery into a frenzy with an eagle on the 18th hole for a 66 that allowed him to make the cut at the Sony Open.
He stole the attention from Michelle Wie, the most popular golfer in Hawaii who turned pro at age 15. Wie, who just graduated high school, has spiraled into a miserable slump and has not broken par on any tour in nearly a year.
Wie's splashy news conference two years ago was very different from Fujikawa's low-key announcement, which had more friends and family members in attendance than media. Wie had signed multimillion deals with Nike and Sony. Fujikawa is still working on his first contract.
Fujikawa quickly shot down any comparisons between the teens.
'You can't really compare yourself with anyone else,' he said. 'You're two different people. You're playing two different stages -- she's on the LPGA. I'm the PGA. ... It's just totally different.'
Fujikawa, who just finished his sophomore year at Moanalua High School, said he still plans to finish high school and attend college.
He first drew attention in 2006 when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. But it was his experience at the Sony that pushed him to turn pro.
'It showed me I can compete with the best players in the world and I can handle myself in front of the cameras. But sometimes I get a little nervous,' he said.
Finances weren't really a factor in the decision.
'I'm not in it for the money at all. I just want to play with the best players in the world,' he said.
Lori Fujikawa, who wiped away tears as she stood behind a row of television cameras, said that her son turning pro will make it easier for him to concentrate on golf.
'It's hard to tell your child 'No, you can't do it,'' she said.
Lori Fujikawa, an office clerk at an auto body shop, said paying for her son's travels to the mainland, golf lessons and other expenses has been extremely difficult. Family members often had to help out.
'We always went the cheapest route and it was still expensive,' she said.
While other players stayed at the closest resorts, the Fujikawas opted for 'safe' motels in the area.
Derrick Fujikawa remembers when his only child was just 5 and would take swings in their backyard. By age 11, the younger Fujikawa was beating his dad on the golf course.
'But I still could beat him in judo,' his father said.
Derrick Fujikawa said his son, who was often the smallest kid around, has always been a 'fierce competitor.'
Fujikawa was a fighter from the time he was born -- 3 1/2 months early, so small that he weighed only 1 pound, 15 ounces and could fit into his grandfather's palm. Fujikawa, who had only a 50 percent to live, made it through a series of surgeries the first year, one to reconnect his intestines.
'I try not to think about those days,' Derrick Fujikawa said. 'He went through a lot. I don't know how he does it, but everything he does he tries his best at. That's the main thing.'
Fujikawa received a sponsor's exemption to the Reno-Tahoe Open, which starts Aug. 2.
Kevin Bell, a partner in the law firm who will serve as his attorney-agent, said Fujikawa will ask for other sponsor exemptions on the PGA Tour or try to qualify on the PGA TOUR, Nationwide Tour and in Japan until he finishes high school.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry