Fujikawas Game of Inches

By Brian HewittJanuary 19, 2009, 5:00 pm
There are no official records on this sort of thing. How could there be?
 
But the buzz of the weekend in the golf world was the 62 local hero Tadd Fujikawa carved out of the tree-lined fairways and tiny greens at Waialae Country Club Saturday in the third round of the Sony Open.
 
In short, the 5-foot-1 Fujikawa almost shot his height. In inches.
 
The explosive young Hawaiian is 61 inches tall. One more birdie somewhere Saturday and he would have been the shortest player, in anybodys memory, to shoot his height in inches, in a sanctioned professional event.
 
Tadd Fujikawa shoots 62 in Rd. 3 of the Sony Open
Tadd Fujikawa had nine birdies in a third-round 62. (Getty Images)
All kinds of players on the Champions Tour have shot their age. Its a semi-regular, and not insignificant, occurrence on that circuit for players in their mid-60s to fire a round in the mid-60s. Well-preserved top amateurs with polished short games shoot their age all the time.
 
But were talking about shooting your height here. And the more vertically-challenged you are, the more difficult it becomes.
 
Any self-respecting amateur can shoot his height. Take a 6-foot-5 guy with a five handicap ' the woods are full of them. All he has to do is post 77 and he has shot his height in inches.
 
But, to repeat, if you are 5-foot-1, you are 61 inches tall. Shooting your height becomes quite a different proposition. Annika Sorenstam came close, sort of, when she hung that 59 on the board at Moon Valley in Arizona eight years ago. But the LPGA media guide lists Annika at 5-foot-6. Thats 66 inches tall. Shes posted that number hundreds of times. To shoot 59 and your height, youd have to be 4-feet-11.
 
The PGA Tour lists Tiger Woods height at 6-foot-1. Thats 73 inches. Any day he doesnt shoot his height is breaking news.
 
But 18-year-old Fujikawa, the little big man who showed us once again this week that there are compelling stories even without the rehabbing Woods around, is a different story. Such a different story.
 
His Saturday 62 was three strokes better than his previous low round in any tournament. It was also one shot off David Toms competitive course record at Waialae and it left Fujikawa just two back of 54-hole leader Zach Johnson.
 
When he woke up Sunday morning in Hawaii Fujikawa was staring at the prospect of becoming the youngest winner in PGA Tour history and the first Monday qualifier to win on Tour in 23 years.
 
In 1911 Johnny McDermott beat everybody at the U.S. Open at the age of 19 years and 11 months. In 1986 Fred Wadsworth came through Monday qualifying at the Southern Open to capture that event.
 
You want more perspective: Fujikawa is younger than Michelle Wie. He has his own fan page on the Internet. He was born three months premature, weighing in at less than two pounds. Doctors told his parents he had a 50-50 chance of surviving.
 
More recently, Fujikawa has had to deal with the very public indictment handed down against his father, who stands charged with selling methamphetamines to undercover police officers on two different occasions.
 
When Fujikawa qualified for the 2006 U.S. Open he was the youngest player since 1941 to do so. When he made the cut at the 2007 Sony Open he was the youngest to do so on the PGA Tour in 50 years.
 
Notice a pattern here?
 
The barriers Fujikawa has been knocking down are all about age, not about height. Years ago when they asked a Chicago Bears scout named Bill Tobin if 5-foot-10 Walter Payton was tall enough to play in the NFL, Tobin replied that the powerfully-built Payton was a big man who just happened to be short. Payton went on to gain more NFL rushing yards than anybody had before him.
 
Fujikawa, an accomplished martial arts athlete, is also built like a brick house. He is long off the tee. And he makes you think about what another Chicago Bear all-pro, Dan Hampton, once amusingly uttered: Strength has never been my weakness.
 
Sunday at Waialae the magic disappeared for Fujikawa the same way it does, at one time or another, for everybody who plays the game. Four bogeys led to a 73, which led to a disappointing tie for 32nd.
 
It just didnt happen, Fujikawa said afterward. The feeling was definitely different.
 
But so, too, now is the view from the outside looking in at Fujikawa. Fewer people are criticizing his decision to forego college and turn professional. He has a team of instructors and advisers in place. And suddenly he is an even more attractive name for tournament directors to get on their sponsors exemption lists.
 
Johnson was the big winner at the Sony Open Sunday, grinding out his fifth Tour victory. But Fujikawa was a winner, too. He just comes in a smaller er shorter package.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

Getty Images

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.