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Finally The Teenager Makes a Cut

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2006 Sony OpenHONOLULU -- Tadd Fujikawa keeps stealing the spotlight from Hawaii's other teenage golf star.

A day after Michelle Wie gave it a good run at Canoe Brook last summer in her bid to become the first woman to qualify for the U.S. Open, Fujikawa made it to Winged Foot by winning the sectional qualifier in Hawaii.

Friday brought the pint-sized sophomore in high school even more attention, and a far greater thrill.

Tadd Fujikawa
Tadd Fujikawa celebrates after draining an eagle putt on the 18th hole at the Sony Open.
With all the attention on Wie trying to make the cut in her fourth start at the Sony Open -- she wasn't even close -- it was Fujikawa who caused a stir at Waialae as he closed in on history. A 15-foot birdie on the 16th hole put him one shot inside the cut line. Then came a finish he won't soon forget, making a 15-foot eagle on the 18th hole for a 4-under 66.

Four days after turning 16, the 5-foot-1 Fujikawa became the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut on the PGA TOUR.

He tugged at his chubby cheeks with both hands as the significance began to sink in.

'I'm so excited,' Fujikawa said. 'Making the cut is an awesome thing for me right now. I wish everybody in the world could feel what I'm feeling now.'

Wie felt it from a distance.

The 17-year-old was wrapping up her press conference after a 76 to miss the cut by 14 shots when she heard a roar that resonated a half-mile away to the clubhouse. She was told that Fujikawa had made the cut in only his second PGA TOUR start (the other was an 81-77 showing at Winged Foot).

'I've never played with him or talked with him,' Wie said. 'It's great being how young he is. I'm rooting for him.'

Fujikawa is a remarkable story beyond his scores (71-66), which left him in a tie for 25th, eight shots behind.

He became the youngest player to make the cut since Bob Panasik at the 1957 Canadian Open at 15 years, 8 months. Ty Tryon was 16 years, 9 months when he made the cut in the 2001 Honda Classic.

Fujikawa was born 3 1/2 months premature and weighed 1 pound, 15 ounces, so small he could fit in his grandfather's palm. Doctors said it was 50-50 he would live, even less odds to live anything resembling a normal life. His parents were concerned he might have a mental disability or other problems come along.

He has been surprising everyone his entire life, especially after becoming the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Open since 1941.

That feeling was nothing like the one Friday.

The cameras finally arrived in the final hour, when Fujikawa was 2 under for the tournament playing the 14th hole. He missed a 3-foot par putt, then went well wide of the 15th green to drop another shot and fall to the cut line.

More trouble followed on the 16th, when his tee shot found a fairway bunker.

But he hit out to 15 feet and made the birdie putt, which led to a big fist pump. A bigger one followed.

Fujikawa assured himself of making the cut when he hit the fairway on the 551-yard closing hole, then hit a 6-iron from 207 yards that rolled onto the green and stopped some 15 feet below the cup.

Boo Weekley and Steve Wheatcroft were playing with him, and they graciously waited behind so Fujikawa could walk alone to the 18th green and soak in the applause. That gesture normally is reserved for champions, and the kid sure felt like one Friday.

The eagle putt was good all the way.

'I think when I made that putt on 18, that was the loudest roar I've ever heard in my life,' he said. 'That was unbelievable. I have no words to explain what that feels like.'

His actions spoke volumes.

Fujikawa dropped his putter and thrust his arms in the air, then thrust an uppercut into the air as a smile stretched across his face.

It might not leave him for awhile.

'I just felt like the fist pump would put the cherry on the cake right there,' he said.

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