Howell Leads in Hawaii Fujikawa Shines

By Sports NetworkJanuary 13, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 Sony OpenHONOLULU -- Tadd Fujikawa isn't going away.

One day after becoming the second-youngest player to make a PGA TOUR cut, the 16-year-old Hawaiian fired his second straight four-under 66 Saturday and was six shots behind leader Charles Howell III at the Sony Open.

Before this week, Fujikawa was best-known for qualifying for last year's U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Now, his 5-foot-1 frame stalked by large galleries at Waialae, he is blooming into a local legend.

'I don't have anything to lose [now],' said Fujikawa, who is at 7-under 203. 'I don't have to think about making the cut. It's very relaxing.'

Indeed, the high drama of Friday's round -- a clutch birdie at 16, a fist pumping celebration after rolling in a long eagle putt at 18 -- gave way to a calmer third round for Fujikawa.

He made bogeys at Nos. 2 and 16, but filled the holes in between with six birdies. Some of them, like a 15-foot putt at the third and a 40-footer from across the green at the 11th, seemed too good to be true.

Almost scripted.

This is the type of run another 16-year-old Hawaiian, Michelle Wie, hasn't been able to make in seven PGA TOUR starts. Wie missed the cut by 14 shots on Friday, then made her usual conciliatory comments.

Like Wie, Fujikawa appears poised and eloquent beyond his years, competent in dealing with the media and fully aware of the gravity of his performance. He claims he is playing the best golf of his life at just the right moment.

Of course. He's 16.

'My swing feels good, my putting feels great,' Fujikawa said. 'All I need to do is stick to my game and stay focused...I'm just going for everything. I have nothing to lose.'

He's lucky to be here at all. After being born 3 1/2 months premature, doctors gave him 50-50 odds of surviving.

Sixteen years and five days later, he's challenging on the PGA TOUR.

'I feel great,' gushed Fujikawa, now tied for eighth place. 'Being out here and experiencing what it's like to compete against the top professionals is something else.'

Howell shot a 5-under 65, the best round of the day, and stands at 13-under 197 for a one-shot lead over Luke Donald. The 2001 Rookie of the Year leads after 54 holes for just the third time on the PGA TOUR.

'This is the first event back if you didn't make the Mercedes, so you never know what you're gong to get,' said Howell. 'I need to stay calm [tomorrow] -- it's so easy to think ahead. I just need to play a good round and have some good fortune.'

Howell snuck up on second-round leaders Donald and Paul Goydos with four birdies on his last six holes, including two straight on 17 and 18. He hit just two fairways, but also needed only 26 putts.

'These fairways are hard to hit,' said Howell, who picked up his only win in 2002. 'At least I'm finding them hard to hit. Every hole there seems to be a cross wind, and it's just not easy.'

Once considered a young phenom himself, Howell marveled at Fujikawa's run.

'Clearly he's doing stuff that's really incredible,' said Howell.

Donald struggled early, made three birdies on his last 10 holes and had a 1- under 69. He made a tap-in birdie at the 18th to remain alone in second place at 12-under 198.

'The last couple of days I haven't gotten out of the gate well,' said Donald, who opened with a 63 Thursday then shot 66 Friday. 'I hit some good shots today, I just didn't convert many putts.'

Goydos had the same problem. After posting rounds of 66 and 63 in the first two rounds, he managed just an even-par 70 on Saturday and was at 11-under 199. Costly bogeys at the 15th and 16th were followed by a 2-foot birdie at the 18th.

'The putter was every bit as mediocre as it was special yesterday,' said Goydos, who led putting Friday but was well down the pack Saturday.

Ted Purdy (66) and Steve Stricker (67) are tied for fourth place at 9-under 201. Jim Furyk (69) and Paul Azinger (68) share sixth place at 202 -- one shot ahead of Fujikawa.

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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.