Fujikawas Game of Inches


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.
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